Environmental issues to be ‘constant backdrop’ in Mid Sussex council decisions

Mid Sussex is to explore a separate food waste collection
Mid Sussex is to explore a separate food waste collection

The idea of collecting food waste from homes in Mid Sussex is to be investigated by the district council.

The suggestion was one of several included in an environment and climate discussion which was agreed by members during a full meeting of the council.

The motion was proposed by Conservative councillor Andrew Lea

The motion was proposed by Conservative councillor Andrew Lea

While not actually declaring a climate emergency, Mid Sussex District Council pledged to actively look for ways to protect the environment and tackle climate change, while supporting the government’s work to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

A notice of motion was tabled by Andrew Lea (Con, Lindfield), who said: “Environment and climate change is an existential threat not just to us but to all the other species that we share both the district and the planet with. We are in the midst of one of the biggest mass extinctions there has other been.”

The motion called for an eight-member sustainability and climate change panel to be set up to advise the cabinet member on relevant issue and allow councillors to share their own ideas.

It also asked the cabinet member and officers to look into the costs and feasibility of starting a food waste collection before sending a report forward for scrutiny.

The motion also supported the West Sussex Climate Pledge, which was set up by the county council.

So far, more than 500 people have signed the pledge, vowing to make small changes to improve the environment and their own health.

The changes include going plastic-free, reducing food waste, saving water and shopping locally.

Mr Lea told the meeting: “The key intent is to have environment issues as a constant backdrop in all of our decisions, infusing all that we do.”

Three amendments to the motion were proposed but none of them were agreed.

Suggestions from Matthew Cornish (Green, Burgess Hill – St Andrews) that the percentage of journeys made by bike in Mid Sussex could be increased from one per cent to five per cent of all travel by the end of 2022 were dismissed as ‘silly’.

While many members said they shared the sentiment, they couldn’t see how it was workable.

Gary Marsh (Con, Ardingly & Balcombe) said: “You can’t force people to get out of their cars and cycle.”

The council is already looking into linking cycle routes between Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill and Hassocks, and Mr Marsh said it would take until 2022 to complete that work.

Simon Hicks (Lib Dem, Burgess Hill – Leylands) asked the council to declare a climate emergency itself rather than just ‘noting’ what has happened in Parliament.

He also called for the council to reduce its carbon footprint to zero by 2030 and make sure that all decisions made were geared towards that target.

Mr Lea suggested the idea be put to the sustainability and climate change panel to look into how and if it could be achieved.

There were harsh words from Mr Marsh when Ben Dempsey (Lib Dem, Hassocks) called on the council to recognise that the world was also experiencing a biodiversity crisis.

Mr Dempsey suggested that the council committed itself to a ‘comprehensive natural capital mapping of Mid Sussex’ to identify the variety of plant and animal life in the area.

But Mr Marsh said that, while much of the work suggested was already being done, the council could not instruct private land owners to allow mapping to be carried out on their property.

He told Mr Dempsey: “I’m afraid you just don’t understand what a district councillor does.”

Councillors previously agreed a sustainability strategy in 2018 which was a five year plan through to 2023 including sets of measures and targets for the council and communities. This strategy has already resulted in:

• A 16 per cent reduction in the council’s electricity use in one year (2018) and nearly 24,000 kWh of solar electricity being generated by PV panels at its offices.

• Funding more electric vehicle charging points to be installed in council-run car parks in the coming months.

• Increased recycling, with a trial recently carried out of textiles recycling.

• Tough District Plan policies on pollution, biodiversity and renewable energy.

• Help for hundreds of households to switch onto green energy deals.

• Action, with partner organisations, to improve air quality at key traffic spots in Mid Sussex.

After the meeting, John Belsey, portfolio holder for environment and service delivery, said: “Our sustainability strategy is already having an impact after one year in making the council’s operations more sustainable and promoting ways that residents can help make a difference, such as recycling more, reducing the use of single use plastics and switching to green energy. We look forward to proactively identifying additional opportunities to help make a difference as a council to our communities.”