ENVIRONMENTAL lawyers have warned Solihull Council it risks legal challenge if it fails to prepare adequately for the effects of the climate crisis.
The warning comes as pressure mounts on the council to announce a ‘climate emergency’ – after its leader Ian Courts spearheaded a similar declaration for the West Midlands Combined Authority.
Lawyers from pressure group ClientEarth have put 100 local authorities across England ‘on alert’, including Solihull Council.
They are warning councils set to violate statutory obligations on air quality, green space and sustainable planning.
They are to write to each council concerning their Local Plans for housing and development, giving them eight weeks to explain how they will set evidence-based carbon reduction targets – and ensure these goals are then central to their new planning policy.
ClientEarth climate lawyer Sam Hunter Jones said: “So many of the daily decisions around new and existing infrastructure – such as new buildings, roads and utilities – are made at the local level.
“Climate action at a local level can transform people’s quality of life for the better, with clear benefits to health, air and water quality, employment, energy affordability, community cohesion and biodiversity.
“Each and every planning decision taken today must be in line with long-term climate goals, because what and how we build today will determine our climate impact and resilience in the crucial decades to come.”
Green Party councillors in the borough have repeatedly called on the council to declare a climate emergency.
Coun Courts told us last month the council is ‘aiming’ to be net carbon neutral by 2030, but the council itself has not explicitly committed to this target.
In recent weeks, many regional councils have declared a ‘climate emergency’ – with some committing to targets – and the council has been urged to ‘catch up’ by campaigners.
Shirley Green councillor Max McLoughlin has appealed to the council for a more sustainable approach to the council’s Local Plan – a blueprint for development and housing up to 2028.
He said: “As a third of all emission come from buildings, it’s crucial that policy has clear and binding targets in it.
“It’s currently an environmental catastrophe that proposes building on greenbelt and making everyone have to depend on car travel.
“There is no energy efficiency or materials specifications.
“We still have time to make a difference, but we cannot afford Solihull Conservatives kicking the can down the road any longer.”
Client Earth is the same organisation that has orchestrated a string of successful High Court rulings on air pollution at local authority level, resulting in an order to Solihull Council to bring levels within legal thresholds.
We are waiting for a response from Solihull Council.