Green councillor criticises lack of action over climate crisis

Four years since the council established a commission to report on the environmental threats, its recommendations have not been implemeted, according to Cllr Ria Patel. By LOUISA GAUTREY

Climate crisis: firefighters tackle a wildfire in northern Spain, as temperatures reached record levels across much of Europe

Ria Patel, the leader of the Greens at Croydon Town Hall, has criticised the council’s lack of action over the climate crisis, saying that proposals to reduce the borough’s impact on global warming have “sat on a shelf” for four years.

The council has been slow to respond to the growing threats caused by the ecological crisis, despite establishing a climate commission in 2019, Councillor Patel said. “Very minimal action has happened, and if it has happened it’s not been very well coordinated in a big wider plan,” she said.

Soaring temperatures across the Mediterranean, reaching 44 degrees, have seen wildfires, often fanned by strong winds, burning out of control in parts of Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Spain. Outside Athens, hundreds of holidaymakers, including children, had to be evacuated from the on-rushing flames.

Record temperatures have been recorded this week in China and in Death Valley in California – notorious for being the hottest place on earth, where the mercury has reached 53.3C.

And meanwhile, warming seas off the Florida coast have put emergency services on alert across the east coast of America for the threat of deadly hurricanes.

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, in a television interview, said that the summer heatwave across much of the northern hemisphere showed that, “Climate change is not some distant threat.

“It is real, it is here and it is now.”

Lucas called the government’s climate “adaptation plan”, published on Monday, as “deeply disappointing” and “lacking in ambition”.

And here in Croydon, her party colleague, Patel, has taken a similar view of the council’s response to climate crisis.

“We could have started in 2019, four years ago, and we would have been much further along than we are now,” Patel said in an exclusive interview with Inside Croydon.

Critical: the council’s bankruptcy is not an excuse for inaction on the climate crisis, according to Ria Patel

The Croydon climate commission had, Patel said, “Put together citizens, bringing in kind of a proportion of residents that are representative of Croydon, and brought in all different views.

“That formed a report and provided recommendations to the council. This was a really big piece of work, a really good piece of work and pretty well conducted.

“But since then, it has sat on a shelf and nothing has happened, which has been so disappointing.

Patel, who last year became one of the first Green councillors to be elected to Croydon Council, said, “I understand there’s other issues in the council, like its gone bankrupt. But everything else can’t just stop because of bankruptcy.

“So much more work needs to be done on the climate crisis, but also the biodiversity crisis.

“Croydon does also have a biodiversity action plan. But again, that’s also been sat on the shelf and not been put into action.

“Both crises need some action and to be put into place, throughout all aspects of the council.

“All council departments should be considering the climate crisis in any decision they make.

“Similar to any major decision they make they should be doing an equality assessment, in my opinion they should also be doing a climate review as well.”

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7 Responses to Green councillor criticises lack of action over climate crisis

  1. Lewis White says:

    It is very good to see the Councillor raising the issue which affects everyone, particularly the people living in the driest and poorest parts of the Planet.

    To visualise a local impact, as a suggestion– look at the beautiful, fresh foliage of the old London Plane trees along Brighton Road South Croydon, now around 140 years old, and then imagine how parched the street environment would be without them. These are old trees which are thankfully, still doing well, but all over the borough, trees are disappearing.

    Here in Croydon we are losing street trees at an alarming rate. My guess, based on observation over time, is that for every tree planted we are losing three.

    Trees have a lifespan–many of the smaller ornmametal trees last around 50 years. Others, like limes and planetrees, can last 150 or even more, even in an inhospitable, hot, dusty tarmac and concrete paved street.

    A quick look round local streets anywhere in the borough will show trees that are dying to to old age and disease, evidenced by fungus at the base or on the trunks

    It will show trees whose trunks have been damaged, and even de-barked by vehicle impacts, or with big branches smashed by high sided vehciles and skip lorries.
    Trenching– in the street and in the footways– seriously damages many trees every year, and results in decline in condition and premature death.

    In some areas, trees were once planted in specially dug pits, lined with brick edgings.
    There are many such places which once had a tree, which then had to be removed, due to death or disease perhaps 10 or 20 years ago. The pits, which could be replanted after 5 years, after removal of the stump and replacing the old soil with fresh soil, have lain empty. No new trees have been planted, due to inadequate funding.

    As a result, the street looks less green, then, as more trees go missing, it looks and feels – and is – dustier, and drier. A walk along a treeless street in the wind, in summer or winter, is not a pleasant experience. Harsh. Trees ameliorate this.

    We rightly hear and read all the time about global CO 2 emissions, but often forget about dust and smaller particulates, in our streets, which gets into our lungs, and about other pollutants created by diesel and petrol engines, all of which, trees filter out.

    Trees also add much-neeed moisture into the air. It is amazing how just one tree seems to have an effect of cooling and adding gentle mositure into an area much bigger than under its own canopy alone.

    In the street, sunlight is important, as is shade in summer.

    Dappled rather than deep shade, can be created by correct choice of trees. It is important that the arboriculturalists and landscape designers know their trees, and select the right tree for the site….. in maturity, not too big, but not too small. Not too dense, but with enough foliage to have a real benefit to cleansing the air. Not short lived– tough enough to survive typical stresses of urban sites- and more.

    The real problem is that because not enough trees are being planted to replace the significant numbers being lost, the streets are getting bare, and less ‘liveable’.

    Another, major problem is that vacant tree locations eventually get tarmacked over. Bruck edgings get removed. The tree pit can no longer be seen. In places without the edgings, when a tree pit gets tarmacked over, it just looks like any other tramac patch.

    It is depressing to have to state that once a pit is oblitrerated, it will never get replanted, and is lost –with its potential tree– for ever.

    As more and more frint gardens are paved to become off street parking bays, the adjacent trees in the street, and vacant tree pits, are rapidly disappearing, in spite of a policy to retain trees. The reason is that the trees next to these ‘vehicle crossovers’ end up so close to where vehicles are driven in and out, or marooned between two adjacent bays, that they get damaged on both sides, as well as by vehicles at the kerbside. A triple whammy. No tree can survive such damage for more than a few years. It’s tree abuse….. in a world where we need trees to ameliorate a climate that we are making hotter and more polluted.

    It is surely time that Croydon made a policy to replant every one of the known empty tree pits, and–for example– decided that all new vehicle crossovers and all new planning development needing road access will make a monetary contribution to planting new trees very close by. It will need money– but without funding, we will lose all but a very few street trees within the lifetime of a Croydon child.

    To give Croydon its due, they were very successful just a few years ago at getting (I think) the largest amount of all London Boroughs from the London Mayor’s tree planting fund. I have seen many trees in all parts of the borough, which would not exist if the Council had not won that funding.

    However, Croydon is not investing enough in street tree planting.
    The development process does generate significant money via CIL. Some of this could be used.

    Government could of course decide to help. A national ‘greening the streets’ policy and funding is needed, but in the meantime, the Council itself needs to act, to replace the missing trees, and, where possible, to plant trees in streets where there are no trees. Not easy, as such streets often have cabling and pipework below ground, that stops planting being done in the kerbside zone.

    Wouldn’t it be good if all the Political parties in Croydon could unite on this?
    We’re running out of time for “Plant a tree in 2023”. But it could be “Plant more in 2024…and watch them thrive in 2025”

    Mayor Perry’s name probably derives from the old English name for Pear trees– which would once have been a native tree in our area. Purley is the ‘pear tree ley’ (meadow).

    A pointer to a greener future? I really hope so.

  2. timcoombe says:

    I was thinking about this only this morning. In July 2019, 50 Croydon residents committed to spend 3 evenings learning about the impacts of the Climate Crisis, and made their recommendations to the council.

    These recommendations fed into the Croydon Climate Commission, facilitated by the New Economics Foundation and helped voluntarily by local experts and activists. Democracy in action you’d think.

    Since then, we’ve had… a report.

    It’s an insult to all of those who were involved and a betrayal of everyone living in Croydon who should be better prepared for our heating planet. The truth is we need more greens like Ria and Esther in the council.

  3. Ian Kierans says:

    Very good article from Louisa. Lewis makes some points about tree’s quite rightly. But there are other issues here with those.

    Croydons planning department and delegated decision making is responsible directly for tree loss and failing to enforce it’s own conditions.
    But it also indirectly allows the loss of greenery in totality. Tree’s, shrubs, grass and insect habitat is totally lost not just in the development it allows but in adjoining areas which have lost significant light. Those green spaces are also lost. Landscaping conditions are ignored or like one comply by totally wiping out any greenary and laying artificial grass over what has not been developed. Killing off endangered crickets and reducing areas that were homes to hedgehogs.

    Those adjoining areas soon are also left with little greenery and get paved or concreted over within two years. and so the loss of green space spreads.

    West, Central but especially North Croydon are becoming concrete jungles. Overcrowded and under-resourced and cowboy land for developers. This Council would do well to remedy the impact on green spaces their planning decisions have made.

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    Realistically people spent too much time arguing about global warming and muddying the waters.
    Many I studied with in the 70s doing earth sciences were fully aware and knew there was tons of evidence relating to man made pollution and the use of fossil fuels at a rate that was unsustainable.
    Global warming and cooling has been a fact of life since this planet orbited the sun to a greater and sometimes lesser degree.
    But never in our history has there ever been 8+billion souls on a finite rock. We are consuming resource at a phenomenal rate but not replacing those resources quickly enough.
    Those people need food, shelter, clothing, water and consume energy relentlessly. 3 people more than those who die are born every second.

    The UK and all governments of this planet are treating the planet like a giant combined pyramid scheme with Ponzi attributes hidden inside.

    As the years move on greater impacts will be felt but not to those that are protected by wealth and are mobile initially. That will come though eventually as the loss of habitat and resources continue to dry up.

    Doom and Gloom? No just a natural progession of what we are doing to ourselves.

    All conservationists have a point and its a good one not to mention essential to continued existance. There are many solutions.

    But it will take all Governments to agree and act in unison – not just our feckless Council

  5. Arfur Towcrate says:

    Part-time Perry fiddles while Rome burns (41.8C)

  6. Cameron Powell says:

    Caroline Lucas is right – climate change is not a distant threat. It’s affecting us right now, and the longer we wait, the harder it will be to mitigate its impacts. Local governments, as well as national and international bodies, must collaborate, innovate, and implement effective strategies to address the root causes of this crisis.

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