Arun District Council could be on the verge of declaring a climate change emergency.
The possibility was discussed during a meeting of the cabinet on Monday (June 3) where members considered a recent report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
The CCC is an independent body set up to advise the government – and its report shared some frightening truths particularly relevant to coastal areas such as Arun.
They included a possible 1m rise in sea levels, which would put more than 500,000 properties – including 370,000 homes – at risk of flooding nationwide.
All within the lifetime of our children.
The report added that the public did not have ‘clear and accurate information’ about coastal erosion and how it would affect them.
Leader James Walsh said: “Without being trite, we are in the front line as a coastal authority. It may not affect people in Crawley very much but here in Arun District it’s very real and we do need to up our game.”
When it came to protecting the coast, engineering services manager Roger Spencer warned: “We can’t keep on building higher and stronger walls. We’ve got to change our ethos in how we defend the coast.
“And it may be the case that we don’t defend certain parts of the coast.”
Matt Stanley, cabinet member for technical services, said the council needed to consider very carefully how to go forward ‘so we are prepared and not leaving a legacy for future generations’.
The CCC report stated that the country’s current approach to land use – where to put houses, businesses and green spaces – was ‘not sustainable’.
It was a point picked up by Martin Lury, cabinet member for planning, who said: “When you consider the impact that soil has on absorbing carbon dioxide, I think in terms of planning we have got to look very, very differently.
“To be honest, at the moment I’m thinking of declaring a climate change emergency in the Arun District Council. We’re certainly looking at that.
“We do need to change how we plan for the future.”
He was supported by Daniel Purchese (Lib Dem, Beach) who pointed out that a number of authorities around the country had already taken that route.
He added: “This is something that’s going to affect everything we do, including here in Arun, so I’m glad Arun is starting to look at whether we declare a climate emergency or not.
“It’s not something that’s a crazy thing to do. Actually this is a really serious matter and it’s not something that’s going to affect us in 20 years – it’s affecting us now.”
Adding her support, Philippa Dart, director of services, told the meeting that a paper on the subject would be taken to the environment and leisure working group before coming back to members to make a decision.
She added: “The time is right to look at this in more detail and many councils have done it.”