In an article in HIP 150 (Climate Emergency: Ambitious Target, “Paused” Programme) in April this year, we reported on the adoption by Hastings Borough Council (HBC) of its Climate Emergency Strategy and Action Plan. The main focus of the Plan, following the council’s declaration of a climate emergency in February 2019, is to deliver zero-carbon emissions for the borough by 2030.

It is recognised in the Plan itself that the council cannot get near this goal without considerable external investment by government and regional authorities. It aims, however, to play “a leadership role, by putting its own house in order, by considering the emissions from its operations, buildings and fleet, and implementing best practice measures in areas where it has direct control.” 

Back in March, practical steps scheduled into the next two years were (i) planned improvement works in respect of the council’s own properties to enable them to be rented or leased with increased energy efficiency standards; (ii) a programme of rooftop solar installation, for which a budget had been allocated within the council’s capital resource. 

It would be surprising if the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent diversion of council funds and energies to its Community Hub and other emergency action had no effect on these projects. Indeed, the council has acknowledged that they will. Having accepted terminal defeat back in early May of its proposal to install solar panels on the ground within Hastings Country Park, council officers now admit that there are no current resources available to explore further potential ground solar schemes at either Upper or Lower Wilting Farm, nor to promote any rooftop solar panels elsewhere in the town. 

On the other hand HBC’s lead councillors are not admitting that climate change remains anything but their highest priority. 

Cllr Maya Evans was, until last month, HBC’s cabinet member for climate change. In the cabinet re-shuffle made then by council leader Kim Forward, her portfolio was changed to cover natural environment and leisure. But she herself describes this change as “expansion” of her previous role, and maintains that tackling climate change has now become the responsibility of the whole cabinet, with Cllr Forward taking direct responsibility for chairing a “climate change programme board”. This board, according to Cllr Evans, will ensure “that our climate change strategy informs what we do and how we do it across everything that we do. 

“This shows cabinet’s and the leadership’s dedication to tackling climate change and how important we deem it to be.” 

The council’s press office has explained that the board is an internal forum “made up of officers key to this work”. Meetings will not be held in public, but updates will be provided via the council’s newsletter and website. 

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