By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
JUST hours before it unveiled its climate emergency strategy, Kirklees Council came under fire for ‘key failings’ in its report.
Independent environmental scientist Dr Richard Stow and Gideon Richards, co-chairman of Kirklees Climate Emergency Group, said the council’s climate emergency and air quality strategy action plan ‘lacked ambition’.
During a meeting in Dewsbury Town Hall the council’s Cabinet rejected multiple calls for the report to be deferred ‘to allow full review and thus credibility’.
Kirklees is aiming for a net zero carbon from energy target by 2038 and to establish a Climate Commission and a Green Charter.
Announcing the report, Coun Naheed Mather said climate change was ‘a huge issue’ and that ‘we take this very seriously’.
Among the proposals being considered are increasing the council’s electric vehicle fleet and encouraging the use of electric and low-emission vehicles.
The council also plans to re-launch and expand its free-parking offer for low emissions vehicles.
Backed by the unanimous support of the Cabinet, council leader Coun Shabir Pandor said: “We have to get on with addressing the emergency. This will not be the end. This will absolutely be a priority and we are taking this extremely seriously.”
In January, campaigners cheered as councillors voted in favour of a motion for the authority to carry out a full environmental audit and to measure its carbon footprint.
But the report, created by a working party of councillors, has already been criticised, with the leader of the council’s Green group, Coun Andrew Cooper, refusing to back it.
Dr Stow challenged the authority to ‘carefully consider’ its findings, adding that ‘the scope of opportunity and innovation is enormous’. He said he feared the report would be ‘rushed through as a pre-election headline’.
Responding to the council’s policy, which was published online seven days ago, he said there should be ‘a proper consultation’ prior to its adoption by the council this week. Dr Stow said scrutiny of the report, which he called ‘a work in progress’, revealed no discussion or commitment to conserving existing trees and woodland. He used the potential loss of ancient woodland on the Kirklees Estate, which would be felled as part of the £70m A644 Cooper Bridge Bypass, to illustrate how mature trees could not be adequately replaced by saplings.
He said: “The proposed tree-felling at Robin Hood’s grave, Kirklees Hall and Bradley would nowhere near be mitigated by the planting of ‘a few hundred trees’.”
Dr Stow also called for regulations to be streamlined to authorise tree preservation officers to react quickly to prevent illegal felling.
Mr Richards said there had been ‘a lack of cohesion and a randomness’ to some of the proposed elements in the report that could affect how the authority would meet emissions targets.