Lewes District Council agrees green energy motions

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Developers seeking to build in Lewes District will be expected to incorporate green energy schemes into their designs as a result of a council vote.

At a full meeting of Lewes District Council on Monday (July 16), councillors accepted four motions put forward by Cllr Vic Ient (Lib Dem. – Kingston), which challenged the council to adopt more environmentally-friendly policies.

The first of Cllr Ient’s motions asked the council to add a policy to the Lewes local plan, requiring developers to include potential ‘renewable energy schemes’ as part of planning applications. The council will also encourage the South Downs National Park Authority to adopt a similar policy.

Cllr Ient said: “Last October I presented a very similar motion to this and it was rejected by one vote. I’m hoping this time that it will get past.

“Since last October we’ve had Prime Minister Theresa May’s cleaner greener planet declaration, promising a 25-year plan to improve the environment. My motion gives the opportunity to this council to do their bit to meet those objectives.”

While some councillors raised concerns around its wording, the motion gained cross-party support in the council chamber.

Cllr Enever (Con. -Peacehaven East) said: “We did have quite a long discussion about these four motions and generally we can support renewable energy and the other items here.

“Some of us are concerned about the wording of this motion, although I’m pleased to note you have actually talked it through with the officers.

“I do feel that if myself or any of my colleagues abstain on this item it is not because we are against what you are saying in principle but because it is somewhat vague and difficult to put into practice.”

The sentiment was echoed by Green Party councillor for Lewes Bridge Joanna Carter. She said: “I thoroughly support the principle and the aim of this motion, but I’m in common with Cllr Enever as I had some concerns about the wording.

“I thought, while it was of benefit to be quite flexible, it does leave a lot of flexibility which means it might not be put into practice quite as much as I would like.”

However Cllr Sarah Osborne, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, urged councillors to look past the wording, saying the it would ‘set the scene’ for the council’s work.  

Cllr Ient said he had worked with council officers to formulate the wording of the policy.  He said: “I would have much preferred a much tougher wording than what you have got on this paper.

“I would have been much more policy-orientated, because I believe it is members who write policy and officers who implement it, but I had to get this through officers because it has to make its way into the local plan policy.

“[The motion] is, as Cllr Osborne said, about setting the scene, the intention. We must get on with these things, we can’t mess about for years saying ‘oh yes it is a very good idea’ while doing nothing and carrying on driving our 4×4 SUVS. Let’s get on with it.”

Despite concerns the motion was passed with cross-party support.

Three other motions – calling on the council to request government funding to run green energy projects and buy new air monitoring stations for the region – were also agreed by councillors.

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Ient said:  “I would have preferred to have brought this measure in earlier and to have the wording much tougher. However, I have had to soften the wording in order to gain agreement with the officers of the council.

“Still, the principle of the measure has been voted in and I hope it’s implemented with enthusiasm in policy documents which are currently being revised and should be implemented by the end of 2018.”

Huw Oxburgh , Local Democracy Reporting Service