Shropshire Council put ‘on notice’ over climate change

Lawyers say they have put Shropshire Council “on notice”, warning the authority it will violate its legal obligations should it not introduce “proper” climate change plans.

Shropshire Council's Shirehall headquarters
Shropshire Council's Shirehall headquarters

The council declared a climate change emergency in May and a task and finish group has been set up to see what can be done to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Proposals are set to be put before full council in December by cabinet member for climate change Dean Carroll.

But ClientEarth, an environmental law charity, said the council – and 99 others across the UK – are risking legal action with slow progress.

The environmental lawyers working for ClientEarth say they are writing to each local authority that is currently developing a new local plan, giving them eight weeks to explain how they will set evidence-based carbon reduction targets and ensure these targets are then central to their new planning policy.

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

“Too often climate change is perceived to be just a national or international issue and therefore solely the responsibility of central government. Clearly central government needs to do more, as the recent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) progress reports stress.”

“Yet so many of the daily decisions around new and existing infrastructure – such as new buildings, roads and utilities – are made at the local level.”

“All of these decisions will ‘lock in’ an area’s future emissions and its resilience to climate change.

“Scientists warn that we have 10 years to transform our economies and avoid catastrophic climate change, but decisions that will have ramifications for decades are being made now by authorities with no idea if these decisions are consistent with national and international commitments to limit emissions.”

He added: ““In July this year, the CCC criticised the UK’s continued failure to take action on emissions from buildings and transport – two sectors where local planning plays a critical role.”

Mr Hunter Jones said that while many local authorities face difficult economic conditions, there are substantial benefits to climate-sensitive planning, such as improving local economies and creating jobs.

“Climate action at a local level can transform people’s quality of life for the better, with clear net benefits to health, air and water quality, employment, energy affordability, community cohesion and biodiversity,” he said.

He said ClientEarth has written to councillors and planning officers from areas that are revising their local plans, reminding them of their legal responsibilities. These duties include setting targets and policies based on the local potential to reduce emissions, and that are at least in line with the UK’s Climate Change Act.

He added: “Each and every planning decision taken today must be in line with long-term climate goals, because what and how we build today will determine our climate impact and resilience in the crucial decades to come.”

Shropshire Council has been asked to comment.

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