Councillor resigns from planning committee as it needs to ‘act faster’ on climate change policy in Northampton

A councillor has resigned from his position on a planning committee because it needs to ‘act faster’ on climate change.

Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 9:05 pm
Councillor Paul Joyce has stepped down from the planning committee of Northampton Borough Council over his concerns for climate change

Paul Joyce has stepped down from his position on the Northampton Borough Council committee after recently walking out from one of the meetings over the lack of ‘energy efficiency’ in new homes being proposed by Northampton Partnership Homes – which maintains the council’s housing stock.

His decision comes after the borough council launched a ‘climate emergency’ last month, pledging to become carbon neutral by 2030.

But the Labour councillor sent a letter of resignation to borough secretary Francis Fernandes, saying: “As a council, we need to be acting faster to ensure that we are carbon neutral sooner, and using energy-efficient technology on all our new build properties in the town.

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“Both the borough and county councils have now declared a climate emergency, so we will be judged by future generations on what we do next.”

Instead, he has taken up a role as the Labour party’s ‘climate change ambassador’ on the council, and will be working with Conservative counterpart Councillor Samuel Kilby-Shaw – who walked out of the meeting at the same time with Councillor Joyce but remains a member of the planning committee.

Speaking about his decision in more detail, Councillor Joyce told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “My major concern with the planning committee is that it is not acting fast enough. I could stay on that panel and not see any progress in two years, and it’s a waste of my time if things are not going to progress.

“I think they could easily achieve things like insisting that all new builds had solar panels, but it all comes down to cost at the end of the day.”

Asked if it would have been better for him to stay on the committee and tackle the issue from within, he responded: “I feel if I had stayed on it would have been like shouting at a brick wall. I would have had to have walked out of every meeting once the new builds were discussed, and I think it would have been a waste of my energy. It’s better that I can spend that energy on some other issues.”

Councillor Joyce’s decision to step down means he served less than one meeting on the committee, having been appointed to it at the start of the council year in May.

Planning committee chairman, Councillor Brian Oldham, said: “Full council motions, as great as they are and I support the climate emergency motion, but they don’t make planning policy on their own. We’re going through a stage to make them more amenable to climate change, but we have to work with developers to get them to fall in line and it won’t take overnight.

“We offered Councillor Joyce the chance to meet and smooth things over, but he clearly doesn’t think he can reconcile his views between climate change and planning policy. It was the shortest stay on a planning committee that I can remember in nine years of being on it.”

Full council agreed to replace Councillor Joyce with fellow Labour councillor Muna Cali when it met recently at The Guildhall.