Swindon council declares climate emergency as UK's hottest day looms

Wroughton Solar Farm
Wroughton Solar Farm

Swindon Borough Council has declared a climate emergency.

It has joined about 300 other local authorities in the UK in doing so - acknowledging that it needs to act on the causes and impacts of climate change.

But while there was near unanimous support for the motion just before one of the hottest spells of weather for many years, not everyone was entirely on board.

Two motions had been put forward on the matter.

One, put by Labour said, in its entirety: “This council declares a climate emergency.”

The Conservative motion was somewhat longer but the Labour motion was dropped when councillors agreed to an amendment to it.

Cabinet member for housing Cathy Martyn said: “We continue to replace roofs and insulate loft spaces. When we replace roofs we install a bird or bat box. It’s a small thing but multiplied by the number of council homes we own, it will help."

The council is also putting solar panels on the the roofs of houses it owns.

Coun Martyn added: “Tenants have seen a difference in their energy usage. In the day, smart meters often show energy use of zero kilowatts if high usage items like kettles aren’t on.”

She said this could cut tenants' bills by up to £500 and also reduce emissions.

Cabinet member for climate change Keith Williams said other measures, such as new battery storage for solar power installed at Waterside Park this week, made a difference.

He said: “It allows us to charge more of our electric vehicles, cutting down on diesel and petrol emissions. And our LED street light programme also saves on emissions as well as money

Leader of the Labour group Jim Robbins said: “It’s great that a group of Conservative politicians have finally seen the light, long after the rest of the country, and done what the public wanted. Not only by getting rid of Boris Johnson, but also by finally declaring a climate emergency.

“We are delighted that the Conservative administration has realised what was obvious to everyone else. It’s taken the Labour group three years and three attempts to finally get a climate emergency passed, long after most councils had done it. Let’s hope that we can now work on making sure Swindon is ready to face the climate emergency.”

Labour’s Jane Milner-Barry, one of the most vocally green of Swindon's councillors, voted against the motion.

She objected to what she saw as "greenwashing" and did not want to endorse claims in it.