Wealden District Council has reiterated its commitment to protect and enhance the environment and support for groups protecting nature.
The pledge comes as conservation groups have expressed concerns over the government’s planned changes to EU protection for nature, a relaxation of planning laws in new Investment Zones and a review of environmental far subsidies.
Leader of Wealden council Councillor Ann Newton is planning to meet with one of those groups, the Sussex Wildlife Trust and supports the Conservators of the Ashdown Forest in their lobbying of government over environmental policies.
The council leader also said that although as a consultee only, Wealden District Council would not, under the current administration, support fracking.
Councillor Newton, who is also the portfolio holder for Planning, said the council’s actions to date within the Wealden district are excellent with regard to the climate change agenda and there is much more to come going forwards.
She said, “We have a sound climate action plan in place and through prudent management of the council’s finances, the resources necessary to deliver change at the scale required, as a council and to help enable our communities to follow our lead.
“We also work very hard on the protection and enhancement of our environment even with some of the difficult decisions which have to be made. As we have made clear, our new Local Plan will have the strongest possible protections for our environment and heritage assets, with polices to deliver biodiversity net gain, protect our most valued landscapes and ecologically sensitive sites to name a few.
“We have taken a clear and principled stance on issues related to foul drainage and the discharges into our rivers and coastline. Through positive, but challenging dialogue we are leading the conversation with Southern Water, bringing in new planning powers and developing new processes to encourage Southern Water to deliver on their promises.
“We have a strong track record of support for our local businesses and help and house those in need. We understand the pressure of government housing targets on our community and have publicly made clear our lobbying efforts to government to reduce this pressure and deliver a sustainable level of housing growth for our community, together with the necessary infrastructure investment. We are already lobbying the new ministerial team at DLUHC on this issue.
“With regard to the Retained EU Law Bill, I am hoping to meet with the Sussex Wildlife Trust soon and am also supporting the Conservators of the Ashdown Forest in their lobbying of government on that as well as Investment Zones, ELMS and fracking and have already made contact with Huw Merriman MP.
“Government has been clear that fracking will only proceed with local agreement and although WDC would only be a consultee, under this administration, support would not be provided.”
Councillor Newton also said the authority was not seeking an Investment Zone – a government backed site providing lower tax rates for businesses and relaxed planning regulations for new developments – in Wealden.
She said, “We are focused on the things we can do locally to conserve the environment and nature, while ensuring that Wealden is a good place for our residents to live and work. So, as a council we will focus on the needs of Wealden, this is what our residents would expect us to do as a responsible local authority whilst continuing to lobby government as detailed above.”