A year of green action to support community groups and project in the Horsham district could be organised in 2020.
Frances Haigh (LDem, Denne) suggested the idea to follow on from the very successful year of culture running throughout 2019.
This could include supporting parish councils, community partnerships and environmental groups with projects such as planting wildflowers for bees, running repair cafes, energy schemes or an eco-centre at Brinsbury.
Horsham District Council would act as a catalyst to bring groups together, provide meeting spaces and help with publicity as well as assisting with applications for funding.
Ray Dawe, leader of the council, said he was happy for the cabinet to look at what it can do to incorporate this into its plans.
The idea was raised during a debate by councillors on climate change and environmental problems more widely on Wednesday night (June 26).
David Skipp (Forest), leader of the Lib Dem group, had put forward a motion calling on HDC to declare a climate emergency, develop and implement a plan for the use of renewable technologies, sustainable transport options, zero carbon building, and for waste reduction and enhanced recycling within the district, working towards a net zero carbon target.
He said: “Time is not on our side and whilst we can’t change the effects on the world we could take action in our small part of it.”
Christine Costin (LDem, Trafalgar) added: “We need to be part of spreading the message that action has to be taken now.”
But an amendment was put forward by Philip Circus, cabinet member for environment, recycling and waste, described how we are facing a ‘wide range of environmental issues including a climate emergency’.
These ranged from pollution of oceans, to disposal of waste, single-use plastics, air pollution, deforestation and biodiversity loss.
It committed the council to developing and auditing the council’s activities to see what further practical changes it can implement.
Mr Circus (Con, West Chiltington, Thakeham and Ashington) suggested the Lib Dems’ original motion was ‘timid’ and his amendment specifically reference the range of issues involved, whilst also recognising the council’s ‘outstanding record’ in responding to environmental concerns.
He said: “What we are doing is actually addressing all the environmental issues that are worrying our residents.”
Diana van der Klugt (Con, Pulborough, Coldwaltham and Amberley) said that many of the big environmental issues facing the country needed to be led by national Government.
Meanwhile Paul Marshall (Con, Storrington and Washington) referenced the well-known problem of air quality in his division.
But Belinda Walters (LDem, Denne) suggested the council needed to have a plan and timescales and felt the amended motion’s wording was a ‘bit woolly’.
This was echoed by Ruth Fletcher (LDem, Denne), who said the council needed to commit to producing a plan, rather than just auditing what it was doing.
Mr Circus responded to this by amending his motion to include reference to the production on an action plan to make it clearer.
Leonard Crosbie (LDem, Trafalgar) felt the two motions should have been combined so it could pass on a ‘unified basis’, but Ian Stannard (Con, Southwater South and Shipley) said the amendment was trying to make a the motion ‘stronger’ and there was some ‘nitpicking’ going on over the wording.
Mr Circus’ motion with the slight change of wording was passed at the end of the debate.
Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead), cabinet member for leisure and culture, described the motion as a ‘game changer’, adding: “I would urge all members - let’s come together on this and then the small details are still to come as we go forward.”
Before the meeting a demonstration organised by South East Climate Alliance in Horsham Park.
Sally Barnard, co-ordinator of SECA, which has been lobbying councils across West Sussex and neighbouring counties to declare a climate emergency, said the motion was a ‘win for the climate and the wider environment’.
However she felt the wording ‘could have been stronger and it lacked clear targets and timescales’.
Dr Barnard went on to describe a possible year of green action as an ‘inspired idea’, adding: “This is exactly the kind of action we need to bring people together and get ideas flowing. We hope the council will take it up.”
What would you like to see if a year of green action went ahead? Email the newsdesk.