The authority is working towards becoming carbon-neutral by 2040 after declaring a climate emergency in 2019.
But opposition members have questioned the 2040 target in light of other authorities, such as Cannock Chase Council, setting earlier deadlines. And they also raised concerns at Tuesday’s full council meeting about how the climate change work would be funded.
Councillor Jonathan Price, cabinet member for environment, told Tuesday’s meeting that tackling climate change was everybody’s responsibility and gave an update on how work was progressing.
A full-time Climate Change Officer has now been appointed and a carbon audit has been carried out to find out which council areas produce the most emissions. Carbon literacy training is set to be developed for council members too.
Work to tackle climate change remains a concern for residents across Stafford Borough too. Several attended Tuesday’s full council meeting to quiz members on the green recovery progress.
Maureen Alecock asked: “Does the council accept that the environment is a serious concern to all of us regardless of political affiliation and that it needs to work cross party on implementing its Climate Change and Green Recovery Strategy? If so how has the council so far worked on the strategy on a cross party basis?
Alan Alecock asked: “Given the good news that the borough council is developing a tree planting strategy, can you tell me please when will the strategy be published, how many trees are planned to be planted (and) how will you engage with the general public in the planting?”
Netta Cartwright asked: “How is the council going to deliver these important strategies by engaging with the wider public, private sector, young people of different age groups and specific groups like Stafford’s There is No Planet B (TINPB)?”
And James Greenhalgh asked: “Can Councillor Price tell me what progress has been made so far in the setting up of (the community representative) panel, and what criteria the council has already used or will use in determining which community members will be selected as representatives on the panel?”
Councillor Price responded: “Over the next six months officers will be moving forward on objective two of the strategy, which is to work in partnership with communities and elected members, and part of that work will be to develop a climate change pledge which we will be requesting members and communities sign up to. There will also be an opportunity for all members to engage with carbon literacy training which is being developed.
“The current position with regards to the tree strategy is that the Strategic Planning and Placemaking team will consider policies, including those relating to trees, through the new Local Plan process and will lead on the production of a tree strategy for the council with input from suitably-qualified aboriculturists. The new Local Plan is currently scheduled for adoption in October 2022 before policy requirements can be applied to new developments through the planning application process.
“The council is responsible for a number of trees in the borough and our operations service already has a maintenance plan for its existing tree stock. In addition to this the council are currently investigating options for carbon sequestration – removing carbon from our atmosphere – for example by planting more trees, and we will be working with landowners in relation to this. Additional tree planting will be taking place on the newly-designated local nature reserve at Fairway.
“The council has supported There is No Planet B for a number of years now and has provided a small amount of funding towards their annual event this year. The Eco Schools’ Network has been running virtually these past 18 months and are actively encouraged to share best practice between each other about environmental issues and projects they have or are planning to implement.”
In response to the community panel question Councillor Price said: “An advert has been drawn up and will be issued on our website as a press release, and this will be distributed to traditional media and via the council’s social media channels once it has been agreed. This will outline what we are looking for and will invite anyone who is interested in joining the panel to submit an expression of interest.”