Don’t ‘put a millstone around our children’s neck’, urges former climate advisor appealing to Lancaster city councillors

The former climate change advisor to a Labour shadow chancellor has appealed to Lancaster councillors to reject a £260 million housing and road development in South Lancaster for the sake of future generations.

Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 12:33 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 12:34 pm

Former Labour MP Alan Simpson, who was climate and sustainable economics advisor to shadow chancellor John McDonnell, said a transformative change in mindset is needed towards future infrastructure development, and this is an opportunity for Lancaster councillors to show courage and vision.

He was speaking in a recorded interview, carried out by Lancaster Youth for the Environment (LYFE), to be presented at a public meeting on Thursday evening, about the planned development of the new Bailrigg Garden Community and Junction 33.

Lancaster City Council will be deciding whether to support the development at the Council meeting next Wednesday.

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An artist's impression of how some of Bailrigg Garden Village might look. Image from JTP Architects.

Referring to the recent report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Mr Simpson said: “The main point that the IPCC have made, is that we have little choice. If we want to avoid the really serious climate breakdown, we have to engage in transformative thinking on a scale that is unprecedented. In practical terms, it requires the UK to cut our carbon emissions by 10% a year, throughout the entirety of this decade.

“It means we can't go on running with notions of conventional growth and recovery. We can't go on assuming that we'll just build a whole raft of new housing, without there being carbon consequences for doing that. And we can't build in any developments that themselves are premised around increasing the transport consequences, or they increase fuel consumption, just for the people who live there but work elsewhere.”

He urged councillors to consider ‘is this a proposal that has been reached after looking at all of the existing properties that you have in Lancaster that could be reclaimed or refurbished or repurposed, without incurring the carbon costs of new construction?’.

“If effectively, you're building a new estate of 9000 houses, that is really about being within commuting distance of Preston and Manchester, then you're just pouring carbon problems onto the lap of all of those who follow.”

n artist's impression of how some of the housing might look in Bailrigg Garden Village. Image from JTP Architects.

He said that if councillors were tempted by the £140 million being offered by the government toward the road infrastructure for the development, they would be kidding themselves at the expense of their children and grandchildren.

He suggested Lancaster could learn from concepts like 15-minutes cities, being considered in Newcastle and elsewhere, which encourage people to live and work locally because what they need is within 15 minutes’ walk.

“I would ask local councillors just to step back from and ask themselves have they rigorously answered the question about that carbon millstone that they would otherwise hang around children's necks?”

He asked councillors to show courage at the Council meeting next Wednesday, which will decide whether to support the proposal.

“You're the people that we put in office now, to help us avoid the worst of what might follow. And some of those decisions will be based around just agreeing not to do the things that would make life worse.”

Lancaster Youth For Environment (LYFE) echoed Alan’s call to consider their futures saying: “This development has been planned without ample community consultation or any acknowledgment or assessment of the huge carbon impacts associated. This level of hasty, minimally appraised development, only two years after a climate emergency declaration is unacceptable. It leads us to question the motives of Lancashire County Council and the City Council – where is the community wealth building assessment? The circular economy assessment? And for what and who are they chasing development and growth at a clear cost to the community and our collective futures?”

LYFE urged councillors and citizens to attend the online public meeting this Thursday at 7pm to hear detail and discuss why this development conflicts with numerous community and climate priorities. The interview with Alan Simpson will be played alongside a live discussion with Friends of the Earth road transport campaigner Jenny Bates and Lancaster Cabinet member for climate change Kevin Frea.

LYFE is asking “for an extension to the hasty August 25 decision deadline so that proper consultation can take place and climate and community impacts can be assessed. Other options for housing exist, we cannot simply continue with business as usual, all we ask is that these options are considered and that the council follows through on its promise to value our future.”

Register and join the event here