Environmental lawyers issue climate change legal threat to Norfolk councils

PUBLISHED: 15:07 03 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:45 03 September 2019

Sam Hunter Jones from ClientEarth. Pic: ClientEarth

Sam Hunter Jones from ClientEarth. Pic: ClientEarth


Environmental lawyers who successfully took the government to court over air pollution have warned councils in Norfolk they could be next in line for legal action.

Sarah Butikofer, the leader of North Norfolk District Council. Pictures: David BaleSarah Butikofer, the leader of North Norfolk District Council. Pictures: David Bale

Lawyers from ClientEarth are putting 105 local authorities across England on notice, warning they will violate legal obligations and risk legal challenge if they do not introduce proper climate change plans.

They are writing to Norwich City Council, Broadland District Council, South Norfolk Council, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, North Norfolk District Council and West Norfolk Council.

ClientEarth is giving them eight weeks to explain how they will set evidence-based carbon reduction targets and ensure these targets are central to blueprints for future development.

ClientEarth climate lawyer Sam Hunter Jones said: "There is a collective failure by local authorities across England to plan adequately for climate change."

But councils said they were confident of meeting legal responsibilities.

A spokesman for South Norfolk and Broadland councils said: "We are currently working on a joint environmental action plan, one of the actions to come out of this will be the production of a climate change strategy which will consider the points raised by ClientEarth."

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A Norwich City Council spokesman said: "The council acknowledges that the climate change emergency means our way of working has to change, and we are continuing with the widespread carbon-reduction work we been successfully engaged with for the past 10 years."

But Martin Schmierer, leader of the Green group on the city council, said: "This action by ClientEarth shows that unless the council enshrines meaningful targets and policies in its approach to planning, it could be breaking the law, as well as putting lives at risk.

"That must apply to new developments such as Anglia Square, too, where the current proposals are simply not fit for the future."

A spokesman for Great Yarmouth District Council said the next stage of its local plan would be prepared "in full accordance with relevant legislation and national planning policy".

And Sarah Butikofer, leader of North Norfolk District Council, which recently declared a climate emergency, said: "We are currently working on a new local plan which in itself is a legal document.

"As a result of our declaration, we are working on a number of new policies which we will be putting forward for inclusion during this process."

A spokeswoman for West Norfolk Council said clear policies were being set as to how its local plan would address climate change.

Last year, ClientEarth lawyers won a third High Court victory over the government's plans to tackle air pollution.

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