Castle Point Climate Action Group Notes of a Meeting Held on 25th September 2023.
1. Present: Cllr Sharon Ainsley; Cllr Nicola Benson Joe Cooke; Tim Copsey; Cllr Michael Dearson; Caroline Dearson; Stephen Greary; Cllr John Knott; Cllr Rob Lillis; Sam Lofts; Sue McKay; Cllr Barry Palmer; Emma Powell; Cllr Carole Sach; Nikki Saunders (Chair); Steve Tellis; Cllr David Thomas; Cllr Clive Walter; Cllr Grace Watson; Johanna Wylde
2. Apologies Apologies were received on behalf of Luke Osborne, Pat Roberts. Eileen Peck, Ray Lennard Brown, Jacqui Thornton, James Cutler, Katherine Thornton and Joan Muncey
3. Financial Report Nikki reported that the Group's bank balance stood at £545.00.
4. Cooperation With Friends of the Earth on Events and Road shows. It was reported that Sharon Chan, the local FOE Coordinator, had suggested that FOE and CPCAG collaborate on a series of educational events and road shows. Whilst both organisations were able to attract the support of people who were already alert to the dangers of climate change, both struggled in their efforts to reach out to the wider population. Emma and Sue met with Sharon to discuss this problem. Sharon has use of a room to the side of the “Phabulous Café” in Leigh Road, so educational events could be held at this venue. (The Phabulous Café is situated in a parade of shops, so has considerable passing footfall). It was also suggested that we arrange a series of small “road shows”, where we would set up a stall in shopping areas and similar in the hope of attracting residents to interact. Rather than try and cover a broad spectrum of climate issues at these roadside events, it was suggested that we concentrate on a short list of actions that individuals could take – such as using their voting power and their party political memberships to influence government policy, considering the impact of frequent flying, reducing their meat and dairy consumption, etc. The meeting noted that this initiative was worth pursuing, as engaging the wider public had long been seen as problematic by the Group. Several of the Councillors present confirmed that their own regular road show events did attract residents to come over and discuss local matters and concerns. It was agreed that further discussions would be held with Sharon to develop the idea and confirm dates and venues.
5. Refuse Recycling Johanna noted that “soft” plastics (film, bread bags, crisp packets, frozen food bags, etc.) were still not recyclable via the fortnightly Council collection. Whilst some local supermarkets did offer a recycling facility for these forms of plastic, not everyone would make the effort to do this. Sue noted that, since her local Morrison’s began to provide this facility, the amount of refuse she put into her black bags had dwindled to almost nothing.
There was a long discussion on current recycling arrangements. Several Councillors noted that there was a balance at the present time between the types of recyclable material that could be collected, and the financial cost of extending the service to materials that were less easy to process. There was general agreement that the matter needed to be dealt with at a national level, with legal requirements for manufacturers to desist from using unnecessary plastic packaging. It was noted that progress was being made with the banning of some single use plastics, with items such as single-use catering supplies being prohibited from 1st October 2023. A great deal more needed to be done, however, to legislate against the production and use of plastic packaging at source.
6. Spatial Planning For Climate Resilience and Net Zero (A Report for the Climate Change Committee, July 2023) The above-mentioned report had been placed on the agenda as it delineates the shortcomings of current planning law and guidance in respect of achieving climate change mitigation and adaptation. The conclusion of the report is that the National Planning Policy Framework( NPPF) does not presently provide clear guidance or targets to assist Local Authorities to incorporate robust climate mitigation and adaptation strategies within their Local Plans. The report urges Central Government to undertake a radical overhaul of the Planning System, so that Local Authorities have the targets, tools, policies and resources to ensure that their Local Plans contribute to the National net zero target required under the Climate Change Act 2008. One purpose of putting this Report on the agenda was to consider how the Group – hopefully with the support of local Councillors – could make representations to central government to implement the sweeping changes to Planning Law advocated by the Climate Change Committee to ensure that Local Plans throughout the country contribute to the achievement of net zero. Although this purpose was not specifically addressed by the meeting, there was a useful discussion on recent changes to the Building Regulations that would assist in reducing the carbon footprint of new homes. There was also a lively debate on issues appertaining to the Local Plan currently being developed. A number of Councillors noted that a Boroughwide public consultation had been undertaken, and they were relatively certain that the new Plan would be judged “sound” by the Planning Inspectorate.
7. Essex Schools Young Eco Protectors Scheme Emma reported that she was actively involved in the the above-mentioned scheme, which was part of the UK Schools Sustainability Network (UKSNN) intended to inform and empower young people to take climate action. She was very desirous to reach out and cooperate with schools throughout the region in respect of educational initiatives on climate change, but had found it hard to engage some schools in the endeavour. The meeting was unanimous in praising Emma for her work in this sphere, as it was recognised that educating children about climate change not only boded well for the future, but could also have an immediate impact as these young people influenced their peers, families, and neighbours.
8. Use of Pesticides Sam Lofts asked the Councillors present whether they could provide her with information on the pesticides being used by their verge maintenance/ parks operatives, as she was concerned that verges near her home had not only been cut back, but sprayed. It was sadly noted that some residents became upset and complained if verges were not regularly cut, and more education on the importance of such marginal areas for plants and invertebrates was needed.