Wed, 10 Jul 2019
THE “first test” of West Berkshire Council’s resolve of tackling climate change – opposing the expansion of Heathrow Airport – has been postponed.
But the council has said that delaying the debate will provide sufficient time to respond to the consultation, which closes the day after the debate.
The Green Party had tabled a motion calling on the council to oppose expansion at Heathrow, including a third runway, as supporting it would be incompatible with its commitment to tackling the climate emergency.
The motion supported the Heathrow Western Rail Link as it would reduce congestion and emissions from vehicles.
David Marsh (Green, Wash Common) said that the council had taken the “momentous” step of declaring a climate emergency and to achieve zero carbon emissions 20 years ahead of the Government target of 2050.
He added: “Now, by coincidence, we are being asked to comment on plans to massively expand Heathrow… so our new policy is already being put to the test.
“Are we, as a local authority, serious about our response to climate change?”
Last year, the council showed its support for the expansion plans, with former leader Graham Jones warning the Liberal Democrats that they would be “playing Russian roulette with the district’s economy” if they didn’t support it too.
Former Conservative portfolio holder for transport Jeanette Clifford added that “Heathrow is good for West Berkshire – perfectly located, we get all the good sides and none of the downsides”.
Referencing Mrs Clifford’s speech, Mr Marsh said that more details had emerged since the council had backed expanding Heathrow.
These included more than 700 additional flights every day and a new car-parking facilities for 50,000 vehicles, which Mr Marsh said was incompatible with mitigating the damaging effects of climate change.
He said: “Heathrow is undeliverable and the sooner we face that, the sooner our salvation.
“Yes I’m quoting Boris Johnson,” Mr Marsh said. “I don’t know how many members of the ruling group are thinking of voting for him, but I hope they will recognise the wisdom of those comments.”
Urging the council to oppose the expansion of Heathrow, Mr Marsh added: “Let’s not fall at the very first hurdle.
“Let’s show that things have changed, that we have changed as a local authority and that we really mean it when we say we are putting the environment and climate change crisis at the heart of everything we do.”
However, council chairman Graham Pask (Con, Bucklebury) said that the council would not debate the motion.
Instead, he said, it would be passed to its transport advisory group for consideration.
Mr Pask said that the motion would return to the council on September 12, which would provide “more than adequate time” for it to respond to the consultation before it closed the next day.
Questioning the decision, Carolyne Culver (Green, Ridgeway) said: “We need more time than that to discuss it.
“It’s not enough to say this will go off to the executive or somewhere else.
“This council was allowed to debate it last year. How come they can do it and we can’t?”
“You are not being prevented from debating this motion, far from it,” Mr Pask replied.
“Let us give it fair and full consideration in debate, as we have done for the climate emergency.
“This will come back, this will be debated.
“It’s not being kicked down the road. It is not being pushed beyond the time of the consultation.
“This will come back in more than significant time for our comments to be submitted.”