Lancashire should ditch dirty "industries of the past" as part of Covid recovery plan, county councillor says

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Lancashire should be preparing to embrace a low-carbon future as part of its economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

Lancashire should be preparing to embrace a low-carbon future as part of its economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

That is the message from the authority’s sole Green Party member, who called on County Hall to ensure that every aspect of a forthcoming document called the Greater Lancashire Plan is underpinned by a desire to tackle climate change.

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The long-term plan is currently in development and although its inception pre-dates the pandemic, it is now expected to build upon a separate publication submitted to ministers last month, which answered the call for a list of “shovel-ready” projects that could kick-start the county’s post-Covid economy if they were given a government cash injection.

County Cllr Gina Dowding wants a low-carbon future for LancashireCounty Cllr Gina Dowding wants a low-carbon future for Lancashire
County Cllr Gina Dowding wants a low-carbon future for Lancashire

However, County Cllr Gina Dowding told a meeting of the full council that the £62.5m wish list of schemes fell short of the “transformational” vision needed to build “a zero-carbon, 21st-century Lancashire” – and questioned proposed support for the aerospace and nuclear sectors.

“We need to be looking at diversifying our economy, not investing in the old industries of the past,” she said.

“You have to make the climate crisis that we’re facing absolutely essential to any action that we’re taking on the economy. If we don’t look after the planet on which our economy depends, there will be no economy for the future.”

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County Cllr Dowding’s notice of motion – which called for a greater proportion of the proposed projects to focus on low-carbon sectors – won support from other opposition parties, while Conservative cabinet member for the environment, Michael Green, said that there was agreement on the issue right across the chamber, “broadly speaking”.

However, he said that until ongoing work to assess Lancashire’s existing carbon footprint had been completed, some of the specifics in the motion were “premature”. He added that County Cllr Dowding’s claim that only £4m worth of the projects pitched to the government were targeted at low-carbon technologies was “simply untrue”.

“That is just looking at the ones that make [overt] reference to those kids of technologies – in actual fact, there are a number of [such] schemes in that list.

“The Greater Lancashire Plan will take into account – and is very serious about – climate change and clean growth opportunities,” said County Cllr Green, adding that the process of developing the document had to be allowed to continue “unfettered”.

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A Conservative amendment bringing the motion more in line with previous commitments that the Greater Lancashire Plan will seek to build on the county’s “existing priorities” – including climate change and “future-proofing” Lancashire’s infrastructure for a net zero-carbon future – won majority support.

However, opposition councillors dismissed the rewording as “wishy-washy”, with County Cllr Dowding describing it as “old-style economic marketing speak”.

Labour county councillor Lizzi Collinge warned that, without more ambitious proposals, “parts of Lancashire will be underwater” in years to come.

Liberal Democrat group leader David Whipp, seconding the original motion, said: “The green agenda and securing renewable energy is key to our future and it’s crucial that it is included as a foundation of any renewal of our local economy.”

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Amongst the shovel-ready projects put to the government last month were various retail, road and leisure schemes, including the development of the Eden Project North in Morecambe, for which £8m is being sought.

A total of £10m has been requested for the development of two nuclear treatment technologies at facilities in Preston, while there is a call for overarching support for the aerospace industry.

The Lancashire Centre for Alternative Technologies in Hyndburn is on the list with a bid for £1.5m, while £2.5m is requested for a project described as a “low-carbon manufacturing building demonstrator”.

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