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Sevenoaks Council accused of not taking climate change seriously after motion rejected

A council has been accused of not making climate change a priority after a motion to declare a climate and nature emergency was thrown out.

Green Party councillors tabled the motion earlier this month in a bid to support the district to reach net zero and work with residents to find the most appropriate sustainability solutions for Sevenoaks.

Leo Manston, 11, is concerned for his future
Leo Manston, 11, is concerned for his future

Deputy leader of the group Cllr Mark Lindop said there needed to be a “significant step-change” in the local authority’s approach to protect the lungs of children and to prepare for mass displacement as Kent’s coastlines continue to erode was also highlighted.

Leo Manston, 11, from New Ash Green, told the council about his concerns for his future in a world with ”dirty air and polluted seas” and how he wished he “didn’t have to worry about things like that”.

But while Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors showed support for the motion, which included the creation of a community forum on climate change, members against the motion accused supporters of “spin, political posturing and getting ahead of themselves”.

They were told the council is already doing sufficient work on climate change and that declaring a climate emergency would be “expensive” and “pointless”.

Bakery owner Cllr Manamperi spoke of the pressure of soaring energy bills businesses face and having to reduce their trading hours.

While Cllr Laura Manston asked why Sevenoaks is the only council – other than Ashford – that hasn’t declared a climate emergency in Kent.

In the final vote, Conservatives voted against it and it was thrown out.

Green Group leader Cllr Manston said: “I’m disappointed that this motion failed.

Councillor Laura Manston
Councillor Laura Manston

“It was an opportunity for members to join forces and connect with the community in what could have developed into a leading climate agenda.”

She added: “93% of Sevenoaks is designated Green Belt land. We should be leading climate change work in Kent, not trailing behind like this.

“Declaring a Climate Emergency would have cost nothing and, with the assurances that the council is already doing so much work on climate change, the argument that it would be too expensive just doesn’t stand.

“The Conservatives have sent a clear message to Sevenoaks tonight that climate change is not our top priority.”

A council spokesman hit back at suggestions it was not taking the climate crisis seriously.

He said: “In November 2019, our Councillors agreed that tacking climate change is one or our top priorities and we should do everything possible, within the resources available to us, to reduce our own carbon emissions and to support our communities to do the same.

“While the District Council accounts for only 0.5% of the District’s overall emissions, we have made significant progress to reduce our carbon footprint.

“We have replaced a number of diesel vehicles with electric and upgraded many of our waste collection freighters with the most efficient available. We’ve installed electric vehicle-charging points in our new car parks and for taxis and visitors to our offices.

“We’re currently working with schools to discourage car idling, installed solar powered smart bins that tell us when they’re full, ending unnecessary collections, planted new trees, introduced initiatives to cut staff travel and installed motion sensitive lighting in many car parks.

“Our new Local Plan will also ensure new developments have the least possible impact on the environment.

“With three major motorways running through the District, we know that 65% of the District’s carbon emissions are from transport followed by the domestic use of gas and electricity. While these carbon emissions are beyond our control, we are working to deliver four environmentally-friendly walking, wheeling and riding routes, supporting households to install solar energy and insulating park homes to help our communities reduce their carbon emissions.

“We also provide information and advice so residents can make informed decisions about cutting their emissions.”

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