Following Wetherby Town Council’s decision to declare a climate emergency, a public meeting was held on 26 November, which was well attended by local residents. Councillor Connor Mulhall, who chaired the meeting, explained that the Town Council’s objectives to address climate issues are to lead by example, to enable and facilitate other actions within the town and to encourage others to take action.
The meeting heard from three key speakers, including Penny Stables who outlined the work of the Boston Spa and Wetherby Area Green Group. Their priority areas to be addressed include protecting and increasing trees, creation of wildlife corridors, making cycling safer and reducing waste (including food waste). Members of the group are working to progress the group’s aims.
Ingrid McLaughlin of the Better Wetherby Partnership explained concerns about air quality in Wetherby. Preliminary monitoring exercises being carried out by members of the Partnership already indicate levels of nitrogen dioxide within the town which could be harmful to children. The group is currently working towards more extensive air quality monitoring, whilst considering how air pollution can be reduced through improved public transport, cycleways, and improved home insulation.
A report from Mark Barrow, who has been monitoring the health of the River Wharfe for several decades, revealed shocking levels of pollution in the river caused by the discharge of raw sewage into the river, and the presence of large amounts of plastics. Increased phosphate levels have a detrimental effect on wildlife, and ultimately affect the biodiversity of the wider environment. Representation to Leeds City Council has led to the matter being referred to the relevant Scrutiny Panel which has the power to call in such authorities as the Environment Agency. The Panel will consider pollution of the River Wharfe at a meeting in the New Year.
As a starting point for a Climate Emergency Action Plan, Wetherby Town Council has identified several areas for action, including carrying out an environmental impact assessment for all decisions it makes; auditing the Town Hall’s energy performance and replacing Town Hall lights with LED bulbs as and when they need changing.
Comments, questions and suggestions from members of the public who attended the public meeting, resulted in a list of ideas which will form the basis of an Action Plan. Many of those present were keen to participate in a Climate Working Group facilitated by the Town Council, which will meet in the New Year to start tackling the actions and develop strategies for reducing the carbon footprint of the town.
Anyone interested in obtaining further information, or helping tackle the climate emergency, should contact the Clerk to Wetherby Town Council, Iona Taylor, on firstname.lastname@example.org.