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Column 22nd April 2020

Early action required to respond to the Climate Emergency

The Planning Oxfordshire's Environment and Transport Sustainably (POETS) Group recently released its Vision for the future of Oxfordshire.

The group has sent a letter to all of the County's MPs and County and District Councils bringing this document to their attention.

In the letter they refer to the Coronavirus as a greater crisis faced by the UK than any since the Second World War.

Although they recognise that people’s health and wellbeing must come before all other considerations in the immediate future, they point out that the pandemic also provides an opportunity to think about what sort of society and environment we want to see once the crisis is over. 

They refer to parallels with the wartime government and remind Councillors that the 1942 Beveridge report led to the creation of the welfare state, including the NHS and prepared the ground for the creation of National Parks and the passing of the Town and Country Planning Act immediately after the war.

The letter goes on to say that “one lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is that early action in response to the scientific evidence provides the best basis for bringing the crisis under control”.

It also suggests that as work is already underway in planning for Oxfordshire’s development to 2050, early action to address the climate emergency should be considered.

Current plans for Oxfordshire assume Oxfordshire’s interests are best served by “growth” – economic growth as measured by gross domestic product (GDP).

Yet POETS point out that leading politicians have acknowledged that GDP is an extremely poor measure of what people value, largely ignoring such things as quality of community life, beautiful landscapes and buildings, open space or biodiversity.

They suggest that Oxfordshire 2050 should have an emphasis on opportunities for healthy lifestyles through day to day activities e.g. by providing safe and convenient walking or cycling routes.

Development should be located so as to avoid sprawl, benefit from proximity to shared services, arranged to encourage the use of sustainable travel modes rather than private vehicles, and incorporate sustainable drainage and flood protection measures.

Proposed investment in road capacity should be redirected to dramatic improvements for pedestrians and cyclists and public transport that can attract existing motorists out of their cars.

All new buildings should be zero carbon and highly water-efficient. New housing should be focused on affordable and social housing that lower paid and key workers can afford.

These seem like good ideas to us.


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