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Friends of the Earth calls on Babergh to improve response to climate change after rating performance as poor

Babergh’s performance on dealing with climate change has been classified as poor compared to other areas, according to new research released by Friends of the Earth.

The environmental group published a climate change league table of every local authority in England and Wales, which ranked Babergh in the bottom half, with a climate-friendly score of 60 per cent.

The assessment determined Babergh was well short of similar areas in renewable energy availability and tree cover, and it called for the district to have all of its homes properly insulated by 2030.

Extinction Rebellion. PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (19036814)
Extinction Rebellion. PICTURE: Mecha Morton. (19036814)

The Babergh Green Party has also lodged an objection to the current draft of the Babergh and Mid Suffolk Joint Local Plan, claiming there are not enough provisions to reduce carbon emissions in the district.

The document, which sets out the area’s priorities and roadmap for development up to 2036, concluded a public consultation last week, with further revisions set to take place before the plan goes before the public again next year.

Robert Lindsay, Green group leader on Babergh District Council, said: “We declared a climate emergency in Babergh, but that really does have to apply to all aspects of what the council does, including planning.

“Planning is the way we say how our future homes are built, and it will have a massive impact on the amount of carbon we emit.”

In response, a spokeswoman for the district council stated that the authority has implemented certain measures that were not included in the Friends of the Earth criteria, but it recognises the responsibility to do more.

This comes as Extinction Rebellion demonstrations take place across the world this week, urging action to address climate change.

The Friends of the Earth assessment, which was based on government data, called on Babergh to deliver a 28 per cent rise in waste reuse, recycling or composting by 2025.

The organisation also wants to see a two-fold increase in the number of commuter journeys taken via public transport, cycling or walking in the district by 2030.

Its recommendations have been echoed by the Babergh Green Party, which argued in the joint local plan consultation that the situation required a greater emphasis and more opportunities for action than the document’s current draft identifies.

The Babergh Greens’ statement said: “Our collective view is the joint local plan, in its present form, lacks ambition, clarity and process regarding the need to decarbonise the current and future housing stock and the wider economy.

“Addressing climate change is a legal responsibility and function for local authorities, and this should be highlighted as the key priority, from which all other key priorities and objectives flow.”

In response to the Friends of the Earth ranking, Babergh District Council reiterated its commitment to taking more action to tackle climate change.

The authority pledged earlier this year to establish a dedicated task force, in partnership with other public sector partners, on how to respond to the climate change challenge.

A spokeswoman for Babergh said: “We are currently ranked about average in the country, and we, along with many other councils, recognise our responsibility and have committed to doing more.

“We are fully committed to Suffolk’s county-wide ambition of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and have set up a joint environment and climate change taskforce to address the biodiversity and climate challenge we face.

“We are implementing several environmental actions, which unfortunately fall outside of the Friends of the Earth criteria and would not be considered in our ranking.

“We have pledged to protect and enhance local biodiversity and wildlife corridors, and we’re working with our communities to increase the number of EV car charging points in the districts.

“Last year, we introduced our ‘tree for life’ scheme in Mid Suffolk, which will soon be set up in Babergh, with the aim of increasing tree coverage in the area.

“Our draft joint local plan addresses environmental concerns head on, with policies addressing climate change, habitat protection, renewable energy and more.

“We’re currently reviewing the consultation comments received and will be making changes where appropriate to make sure we get it right for generations to come.”

However, Green Party councillor Robert Lindsay said there had not been enough movement on the climate change task force since July, when the motion to set it up was approved, and he called for a meeting to take place this month.

He also suggested a citizens assembly take place in Babergh to help develop ideas to address environmental issues.

“We need to draw up a proper plan for Sudbury, to make it a cycling and walking town,” he added. “I’m sure there is space in Sudbury to build cycling routes, and that would cut down on traffic right away.

“I think they need to work with the county council. The goal is definitely achievable, but, unless you set that goal, you will never have a chance of achieving it.

“Once you set up a plan and a target, then you can start to attract funding. But, as I understand it, the current Vision for Sudbury is a piecemeal document with a bunch of different things cobbled together.”

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