Council's plan to fight climate crisis criticised by opposition

West Norfolk council's offices in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Councillors discussed the authority's emissions reduction strategy and action plan 2021-24 at a meeting on Tuesday evening. - Credit: IAN BURT

A Norfolk council has outlined its plans to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2035 or sooner - but opposition councillors say the plans lack ambition.

At a Tuesday cabinet meeting of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk council, the authority’s emissions reduction strategy and action plan 2021-24 was unveiled.

The strategy includes reduced gas consumption, the electrification of the council’s vehicle fleet and a tree-planting programme, among several other measures. 

The plan’s second phase will seek to influence the rest of the borough but the strategy states the council will first get its “own house in order”.

Independent councillor Alexandra Kemp said the strategy was “a start” but “nowhere near ambitious enough”. 

County councillor Alexandra Kemp. Picture: Ian Burt

Independent councillor Alexandra Kemp called for the restoration of the railway between King's Lynn and Hunstanton. - Credit: Ian Burt

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She said the borough must have sustainably-produced energy and greener transport, including an improved ferry from West Lynn. 

She added: “And also the railway from Hunstanton. I’ve got the timetable from 1969, when it closed… There were ten services a day from Hunstanton to Lynn.”

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Green councillor Michael de Whalley said the council must look beyond its own emissions as an organisation: “If we concentrate on our own corporate emissions to become carbon neutral by 2035, by this time the district will have emitted twice its eight million tonne carbon budget, if we remain at 2019 emission rates.”

Michael De Whalley, Green candidate for North West Norfolk at the December 2019 elections Picture

Green councillor Michael de Whalley said the council should adopt the same outward-facing approach to the climate crisis as it did the Covid crisis. - Credit: Chris Bishop

He added: “This council was a true community leader during the Covid crisis. 

“We didn’t concentrate merely on our own infection control, saying it was a job for the NHS.

“We must do the same as we did for the Covid crisis in this climate and ecological emergency.”

Mr de Walley called for “full public consultation” of the strategy, which would be “well worth the potential cost and delay”.

Conservative cabinet member for the environment Paul Kunes said of Mr de Walley: “He turns round and says ‘This is an absolute emergency, we’ve got to do something now,’ and then he says he wants to delay .. 

Paul Kunes, cabinet member at West Norfolk Council.

Conservative cabinet member for the environment Paul Kunes said councillor de Whalley cannot "have it both ways". - Credit: Ian Burt

“Either this is an emergency or it isn’t ... You can’t have it both ways.”

The council’s Conservative deputy leader Graham Middleton said councillors had “come to the table yet again with a list of things that they believe we should be doing". 

Graham Middleton, Conservative candidate for Gayton and Nar Valley. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

The council's Conservative deputy leader Graham Middleton challenged the opposition to produce an alternative budget with their plans for how to better address the climate crisis. - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

In a challenge to the opposition, he said: “I for one am very much looking forward to seeing a fully-costed alternative budget in February.”

Cabinet members voted to proceed with the strategy. 

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