Climate Change is an increasingly important issue, frequently discussed at national level but perhaps not so well known at local level. Although Climate Change and Biodiversity is a standing item on the Parish Council monthly Agenda, it is fair to say that little discussion had previously taken place. However, Chart Sutton now works together with other parishes on this issue. This alliance of parishes is known as theParish Council Environment Network and the member councils are Sutton Valence, Boughton Monchelsea, Chart Sutton, Otham, East Sutton, Hunton, Marden, Linton, Yalding and Headcorn.
Within Chart Sutton, we have formally adopted a Green Planning Checklist used to explore green issues when considering planning application responses for all new build properties/developments and all major extensions. The Parish Council has formally established a structured Climate Change and Biodiversity strategy in line with other parishes. While it has elements that are aspirational, which is necessary if we are to move forward, we believe the strategy is relevant to everyday life and pertinent to improving climate awareness. The document can be found on the Parish Council website.
The main issues arising to date at the bimonthly PCEN meetings include ‘no engine idling’ posters, the NHS Heatwave Plan and increased tree planting, together with tree guardians or wardens. Regular litter picking is undertaken by all parishes and not mowing verges to allow them to grow wilder is an active topic. All parishes are looking to instal EV Charge Points, heat pumps and solar panels wherever possible, starting with community properties and Chart Sutton is no exception. The group has also discussed providing “warm space” in village halls during the winter.
Other useful actions have been meetings with Stuart Jeffery, the only Green Party MBC councillor, whose focus is on water quality, especially the sewerage discharges, and with James Wilderspin, Maidstone Borough Council Climate Change Officer. His focus is on decarbonisation (MBC buildings, car fleet etc) and staff biodiversity training and has previously established a Go Green Information Centre in The Mall. This is to be repeated in August and anyone wanting to learn about energy saving tips and how to apply for grants is encouraged to drop in. Additionally, MBC would also like to rollout this Green Fair across the borough, building on its in-town success. Targeted for the summer holidays and possibly running into September, it is hoped that the Fair, effectively a travelling roadshow will be held in village halls, so as to increase climate awareness in the borough
At the January meeting of PCEN, Gemma Bailey from MBC gave a presentation on Carbon Literacy certification which is available to individuals, groups and organisations, including parish councils. Carbon Literacy is effectively the awareness of carbon costs and impacts on the environment and the ability to reduce emissions in everyday life. Once certified, we will be able to advise and help our parishioners reduce emissions and advise generally on carbon. Gemma is currently looking into arranging a course for Parish Councils and details are being finalised.
Cllr Robert Sagrott