How Greens are challenging Wealden District Council to build for a Carbon Zero future

18 June 2020

Patricia at Planning North committee meeting June 2020

Are we building for a sustainable future? Why is our District Council approving developments that are not Carbon neutral and won’t meet the Council’s own targets? Green councillor Patricia Patterson-Vanegas has challenged the planning commitee to apply the law and its own policies on sustainable building for the future. No longer can our Council pretend to be powerless in planning: it can make change happen, and indeed it must, legally.

Forest Row Green councillor Patricia Patterson-Vanegas sparked lengthy and passionate debate at last week’s online meeting of Wealden District Council’s Planning Committee North. 

Making one of the first speeches in the debate on an application for outline planning permission for a 146-unit upmarket retirement village in Frant, Patricia spelt out how the Council is legally obliged, when deciding on planning applications great and small, to take into account the climate crisis, the 2050 carbon neutrality target set out in the Climate Change Act 2008, its own climate emergency resolution passed last July, its resulting climate emergency plan and the consultants’ report it obtained to help it with the plan. 

The report repeatedly makes it clear that in order to achieve the goal in 2050 (which the Green Party regards as 20 years too late) all new development in Wealden needs to be carbon neutral. 

Patricia challenged the so far dominant view that the Council cannot impose carbon standards through the planning system, pointing out that a legal power to do that plainly exists [Section 1 of the Planning and Energy Act 2008], as the government has proposed to abolish it in 2025 when new Building Regulations are planned to be brought into force. 

She proposed rejection of officers’ recommendations to accept the outline application and other smaller applications dealt with later in the meeting as the planned buildings were not going to be carbon neutral. The Frant application was passed, but only by one vote (5-4). Two other applications were approved with less opposition but in each case Patricia’s view was supported by other councillors.

The debates showed that some of Patricia’s fellow members of Planning North now agree with her on the importance of carbon neutral development and agree that the word ‘sustainable’ in the phrase “sustainable development” cannot continue to be ignored by the Council, as it regrettably has been for far too long. Patricia will continue to press her points at future committee meetings, the next one of which takes place at 10.30 on 25th June. Meetings are broadcast live on the Council’s website, where recordings of meetings (including the one reported here) can also be viewed on the agenda and minutes page.