New developments must prioritise environmental and community needs, say locals on Thurrock climate jury
- 20 Thurrock residents produce 32 step plan to improve air quality, protect green spaces and boost clean transport in the area
- Locals call for fairness to be prioritised in government’s green policies, with a focus on creating more genuinely affordable transport and housing
Local people should have more meaningful ways to shape planning and development decisions to ensure environmental and community needs are met, according to 20 Thurrock residents participating in an innovative climate citizens’ jury.
Thurrock and the surrounding areas are home to one of the largest development programmes in the UK, with a target for 32,000 new homes planned in the next 20 years, which could reshape the area.
These planning reform proposals are part of the Thurrock climate citizens’ jury’s 32 proposals for a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous low-carbon future for the area.
Proposals include investment in cleaner, more reliable and affordable public transport; the creation of low emissions zones; surcharges for polluting lorries coming from the ports; support for local farmers markets to sell more affordable and healthy food; and introducing schemes to allow employees to take time off work to help restore nature.
In the first such deliberative democracy project on climate in Thurrock, over eight sessions organised by the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission, the group of 20 representative locals heard from experts, deliberated and developed their proposals. The jurors drew on their varied life experiences and local knowledge to provide recommendations that are grounded in their ideas of fairness and an understanding of what a good quality of life should look like.
To ensure fairness, the jurors want to see climate actions sequenced so that there are positive, affordable options for people, such as more genuinely affordable transport and housing, in advance of any sanctions or penalties.
One juror said during the deliberations:
"Any costings need to be phased in gradually and give people time to prepare for changes that will need to happen for climate and nature."
To make the most of Thurrock’s development ambitions, the value of nature and wellbeing should be built into decision-making processes used by the council when considering plans, with real involvement for locals and safeguards for nature.
One juror said during the deliberations:
"The community can make a real difference. Don’t make it so hard for them to help. Because it is!"
The jury’s proposals include:
- Boosting transparency around decision making, more proactive communication with residents, and reducing the barriers for citizens to participate in decision making.
- Improving the planning process to protect green space, the green belt and Thurrock’s natural assets, such as the mudflats, bird life and the saltmarshes – that act as a natural carbon sink.
- Only allocating Section 106 funding to support nature and address community needs – these should be considered in both the specific conditions placed on developers and in the general allocation of this funding.
- Ensuring all developments consider school provision, access to green spaces, road safety and meet commitments to genuinely affordable housing.
Transport and air pollution
The jurors want action tackling the climate and nature crisis to deliver a public transport system that is affordable, joined up, convenient and quick, to encourage people to use cars less. Thurrock’s busy roads caused 41 per cent of carbon emissions, across the region in 2018, two thirds more than the national average. Jurors also highlighted pollution from the Tilbury port and industrial areas in Purfleet and North Thurrock as a concern, as well as the possible impacts of the new Lower Thames Crossing.
Their proposals for cleaner travel include:
- Investment in hydrogen and electric buses and run them on the TfL model to keep costs low and ensure they serve all areas. More buses should be provided for the school run to make the journey cleaner and safer for children.
- Creating low emissions zones with the money generated used to fund free public transport for people on low incomes.
- Implementing surcharges for large vehicles that don’t meet environmental standards, such as lorries coming from the ports. This money should be used to invest in road maintenance and walking and cycle infrastructure.
- Cutting taxes on electric vehicle and scooters to incentivise low carbon travel.
Jury member, Charles, who runs a local accountancy consultancy, said:
“What struck me was how much land use and what we eat impact on the environment.”
Jury member, Lindsey, a school science technician and local cub leader, said:
“I hope that some of the ideas that I brought across might change what some others are doing… If you work as a community you can achieve more than you can as an individual.”
Jury member Danny, a builder from Basildon, said:
“If we don’t do nothing, then we’re all going to suffer. So, we can’t please everybody; decisions need to be made. That’s what got us into such a mess in the first place, because we’re trying to please everybody and that’s just not possible. That’s what I find frustrating. The optimistic part of it is that we’re having these meetings. There are signs that we’re looking to move forwards and we’re open to ideas.”
Becca Massey-Chase, Deputy head of the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission, said:
“These ideas provide positive, insightful and tangible recommendations that can be taken forward by national and local government, as well as by companies and communities. The jurors have established a clear set of actions and principles for a rapid and fair transition, demonstrating the opportunity to improve fairness at the same time as tackling the climate and nature emergencies.”
Luke Murphy, head of the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission, said:
“These findings show that the public want to see action taken on the climate and nature crises but they want to see benefits for their local areas too.
“Crucially, they want protection of the environment put at the heart of every decision, from ensuring that new home developments consider nature and wellbeing to using low emission zones to reduce air pollution and raise funds for free, local, and accessible public transport.”
Becca Massey-Chase, Luke Murphy and some of the jurors are available for interview
David Wastell, Head of News and Communications: 07921 403651 [email protected]
Robin Harvey, Digital and Media Officer: 07779 204798 [email protected]
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Thurrock Climate and Fairness Panel: Briefing and juror recommendations by IPPR and the jurors, will be published at 0001 Friday 4 June. It will be available for download at: http://www.ippr.org/research/publications/citizens-jury-thurrock
- The Thurrock Climate and Fairness Panel was organised by the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission. The recommendations of the panel will be presented to local politicians and decision-makers and submitted to the major national cross-party commission. Further citizen juries have been held in Aberdeenshire, Tees Valley and the South Wales Valleys.
- IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence. www.ippr.org