Elections to East Hampshire District Council take place on Thursday 4 May 2023.
Urgent action on the climate and environmental crises has never been more important. To help voters decide which candidates reflect their own views, we in ACAN (Alton Climate Action Network), asked all candidates the same questions:
In light of the publication of the latest UN IPCC Synthesis Report and the UN Secretary General’s statement that the developed countries need to bring forward their targets for net zero from 2050 to 2040 if we are to stand any chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C, we in Alton Climate Action Network, would like to ask you the following questions:
- How will you make the climate and biodiversity crisis take the highest priority in all council decisions?
- What specific areas do you believe require urgent action and how will you tackle these?
How will you involve communities, voluntary groups, businesses, public sector partners, and other stakeholders in achieving joint area-wide climate and biodiversity targets?
- How will you prioritise the publishing of environmental strategies and plans for the whole council area and how will you report on progress against these goals?
- What actions would you champion to achieve real reductions in fossil fuels burned, not just by council actions but also by the community as a whole?
We share their responses with you below in alphabetical order by party affiliation:
Tony Davis: Conservative Candidate for Alton Eastbrooke
1 – How will you make the climate and biodiversity crisis take the highest priority in all council decisions?
As a new councillor I intend to fully support the controlling Conservative group’s climate strategy that focuses on Green Community, Green Place and Green Council. The council’s East Hampshire Climate and Environment Strategy (2020 – 2025) was adopted in August 2020, and had two high level strategies: reducing emissions to Net Zero by 2050, in line with the 2008 Climate Control Act, and protecting, improving and enhancing the local natural environment to achieve biodiversity net gain.
The EHDC climate strategy is here: https://www.easthants.gov.uk/green-team-action-plan
The goal of the Conservative group is to deliver the best outcomes for residents, and adaption to climate change is a vital part of this delivery. The aim is to continue to deliver on this climate action plan, and to work closely with organisations like ACAN and PECAN to deliver for residents.
2 – What specific areas do you believe require urgent action and how will you tackle these? How will you involve communities, voluntary groups, businesses, public sector partners, and other stakeholders in achieving joint area-wide climate and biodiversity targets
The areas that require the most urgent action are in planning, and in raising awareness that adaption to climate change is the responsibility of all individuals and organisations. The group is striving to make the new EHDC Local Plan the greenest Local Plan in the UK, and the Conservative group aspire to ensuring that all new homes in the District will be ‘energy efficient, carbon neutral’. Whilst EHDC is not the planning authority for the area of EHDC in the SDNP, the group hopes to work with the SDNP to adopt similar aspirations for the parts of EHDC in the South Downs National Park.
The climate change background paper is here: https://www.easthants.gov.uk/media/7715/download?inline
The Conservative group plan to continue to involve all local community groups, as they did in the Community COP 26 event in 2021. Such events significantly increase public awareness of what individuals and businesses can do. The allocation of the EHDC Climate Change fund achieves a similar purpose, and the Conservative group plans to continue with this initiative.
3 – How will you prioritise the publishing of environmental strategies and plans for the whole council area and how will you report on progress against these goals?
The group will work with other local government partners (HCC, SDNP, Local Town & Parish Councils) so that they can all publish identical Scope 1 and Scope 2 data in order to provide targets and measure progress towards these targets. Once this data is available, the plan is to publish it on a regular, quarterly basis. The long-term goal must be to achieve Scope 3 targets, but this would require more resources than those available to the District Council. The group agree that regular publication of measurable data and targets is a vital pre-requisite to delivering on all climate action goals. As, in my previous working life I worked in HM Treasury helping to set targets for efficient allocation of resources in government departments I would expect to take a particular interest in this aspect of delivery. I am well aware that short-term and intermediate targets can crowd out those that are high level and strategic if care is not taken in the setting-up process.
4 – What actions would you champion to achieve real reductions in fossil fuels burned, not just by council actions but also by the community as a whole?
There are relatively few levers available to the District Council to substantially reduce fossil fuel usage in East Hampshire. One key way is to help encourage to use active travel where possible, but in a rural District like East Hampshire car usage is of necessity ubiquitous and I support the group’s intention not to penalise residents for whom a car is a vital part of their lives for work, leisure and family purposes. Publishing data on usage of the EV charging points on public land to help residents understand the economics of electric vehicles is important. As a keen walker, but one by no means as mobile as he once was, I support work to renew the EHDC Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (available here: https://www.easthants.gov.uk/media/6032/download?inline ).
I support the group’s policy of putting solar panels on EHDC owned buildings and helping other public bodies to the same. As the owner of an early nineteenth century property I take a keen personal interest in working with local climate action groups on helping raise public awareness of the benefits (and costs) of making homes more efficient. I am only too well aware of a great deal of conflicting advice on the efficiency and efficacy of e.g. heat pumps (fuelled by no doubt well-funded PR machines) and would not wish to be party to pushing people towards solutions that might not be appropriate to their needs.
The Labour party candidates sent a joint response
Labour takes the climate crisis very seriously, both locally and nationally. We know that it is up to local government to use its powers to make a difference, and that it sadly hasn’t been living up to this. With enough labour councillors in local government, we can start to make the changes so badly needed.
1. East Hampshire District Council declared a Climate Emergency in July 2019 – it had so far not done sufficient towards its Climate and Environment Strategy 2020-2025 – we will examine this strategy and insist on action across EHDC’s work.
2. Planning – the construction industry accounts for approximately a third of UK carbon emissions. Housing built to minimum standards contributes further.
As outlined in EHDC’s Climate Change Background Paper, the planning authority has substantial powers to insist that new building enables ‘radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions’ ( National Planning Policy Framework, 2021).
There should for example be a presumption against demolition in favour of renovation and re-use.
We have a high volume of house building in the area – the council is not effectively applying its powers. We will use the power we have on the council to press for all new building to enable radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We ask community groups to campaign with us on this.
3. We will press the council to not simply publish a strategy but to act on it.
Progress on these goals – and on other important goals – would be communicated through the Labour councillors’ newsletter to residents, and through meeting with concerned residents either at community meetings, or at the councillor’s regular surgery.
4. We will join the community as a whole in campaigning for the local authorities to use the powers they have to address climate change and biodiversity.
We believe that community campaigns can encourage people to – for example – walk and cycle rather than drive but that these have a more limited impact without changes to infrastructure. Therefore, what the community does is not separate from council actions.
Steve Hunt responded for all Liberal Democrat candidates
Q1. How will you make the climate and biodiversity crisis take the highest priority in all council decisions?
A. Residents may well remember that it was a Lib Dem motion that pushed East Hampshire District Council into declaring a Climate Emergency. Sadly, it has taken EHDC more than three years to come up with a Green Team to take real action. The Council were so slow to spend the meagre budget to tackle Climate Change that no additional funds were added in this year’s budget. That makes it hard for any incoming new administration to make dramatic steps in the first year. It’s time to step up the pace of action and the best way to do that is to make Climate and Environment a key Cabinet position. Under the Conservative regime Climate action has been an add-on to an existing portfolio. A Lib Dem led council would make this a priority position, not diluted with other responsibilities.
Q2. What specific areas do you believe require urgent action and how will you tackle these?
A: Action on the Climate Emergency and protecting the environment has to be central to policy making. The Lib Dems managed to get several references to the Climate Emergency written into the East Hampshire District Council Constitution, providing ‘hooks’ that policies can link to. There are many ways to achieve climate action but probably the most urgent is to make a green Local Plan. Residents and local businesses must be brought along with Council plans to increase safe cycling and walking routes. The Local plan must promote the lowest carbon emissions with house building. The Liberal Democrats would like to see a more transparent planning system with actual numerical scores for judging planning applications. Similar to the system used to assess Community Grants and Community Infrastructure funding applications. For example, a favourable score may be given for houses with the best insulation, with solar panels or being well connected to services via public transport. A poor score may be given for developments that have a high dependency on cars. In this way planners and developers will have clearer greenprint for future development.
Q3. How will you prioritise the publishing of environmental strategies and plans for the whole council area and how will you report on progress against these goals?
A: Firstly, we have to recognise that the South Down National Park covers 57% of East Hampshire’s District area. The Lib Dems want much closer working with the SDNP Planning Authority is needed to co-ordinate Climate Action. We must also acknowledge that EHDC does not exist in a bubble but must work closely with Hampshire County Council to reduce its carbon footprint. HCC has developed a tool to measure the carbon reduction effectiveness of specific actions. Policies put forward to tackle climate change should be evaluated in conjunction with HCC and the aims and objectives clear from the outset. The success of these policies can be measured against the criteria set. A six-monthly report on progress on Climate Action should be prepared and be available for public scrutiny.
Q4. What actions would you champion to achieve real reductions in fossil fuels burned, not just by council actions but also by the community as a whole?
A: The Liberal Democrats would push for investment in environmental and carbon reducing industries by promoting an Eco Industrial Park. We have already made this suggestion to the existing administration at Cabinet level. Such a park would offer industrial space built to the lowest carbon footprint, with high insulation standards and heating via heat pumps. The maximum roof area would have solar panels and if feasible small wind turbines. The electricity supply must be from a sustainable source. Internet connectivity must be to the highest standards to encourage a significant proportion of home working where possible. Public transport links should be available to encourage staff who need to travel to work to take trains and buses possibly via an electric shuttle service to a railway station. Electric Vehicle charging points are a must. Such a park should have excellent credentials to attract green industries to the district. The Liberal Democrats would also push for an extension of the home insulation loan scheme. As mentioned in answer to question 2, the Lib Dems see the local Plan as a means to reduce carbon footprints throughout the district by encouraging active transport.
William Blake: Reform UK candidate for Alton Eastbrooke
The Reform UK Party approach is to accept that climate change is real, that it has occurred before in the history of our planet based on multiple factors completely outside human control and influence, and that those who think that getting to Net Zero will stop it happening, are unhelpfully denying reality. The Party preference is for honest debate about this matter rather than engaging in acrimonious public exchanges.
Even the IPCC’s latest assessment report admits that if we get to Net Zero it would take another 200 to 1000 years before sea levels stopped rising. So, instead of spending trillions of pounds trying to stop climate change the recommendation is to adapt to whatever occurs, and to spend wisely on building sea defences, where needed.
That is not to deny that the actions of humanity most definitely have contributed to causing environmental damage in that for example we continue to extract and burn huge volumes of fossil fuels, cut down vast swathes of the Amazon forest, and to pollute our air with emissions of various toxic gases. All done until recently with little or no thought given to the environmental and climatic impact.
Perhaps at this point I should also refer to what the Bible has to say about the world we inhabit. It tells us that humanity was created to act as stewards for what had been brought into being by the Creator known as The Lord God, and our Heavenly Father. In that, humanity has failed lamentably. We have done the reverse.
My personal view about climate change is that it is primarily caused by tectonic plate movements and the associated earthquakes and increasing volcanic eruptions, coupled with the highly misguided diversion of some large Asian rivers, and the continuing massive air pollution from the huge and still growing number of coal fired power stations in India, China, and Russia. (UK pollution by comparison could be regarded as irrelevant.)
In response to question one, I would attempt to make climate and biodiversity the highest priority via the planning approvals process. For all new applications developers could be encouraged by the EHDC to fit solar panels as standard, and to install a rainwater collection system per building or group of buildings, for the flushing of lavatories. The former would significantly reduce the UK power generation requirement, and the latter would significantly reduce the extraction of water from rivers and boreholes, thus raising the water table and much improving the flora and fauna of the natural environment.
With respect to question 2, I am firmly of the opinion that road verges, roundabouts, and public open spaces should also be a high priority for improving biodiversity. They are natural undisturbed mini habitats. Some of this is already being done but there are always improvements which can be made. Roundabouts and road verges are already the responsibility of the EHDC and should remain as such, but public off road areas could be offered for adoption by local communities and groups who could be invited to compete annually to win a cup for the best wildflower display. The cup to be provided by the local authority.
Regarding question 3, I consider that the prioritisation and publication of environmental strategies has to be a section in the local authority magazine which I understand goes to every household. It should also be the responsibility of the relevant EHDC portfolio holder.
Turning now to question four, I would champion a progressive migration from buses and council hired lorries powered by fossil fuels, to either electrically or hydrogen powered ones. Much lower fares and a more frequent bus service would of course be necessary to attract the requisite economical usage volume. But it has to be a fundamental for spearheading real reductions in the use of fossil fuels.
Vic Burbidge: Reform UK candidate for Alton Westbrooke
I believe in a ‘glass half-full’ approach to environmental challenges, that have existed since time immemorial, and which are now centred firmly on Co2 and habitat loss.
Locally, so much is already being done to increase biodiversity within existing green spaces and to facilitate the recycling of plastics, glass etc. Moreover, it is always a joy (while cycle training) to see that Hampshire is a gardener’s paradise where some land is usually left over for wildlife.
I don’t feel there needs to be an antagonism between people’s current actions and the pressing environmental questions of our Age.
- I would redouble efforts to increase biodiversity within existing green spaces and improve ‘grot-spots’.
- explore the possibility of increasing allotment space as Alton’s population grows.
- question why there is a booking system for Alton recycling centre since it is not located close to homes
Questions 1 & 2
- I would emphasise that looking after humankind and the natural world is a common aim and inherently inclusive. The era of stewardship is here. Let’s make it more progressive and invigorating than the era of dominion.
- redouble efforts to make sure that grass cutting, tree felling, regeneration etc. is sensitive to nature’s rhythms.
- involve local groups and people in environmental projects as much as possible.
- listen to the business sector and make sure that their financial concerns are being heard.
- be mindful to question top-down targets where they appear out of step with everyday realities.
Questions 3 & 4
Publishing plans and goals achieved would be best done online. Strategies should work with people and not against their economic interests.
- I would keep an open mind regarding; biofuels; new synthetic fuels for existing internal combustion engines; wood burning; new clean-coal technology; the necessity for a sustainable mix of fuels for the short and long term both economically and environmentally.
- Resist group think and political ideology paraded as environmentalism.
- celebrate the variety of ways by which individuals and the local community can clean up after ourselves.
- urge the local community to challenge our political leaders to give impetus to clean-coal technologies which can be used by the world’s major polluters.