Call for Powys to declare an ecological motion is defeated at vote

A CALL for Powys County Council to declare an ecological emergency was voted down by councillors last week.

Councillor Jonathan Wilkinson
Councillor Jonathan Wilkinson

At the meeting on Thursday, September 23, Liberal Democrat councillors Jake Berriman and Jackie Charlton put forward a motion which would see the council take steps to protect the county’s biodiversity and wildlife.

Councillor Jackie Charlton explained that it built on the “Climate Emergency” declared by the council last year.

“Supporting this would be one of the most important things we could do this year,” said Cllr Charlton.

Part of the motion also included the council to express its support for the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill.

This is a private members bill which was presented to the UK Parliament in September 2020 by Green MP, Caroline Lucas.

Conservative group leader and finance portfolio holder, Councillor Aled Davies pointed out that Farming Unions and the Country Land and Business Association had not come out in support of the bill.

Cllr Davies said: “They do have a huge influence on the ecological status of our county, so I have real concerns about this, I wish further work to be done on it before we go down this road.”

He believed there was “insufficient evidence” to support the motion.

Councillor Ange Williams (Action for Powys) said: “We are farmers and we’re a farming community we all know these things are important.”

She explained that farmers already work to safeguard wildlife and ecological systems and worried that the bill would put and extra burden on business in the county.

“At this time, we’re going too fast,” said Cllr Williams.

Council leader Cllr Rosemarie Harris (Independent) said: “I’m concerned that this CEE bill is being promoted by groups like Extinction Rebellion who’ve been involved in criminal activity, blocking roads and have even wanted to re-wild land in Powys.”

She did not want the council associated with CEE bill and urged councillors to vote against the motions.

Councillor Jonathan Wilkinson (Conservative) said: “I’ve seen a decrease of biodiversity on my farm and in the county which is down to government post-war (Second World War) policies striving to produce food.

“Measures are being taken to put that right now.

“Tree planting, hedge planting and encouraging wildlife is working.

“I worry about the groups seeking to address climate change by forcing change in a very militant way.

“Our economy in Powys is very dependent on the success and prosperity of farming.”

Councillor James Gibson-Watt believed that not supporting the motion would send a “bad signal to residents.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrat and Green group, Cllr Gibson-Watt said: “There is a very serious situation developing and an ecological emergency is not an exaggeration.

“I cannot see any harm in this motion which makes a great deal of sense.”

At the end of the discussion Councillor Berriman said: “I’m disappointed with the direction the debate has taken I thought this was fairly non-controversial given the evidence around us.

“The motion is certainly not anti-farming .

He added that farming unions in Wales had already recognised the need to do more work: “hand in hand with nature.”

The motion was lost with 31 voting against it and 24 in favour.

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