Climate change activists release strongly-worded letter to council

Extinction Rebellion has released a letter it wrote to the new leader of Wakefield Council, in which it claims the authority had ‘failed to act’ on its climate change pledge.

Friday, 6th December 2019, 11:57 am

The protest group met Coun Denise Jeffery on November 28, three days before she officially took charge of the council for talks, which have been described as positive.

But in the letter, sent on November 29, Extinction Rebellion outlines its fierce opposition to a proposed £100m link road round Featherstone, which it says would be a “catastrophe” for the environment and “public relations disaster” for the council.

On December 3 Wakefield’s cabinet approved a consultation into the link road, but no final decision on whether plans will go ahead has been made.

It was estimated that the building of this road could create 2,000 jobs focused around the towns between Featherstone and Leeds.

Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, portfolio holder for transport Matthew Morley said: “We will listen to what people have to say on it, but we’re not committing ourselves at this stage.” Ahead of that meeting the council was contacted by Extinction Rebellion. Written by the group’s Pontefract co-ordinator, Dr Andrew Rollinson, the letter claimed Coun Jeffery said she was dissatisfied with the council’s progress on becoming a carbon neutral organisation by 2030 – a promise it made in May.

Coun Jeffery has declined to comment on the contents of the letter, but council sources have stressed that the Featherstone link road is only a proposal in its very early stages, and is not certain to be built.

Chairing her first cabinet meeting as leader on Tuesday, Coun Jeffery acknowledged concerns related to climate change about the road.

Coun Denise Jeffery

The outcome of a public consultation is likely to have a huge bearing on whether or not the road will be built, with one councillor suggesting it won’t be built “if people don’t want it”.

Speaking on Tuesday, Dr Rollinson welcomed that development, and said that the meeting with the new leader had been constructive.

He said he had written the letter after reading about the link road proposals last week.

Asked about his meeting with Coun Jeffery, Dr Rollinson said: “She said she wanted to work with Extinction Rebellion on climate change and that a citizen’s assembly would be set up in February. I did feel listened to. She said she was disappointed that nothing had been done by the council yet on climate change.

“Extinction Rebellion has got a lot of experience in how to do these things and she said she wanted our help. We left the meeting with the aim of meeting monthly to discuss it.”

Dr Rollinson said it was crucial that the community is involved in reducing emissions, and reinforced Extinction Rebellion’s position that no more roads should be built, to encourage people to give up their cars. Another claim in the letter, that campaign group Client Earth has issued a legal challenge to Wakefield Council over perceived “inaction” on climate change has not yet been verified.