North Yorkshire County Council Election – Settle Candidates Quizzed on the Climate Emergency

Polling Station

Action on Climate Emergency (ACE) Settle and area has written to the three candidates standing in the Settle Penyghent division election on 5th May. ACE is seeking their views on what they would do about the climate emergency if elected for the final year of the county council and then as the representative for the first four years of the new single council – the new unitary authority North Yorkshire Council.

The four questions and candidate answers are detailed below.

‘The Climate Emergency – if elected – what will you do?

David Staveley – Conservative candidate

  1. Although North Yorkshire County Council has not declared a climate emergency, in 2021 it reported that “nearly all our council services emit carbon emissions, from lighting the streets to disposing of refuse and heating schools and care homes, but we are committed to reducing these and have an aspiration to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2030, or as near to that date as possible.” Source: https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/beyond-carbon.

Will you press the new shadow Unitary Council to declare a climate emergency (as already done by the majority of district/borough Councils in North Yorkshire); set out an action plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 at the latest (incorporating best practice from the existing district/borough councils) and ensure that all new building work undertaken by the authority is to a net zero standard?

‘I would pursue a policy of carbon zero by 2030 if practicable, in the same spirit as we have already adopted at Craven District Council.

The principle of following best practice would and indeed has been an invaluable tool as we seek to charter the uncharted waters of such a big cultural and economic change as that required to meet the 2030 target, so I would expect nothing less from the new authority and push for it if not already followed.

To create only net zero standard properties would be a challenge, but it is the standard we should aspire to reach’.

  1. Better public transport in the County (and beyond) is central to reducing our carbon emissions by encouraging people to get out of their fossil fuel driven cars and onto buses and trains. What steps will you take to seek to improve connectivity in North Yorkshire to encourage more people to use affordable public transport?

‘I feel it is important that we make use of our existing public transport infrastructure, so will continue to promote the reinstatement of rolling stock on to the Hellifield – Clitheroe train line. My sense is that this would provide many of the benefits of the much vaunted SELRAP project, without the need to start laying extra track at huge expense. Providing better transport links into East Lancashire, supporting not only employment related travel, but also green transport links for our thriving tourism industry’.

  1. Existing planning law and regulations are not fit for purpose in reducing carbon emissions and changes in planning policies at the national level have moved painfully slow. Using existing planning policies levers, for example local plans for each planning area, present an opportunity to create low carbon, greener, and healthier environments. Will you use these opportunities to be a trail blazer for achieving greater environmental sustainability?

‘Planning policy is an important tool and I have been proactive in my role as chairman of the Spatial Planning committee at Craven District Council, in adapting our Local Plan to reflect this aspiration. I would however suggest that to be so prescriptive as to insist on net zero housing, might have a detrimental effect on the supply and cost of new housing, if indeed such a policy could be adopted without successful challenge from the construction industry. There is a balance to be struck, but high energy efficiency of new housing is a must in my opinion and something I will promote if elected’.

  1. As an NYC councillor you will be playing a key leadership role both across North Yorkshire and within your local area. What other climate related initiatives will you be advocating for?

‘I think the principle of being green is nothing new to this part of the world, Yorkshire folk have been frugal with their resources and measured in their spending as a source of cultural pride for generations.

As a member of the new authority, I would look to bring that same careful judgement to the table of any decision making process. Don’t waste, don’t spend on jingoistic vanity projects based on their public image as opposed to their real value. Make sure that good housekeeping runs from top to bottom of the new council and that in itself will help achieve much that is too often overlooked.

We will not deal with the ravages of overconsumption in our society by wantonly consuming more, however well intended.

I firmly believe that we cannot spend our way out of climate change, we need a cultural change, from the education in the schools this new council will provide, to the leadership its membership projects.  A challenge I am happy to accept and take on as your local Councillor’.

Aidan Higgins – Labour candidate

1. Will you press the new shadow Unitary Council to declare a climate emergency and ensure that all new building work undertaken by the authority is to a net zero standard?

‘I agree with the urgency of dealing with climate change but current commitments from North Yorkshire County Council towards net zero are disappointingly lax. If elected in Settle and Penyghent I want to change all of that quickly by declaring a climate emergency which is something the vast majority of Labour run Councils have already done. That the current Tory council has only set an ‘aspiration’ towards net zero is telling. I would look to the district councils and beyond for best practice in this
field including amongst the truly brilliant Labour Councillors that I work with across the country to incorporate lessons learned from active and public transport schemes in West Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester where I have worked towards real action on the climate emergency’.

2. What steps will you take to seek to improve connectivity in North Yorkshire to encourage more people to use affordable public transport?

‘I am saddened by the poor state of public and active transport across North Yorkshire after 12 years of Tory austerity have gutted our bus services and increased rail fares well beyond wages for many. It is damning that so many in North Yorkshire like myself are forced to drive for work due to lack of affordable public transport options.

I would work with my council colleagues to develop a transport plan that is fit for the 21 st century putting public and active transport at its heart.
North Yorkshire needs better bus services connecting our rural communities with principle towns such as Settle and Skipton but also much better links outside of the region. I am an advocate of rebuilding the East Lancs Railway connecting Skipton to Colne, something which I lobbied for whilst working for the MP for Burnley in 2019. I also believe that the council should increase the subsidies towards the bus services as an emergency measure to keep fares down and encourage people out of their cars. For a county which seems to have embraced cycling as a hobby we need to translate this towards more active travel options. At the moment our A-roads lack safe cycle infrastructure which discourages travel by bicycle. Fixing this would be my number one priority to both reduce emissions and improve public health’.

3.  Will you use [these] opportunities to be a trail blazer for achieving greater environmental sustainability?

‘We are so lucky across North Yorkshire to live in the most beautiful countryside and I believe that it is the duty of any elected official to protect that for future generations. At the moment the Tory run council has allowed planning to be dominated by corporate developers in parts of the county to the detriment of residents and the environment. I will work with councillors to ensure that any homes that are built must be to the highest standard on insulation, have access to electric car changers, eco-friendly heating systems and, where appropriate, have solar panels fitted’.

4. What other climate related initiatives will you be advocating for?

‘Beyond the direct role of the council I am passionate about access to the countryside in a sustainable way. I would work with the National Park authorities to spearhead rewilding and tree planting projects with a view to increasing our biodiversity and also allowing our residents to get back in touch and appreciate nature as it should be’.

Luke Allan – Liberal Democrat

Update following posting by Luke onto ACE’s Facebook Group the evening of 5.5.22…

  • ‘After speaking with a member of the group earlier today, I wanted to update you all and apologise for not submitting a response to the questions sent to candidates. Unfortunately, the message ended up going to an inactive branch email, instead of my direct branch address (I believe this was due to this inbox being used when I responded to last year’s questions). I can only apologise for this and for not taking it upon myself to contact the group to check if questions were being sent out again this year. Sadly, this matter was only brought to my attention recently and, due to ill health, work, the campaign and my role as Chair of Craven Liberal Democrats, I was unable to submit my responses.
  • As someone who was raised and lives in this area – alongside being a Scout Leader, a mountain biker, a proud Liberal Democrat and member of Green Liberal Democrats (the environmental Think Tank for the Party) – I can definitively state that I am passionate about taking action on the climate emergency. You may have noticed that ‘Environment and climate’ is first on my key priority list if elected, with appropriate and relevant measures embedded within the remainder of my priorities. For example, under ‘Transport and housing’ I have detailed my intention to support building a more integrated and reliable public transport network alongside working to ensure the application of sustainable building techniques, use of sustainable building materials and utilisation of renewable energy provisions in new homes. Liberal Democrats have a strong record on delivering greener, cleaner areas where we’re in power locally, so much so that the top four councils for household recycling in England are all Lib Dem-led. We therefore understand the importance of taking immediate and decisive action on the climate emergency.
  • If you have any questions or queries on my priorities and what we as Liberal Democrats want to achieve, then please do not hesitate to contact me on social media or by emailing luke@skiptonriponlibdems.org.uk. Thank you for reading – and I look forward to hopefully meeting many more of you over the coming months.

 

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