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Environmental Lawyers put Bristol Council ‘On Notice’ over climate inaction

Lawyers from leading environmental law charity ClientEarth have put Bristol City Council “on notice” over its lack of proper climate change plans, giving them eight weeks to explain how planning policy will incorporate carbon reduction targets.

Bristol is among 100 councils, also including Stroud and South Somerset District Councils, that will receive a letter from ClientEarth’s lawyers demanding an explanation of how they will set evidence-based carbon reduction targets and ensure those targets are central to the councils’ new planning policy. ClientEarth are demanding this explanation within eight weeks.

ClientEarth has launched the letter citing a “massive shortfall in compliant local planning policy”. Bristol Council’s Local Plan sets local rules for all future commercial and housing development in the city so will have a significant impact on carbon emissions. Bristol Council is due to review the planning policies in its Local Plan, although the review is waiting for the regional Joint Spatial Plan that sits above it to be agreed, having been recently rejected by government officials.

In June Bristol’s Green Councillors submitted a set of suggested policies to the council’s consultation on its Local Plan. These included stronger planning rules on climate change to make a clear commitment to carbon neutrality for new developments. Greens also demanded stronger protections for public land and called for planning policies against advertising billboards and over-concentration of student housing in small areas of the city.

Councillor Martin Fodor commented:

“As we said in June, the local plan needs to be revisited and the policies made more ambitious before the plan is signed off. We can’t waste a decade or more through the life of this plan if it does not take us towards net carbon neutrality at the pace required by the reports from the IPCC and Committee on Climate Change. So the published draft plan must be revisited to recognise the Climate Emergency declared by Council and aim for the 2030 target.”

Cllr Fodor added:

“At the end of last year, Bristol led the way by passing a Green motion to declare a Climate Emergency – it was the first city in Europe to do so. But speaking the truth about the Climate Emergency is only the first step, it needs to be followed up with action. So in June we suggested some key changes to the Council’s Local Plan to put the response to that emergency at the heart of the Council’s planning policy. As well as measures to deal with climate change we put forward policies to protect public space, mitigate the housing crisis by cracking down on AirBnB properties, and incorporate social value policies in major developments.

“But since the West of England’s regional plan (the Joint Spatial Plan) was thrown out in August, that will have to be sorted out before our local plan in Bristol can be updated – which I’m worried could take a year or more. This is really important if we’re going to deal with the Climate Emergency and I hope Bristol Council and WECA are treating this with the urgency it requires – we can’t afford to wait much longer to get Green policies in place, or for new affordable housing that is comfortable to live in and cheaper to heat. The legal risk from Client Earth only adds to the pressure to get this fixed.”

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