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Swaffham Town Council vote down climate emergency declaration

Town councillors refused to follow the lead of the district council as they overwhelmingly agreed that declaring a climate emergency would be "unnecessary".

During a full council meeting on Wednesday, Swaffham councillors voted seven to three against the proposal to declare an emergency, which had been tabled by Independent Les Scott.

It comes after Breckland Council became the second district council in Norfolk to declare an emergency in September.

Swaffham Town Council voted against declaring a climate emergency this week during a full council meeting. Picture: Andy Jones
Swaffham Town Council voted against declaring a climate emergency this week during a full council meeting. Picture: Andy Jones

During the Swaffham discussion, Independent councillor Judy Anscombe said: "I worry that if everyone around this table declares a climate emergency then people in the town will expect us to take actions."

This was referring to councils having a greater say on the climate at county and district level but Mrs Anscombe also said the town council has sought to be proactive through a Transport, Access and Environment Committee (TAEC).

This includes a project called 'Greener and Cleaner Swaffham' which seeks to protect the environment through measures such as reducing litter and air pollution.

The committee has set up a programme of aims, objectives and partners for 2019-2024 including an objective to build an accessible network of electric charging points and plans for a walking app.

Trialling a plastic free month in the town for businesses, schools and residents with a view to becoming a 'Single Use Plastic Free Town' has also been thought up by the TAEC.

During the full council meeting last week, Residents4Residents councillor Ian Pilcher referred to media hype when using climate emergency rhetoric.

Mr Pilcher said: "At the risk of being garroted by a Swedish schoolgirl, I think 'emergency' is a strong word. Politicians and councillors are getting rather worked up about something that is in the media.

"I currently do not think there is an emergency. It's not council business to talk about an emergency. Lets try to educate people by raising awareness instead."

He gave the example of schoolchildren throwing litter on the floor as something that could be highlighted without resorting to an emergency.

Mr Pilcher continued: "I find it wrong to resort to emotive terms like a footballer named a hero for scoring goals."

Conservative Shirley Matthews said: "We have got no powers to do anything about it but we can talk about steps we can take at this level."

And Conservative Stewart Bell added: "I do not think saying we will agree [to a climate emergency] will make any difference whatsoever."

Mrs Anscombe added: "Until we can get Breckland Council and Norfolk County Council on board to help us to put some of these actions in place, then how can we possibly declare an emergency if we do not have the things we wanted to pursue?"

After Mr Scott's proposal was seconded by Independent Brendan Holmes, those two and mayor Jill Skinner voted in favour of declaring an emergency.

But councillors Colin Houghton, Paul Darby, Lindsay Beech, Mr Pilcher, Mr Bell, Mrs Anscombe and Mrs Matthews voted against the motion ensuring it failed to pass.

West Norfolk Council has yet to declare an emergency despite holding meetings with members of the Extinction Rebellion group to discuss it.

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