WCA Newsletter No1

Welcome

Firstly, we are pleased to announce that the Wiltshire Climate Alliance now has a functioning interim committee, and we are meeting regularly online to carry the work forward during however much remains of the present lockdown, until whenever we can all start having WCA general meetings once again. 

 

This newsletter, which we intend to be the first of many, contains information on the membership of that committee and how we got there, together with the latest news on what Wiltshire Council is up to, and what some of our local groups have been doing across the county. It also explains what we are doing as a committee to organise ourselves, and how members can get involved in helping to create a strategy for moving towards our aim of a zero-carbon Wiltshire.

 

We hope that many more of our members will want to contribute to future newsletters, so that we can network local news, ideas and initiatives around Wiltshire, and improve all our effectiveness. Please send any contributions to newsletter@wiltshireclimatealliance.org.uk.

Your Committee

In March 2020 an E-mail was sent to the members of WCA asking for people to put themselves forward for election as members of the committee. Perhaps due to the Covid19 uncertainties, people seemed hesitant to do this, and even after a second request only seven people had volunteered for the seven posts. Therefore, following a number of online meetings, an interim committee was established without the need for an election. This comprised Bill Jarvis (Convenor), Jessica Thimbleby and Eva McHugh (Joint Secretaries), Christian Lange (Treasurer), Brig Oubridge, Katharine Wale and Nick Murry. Because Jessica and Eva had agreed to share the Secretary post, we were then able to co-opt Andrew Nicolson (who was a further late volunteer) to fill the resultant vacancy. For more details about the committee please visit the about us page

 

We are delighted that this has given us a working interim steering committee to take us through to our first post-lockdown General Meeting where we hope to be able to hold a formal vote on the constitution and committee membership. 

 

Jane Laurie and Adrian Temple-Brown decided to step back from involvement in the committee and were given a well deserved vote of thanks. Adrian who did an excellent job of coordinating the questions to the Council on 25th February, has kindly agreed to continue to lead on our questions to Council meetings. Jane, who was prominent in helping to set up WCA, will remain active, particularly on the pensions issue.

Council Watching

The next full Wiltshire Council meetings are scheduled to take place on June 16th and July 21st. This month's meeting will take place on zoom. At present, we do not know whether the July one will be a normal meeting, or one conducted on zoom or with other restrictions due to COVID-19, nor what arrangements (if any) will be made for public involvement. We will try to let members know when we find out.

 

The latest Wiltshire Council Cabinet meeting took place on Tuesday June 9th. 40 written questions were received in advance from members of the public, including from WCA members. There was no provision for more direct public participation, but written answers to the questions were provided, most of which were non-commital or otherwise largely uninformative. They can be seen at: Wiltshire Council Q&A item 5 and Wiltshire Council Q&A item 6. We will try again at the full council meeting next week.

 

One highlight, however, was contained in a reply to WCA treasurer Chris Lange. His questions concerned the Council's post-COVID 'Recovery Plan', what attention in it was being given to climate change, and what public consultation was taking place. It said “The council will work with partners to develop recovery plans and consult with key groups as plans become more formalised in July. For example, a meeting is scheduled for 18 June 2020 between the Wiltshire Climate Alliance, the Director for Communities and Neighbourhoods and the Head of Carbon Reduction.”

 

That meeting is one which Chris himself had set up, but it does show how WCA is being seen as the voice of the public in such matters. On the agenda will be the possibility of a wider zoom forum in which more WCA members from across the county could take part. We hope to have more news on this later ....

 

The Head of Carbon Reduction is a new Wiltshire Council officer position, set up in response to pressure from WCA and others, and the new officer's name is Ariane Crampton (Email: ariane.crampton@wiltshire.gov.uk). We are told that this will result in carbon reduction becoming a “golden thread” running through all Wiltshire's policies and considerations. We will continue to monitor the situation!

 

Monitoring the council is a big job to keep up with. Our Convenor, Bill Jarvis, is therefore trying to set up a wider working group to help share this task, and you will have received a WCA email from him last week about this. Please get in touch with him at wiltshireclimatealliance@posteo.net if you feel you may be able to contribute to this in any way.

Evolving a WCA Strategy

In the early days of lockdown, following our last face-to-face WCA meeting on March 12th, a group comprising Graham Martin, Brig Oubridge and Katharine Wale chewed over ideas and proposals about the strategic direction of the WCA, and eventually produced a two-part draft. The first part, based on a Friends of the Earth strategy, sets out the ends, ways and means of achieving the aim of achieving a carbon neutral Wiltshire by 2030, and a WCA working culture statement. The second part develops this further with more background on the strategic aims, and detail on Wiltshire’s performance against the FOE analysis. In addition this part starts to discuss options for specific action and targets in Housing, Energy and Transport. Recently, following a contribution from Nick Murry, a more concise summary has been added.

 

Further discussion is now on-going among the committee: nothing is set in stone nor has it been discussed more widely. If you would like to be part of this discussion and help to develop the WCA strategy, please email us 

Pedestrianisation and Cycle Routes

One piece of good news is that Wiltshire Council has been awarded new government funding for pedestrianisation and cycle routes. These will initially be temporary, as a response to COVID-19 and the needs for social distancing and to take pressure off public transport. However, rules have also been changed to make it easier for these to become permanent.

Salisbury City Council has been quick to take advantage of this by submitting plans to Wiltshire, as a result of much on-going campaigning from Salisbury XR, COGS (Cycling Opportunities Salisbury) and Salisbury Green Party (above left). Campaigners from Devizes & Marlborough XR have also been out recently, creating their own cycle lanes in Marlborough High Street (above right).

 

In Bradford on Avon, local group Streets Ahead has successfully lobbied the Town Council to ask Wiltshire Council to put in (at first) temporary traffic lights on the historic Town Bridge, so that its notoriously narrow pavements can be widened, and to make a short stretch of one of its approach roads one way. This is supported by BOA XR which is considering a symbolic action to demand space for safe walking and cycling.

 

The earmarked funding up for grabs is £227,000, so campaigners elsewhere in Wiltshire need to get their local town councillors on the case if they want a slice of the pie.

Bradford Climate Art Project

Before the lockdown, Bradford on Avon had a spate of spray-chalk and spray-paint graffiti, some featuring the XR symbol. This caused debate within the BOA XR group: some endorsed the graffiti, others responded to local criticism by washing them off of street walls. XR supporter Andrew Nicolson came up with a cooperative art game project for the BOA Youth Club, to channel young people’s creative energies. The results were to form banners or be repainted as public art murals on walls in the town. Come the lockdown this project has been put on hold. Instead, Andrew is organising a young people’s online Climate and Ecological Emergency art contest aimed at the 11 to 18-year-olds, with the support of the Head of Art at the local secondary school, who feels the frustration of students who cannot do art at school. Entries are free and the images will be posted onto a website, with some also displayed in a local exhibition. The best images (in any medium), as selected by a panel of local artists and climate activists, will be in line for reproducing on a large scale on sites around the town. The hunt for sites is under way, with two or three already identified. This is an initiative that could be adapted by climate groups in any community in or beyond Wiltshire. The presence of original locally-made climate crisis artwork in public view should raise the profile of the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

Looking ahead

WCA Treasurer Christian Lange is busy taking steps to get us better organised.

 

As soon as the lockdown is safely over, our first task will be to set up another general meeting for members. To do that will require hiring a venue, but for that we will need funds (as indeed we will for many other things we may decide to do). At present we have no funds, and not even an account that anyone could donate into. Chris is therefore in the process of setting up a new WCA website, and an on-line donation mechanism to sit alongside it.

 

Chris has already secured the domain name, wiltshireclimatealliance.org.uk, and is busily preparing the website. Once everything is in place for the site to go 'live' (which we hope will be in the next couple of weeks), there will be lots of information on the website, and room to expand. For example, eventually it could include profile pages for each of our member groups, together with links to their own websites if they have them. 

 

Among the first items to feature in a section entitled “interesting stuff” will be two academic papers which are highly recommended by WCA co-secretary Jessica Thimbleby. One from Oxford University examines whether COVID-19 fiscal recovery packages will accelerate or retard progress on climate change, with contributors including Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz (Oxford paper). The other, from the journal Nature, evaluates the effect of the lockdown on climate change (Nature paper).

 

Chris is also setting up dedicated email addresses for committee members and working groups, and all this should enable us to do a lot more, and to do so in a better organised way.

Building Back Better

The WCA committee has endorsed Build Back Better, an alliance of groups and individuals across the UK aiming to ensure that we do not simply go back to "business as usual" after the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the group wants a new approach that fully takes on board the need for change in order to combat the climate emergency.

 

"We had no hesitation in supporting this, " said Convenor Bill Jarvis. You can see more about Build Back Better at https: //buildbackbetteruk.org/.

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