South Gloucestershire Lib Dems have welcomed the news that Government Planning Inspectors have told the West of England Authorities, including South Gloucestershire, to take the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) back to the drawing board.
The JSP would have given the green light to 33,000 houses across South Gloucestershire, including thousands concentrated at five vast Strategic Development Locations. Those plans now been thrown into disarray, after the Inspectors pointed to fundamental flaws in the way that the Strategic Development Locations were chosen.
South Glos Lib Dem Leader, Cllr Claire Young, who spoke for the Lib Dems at the Planning Examination said: “This decision is a vindication for all of us who campaigned against this poorly thought through plan from the beginning. Thank you to all the residents and groups who contributed to making the case against the unjustified and unsustainable Strategic Development Locations. We have been making the case for over two years that South Gloucestershire’s Strategic Development Locations had not been properly thought through or chosen in a fair and reasoned way by the Conservative administration. The Inspectors have clearly listened and agreed. It just goes to show that local campaigners can make a difference when we work together.”
South Glos Lib Dem spokesperson for Planning, Cllr Adrian Rush said: “It never should have got this far. The Inspectors wrote to South Gloucestershire and the other councils over a year ago to say that they had serious concerns about how the plan had been put together. The Conservatives should have listened and taken the opportunity to do a serious rethink. Instead they ploughed on regardless with only minor changes to their original plans and the Inspectors have now torn them up and told them to go back to the drawing board. I dread to think how much taxpayers’ money has been wasted on this fool’s errand. Serious questions will need to be asked.”
Lib Dem Deputy Group Leader Cllr Maggie Tyrrell said: “It’s clear from the Inspectors’ damning remarks that the plan is so fundamentally flawed that it needs to go back to square one. It’s crucial that Conservative administration now stops digging. The worst thing they could do would be to make some minor tweaks to this plan and try to bring it back to the Inspectors, as they did last time. That would just be wasting time and throwing good money after bad. The great risk now is that, without a viable local plan, communities will be swamped by more speculative development. We do need a local plan, but it must be one that distributes housing growth equitably and sustainably – not dumping the lion’s share of housing on just four or five communities.”
Local Liberal Democrats Councillors are celebrating after South Gloucestershire Council passed a motion declaring a Climate Emergency and committing the authority to cutting the area’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 at Wednesday’s meeting of full Council. The motion was original tabled by the Lib Dems, but following successful discussions with Labour and the Conservatives, a revised version was agreed with unanimous cross-party support.
Proposer of the motion, Cllr Claire Young, said: “I’m extremely pleased that the Council has taken this important step and I am grateful to the other parties for seconding the motion and agreeing to tackle this problem together. The Conservative administration previously expressed some hesitation in going for the 2030 target but, to their credit, they listened to the evidence presented to them and to the passionate views of campaigners and the opposition parties and have now joined us in committing to the 2030 target. We are in a much better position to combat the climate emergency because we have agreed to work together as one united Council on this issue. It just goes to show what politicians can achieve when we sit down and work together constructively.”
Lib Dem Climate Spokesperson, Cllr Louise Harris, said: “We should be under no illusions that achieving net zero carbon by 2030 is a huge task, but it is one which we must be equal to. We can no longer afford to treat climate change as a future threat – it is a real and present danger and we must act accordingly. I was hugely encouraged by the numbers of residents who came to Wednesday night’s meeting to support the 2030 target and to offer their help in making it happen. South Gloucestershire Council must provide leadership, but it must also find away to engage the whole community to achieve this goal with a sense of shared purpose. We have agreed to scope out an action plan by the end of the year. We will then need to make it happen over each of the next 10 years. Kicking the can down the road is not an option.”
South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats are hopeful that talks between the three parties on the Council will lead to a political consensus on the need to declare a Climate Emergency and for South Gloucestershire Council to take urgent and radical action to tackle climate change. The Lib Dem group have already tabled a motion to declare a Climate Crisis to the next meeting of full Council on July 17th. Representatives of all three groups will meet on Friday in the hopes of agreeing a revised motion with cross-party support.
Lib Dem Group Leader, Claire Young, said: “So far the signs of political agreement have been encouraging. All sides have agreed to a cross-party meeting on Friday where we will hear from climate experts and other interested parties, before talking with the other parties about finding a way forward. We submitted a motion to Council on this issue back in May, because we felt so strongly about the need to take urgent action on the Climate Emergency. We welcome the fact that Labour and the Conservatives are also taking this issue seriously, and I’m hopeful that we can reach an agreement on making this an all-party motion, to show that the whole Council is behind it.”
Lib Dem Climate spokesperson, Louise Harris, said: “Currently, South Gloucestershire is the only Council in the West of England not to have declared a Climate Emergency. We urgently need to correct that. There is now overwhelming scientist evidence that man-made climate change is accelerating far faster than previously thought, and that urgent action is needed by national and local government, as well as from civil society and the private sector. South Gloucestershire needs to play its full part in that if we are going prevent the worst effects of climate change. This is not an issue we can afford to put off any longer.”
The text of the Lib Dem motion currently tabled is as follows:
Motion: South Gloucestershire Council to declare a Climate Emergency and sign the UK100 Pledge
This Council notes with grave concern:
1. That runaway climate change constitutes an existential threat to human society and life on earth;
2. That humans have already caused irreversible climate change, the impacts of which are being felt around the world;
3. That average global temperatures have now increased by 1°C above pre-industrial levels;
4. That, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report published in January 2019, the world is now on track to overshoot the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit before 2050 – the consequences of which would be dire and irreversible;
5. That, consequently, it is no longer adequate to think of climate change as a potential future threat, but rather, it must now be treated as a real and present danger to the lives and life-chances of people now living as well as to those yet born, and to the natural world;
6. That the IPCC report tells us that limiting global warming to 1.5°C may still be possible – but only with ambitious action from national and sub-national authorities, civil society, the private sector, and local communities;
7. That South Gloucestershire Council is now the only constituent authority within WECA not to have declared a Climate Emergency and signed the UK100 Pledge.
Council therefore resolves to:
1. Declare a Climate Emergency;
2. Pledge to provide the leadership to enable South Gloucestershire to become carbon neutral by 2030;
3. Call on the Government to provide the powers and resources to make the 2030 target possible;
4. Sign up to the UK100 Pledge to provide the strategic community leadership needed to enable our communities to achieve 100% clean energy across all sectors;
5. Request that the Cabinet takes steps to identify work streams and budgets with the aim of making South Gloucestershire Council carbon neutral by 2030, across all functions, as our contribution to fighting climate change;
6. Instruct Cabinet to work with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and our West of England partners to produce an ambitious delivery plan for the West of England Energy Strategy to use as a key tool for seeking Government funding to help us deliver our 2030 target;
7. Update the South Gloucestershire Climate Change Strategy to reflect the increased urgency and ambition outlined in this motion, and, with our partners across the community, to develop an action plan and ‘route map’ to a sustainable, low carbon future for our community;
8. Request a report to Council in 6 months’ time on the progress with an annual report on progress to full Council thereafte
Residents react with anger as local Conservatives waste thousands in taxpayers’ money on self-promotion
Local Liberal Democrat councillors have been inundated with angry messages from residents after South Gloucestershire’s Conservative administration spent £32,000 of council money on a 16-page magazine to be sent to households across South Gloucestershire promoting Toby Savage and other local Tory politicians.
Lib Dem Council Group Leader Claire Young said: “I couldn’t believe it when the magazine came through my letterbox. Local residents have told me that they thought it was a Conservative Party leaflet, because it featured so many photographs of Toby Savage. They were angry to realise that they were paying for it out of their council tax! After investigating the matter, we discovered that the cost of the magazine was £32,000 – the equivalent of the annual council tax bill of 18 households. The magazine features no fewer than five publicity photographs of Cllr Savage, costing the taxpayer over £6,000 per photo. He clearly thinks he’s worth it!
“How on Earth can Cllr Savage possibly justify spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money to feed his own ego at a time when he is cutting funding for things like Social Services? The Conservatives can’t find enough money to fix our roads or to deliver their long-broken promise to cut green bin charges, but apparently, they can find money for this. Conservative councillors can now look forward to answering some very difficult questions from their residents, thanks to their leader’s thirst for self-promotion at public expense.”
Lib Dem Resources Spokesperson Mike Drew said: “The council’s own figures show that public satisfaction with the council fell this year following Toby Savage becoming leader. It’s not hard to see why when they waste money on things like this! Like most councils, South Gloucestershire Council scrapped its council magazine years ago, due to the increased pressure on local government budgets. Back then the Conservatives were among the fiercest critics of council magazines, with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles calling them a blatant waste of taxpayers’ money. Now the local Conservatives have brought the magazine back without a vote of Council or any consultation. Our inquiries show that they raided the council’s Financial Risk Reserve to pay for it – money that is supposed to be there to help the council through rainy days – not to act as a piggy bank for Conservative Party publicity material! It’s no wonder that social media is alight about this with angry messages from outraged local residents. We will be calling on the Council’s audit committee to look into this blatant waste of public funds.”