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Two Petitions: Car Free Day And Demands for Climate Action Citizens’ Assembly

Published on: 15 Feb, 2020
Updated on: 15 Feb, 2020

Two petitions are seeking support from people that live and work in Guildford, both with an environmental angle.

Local author and chairman of the Holy Trinity Action Group, Dr David Stokes, has petitioned Surrey County Council for a ‘car free’ day in Guildford. He wants to show what the town would be like without cars.

Traffic building up in Onslow Street.

David Stokes said: “Guildford has an opportunity to show it is taking the climate emergency seriously by joining the many other towns and cities across the globe that are introducing car-free days.

“We have already reached the minimum number of signatures needed so I will be presenting the idea to the Guildford Joint Committee on March 18.”

The deadline to sign the petition is March 3 (see the link to the petition here) but David was clear that he still wanted as many signatures as possible to show that the idea had good support.

Traffic builds along Ladymead on the approach to the Stoke interchange.

Mr Stokes said that even at this early stage, he has some councillor backing.

His initial thoughts are to close the town centre to traffic for 12 hours from the top of the upper High Street, through the High Street and North Street, and around the gyratory system, plus adjoining streets, as a minimum.

And the local environmental activist group, Extinction Rebellion, has petitioned Guildford Borough Council with a demand that “residents of Guildford have to be involved to drive climate policy by holding binding citizens’ assemblies” to achieve a carbon neutral Guildford by 2030.

Environmental protestors outside council offices in Millmead last July when Guildford council declared a climate emergency.

The petition says that a citizens’ assembly could be: “the first meaningful action of the Climate Change Innovation Board which has the mandate to build a borough-wide plan for tackling climate change.

“A citizens’ assembly could be convened within four months and report back to the council with binding recommendations with six months.”

It goes on to say that other councils have convened citizens’ assemblies: “We do not need another slow moving local authority committee. We need action.”

The call is likely to be opposed within Guildford Borough Council. Gordon Jackson (Independent, Pirbright), who chairs the Climate Change Innovations Board, has voiced his opposition to the plan.

He said: “I think that a borough level citizens’ assembly would not be able to tackle very much because much of it [cause of emissions] is outside the borough.

“It is wishful thinking. We are already a citizens’ assembly, the 48 elected councillors. I don’t see it doing anything that we aren’t doing now.

“We cannot accept a binding assembly.”

A link to the petition can be found here.

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Responses to Two Petitions: Car Free Day And Demands for Climate Action Citizens’ Assembly

  1. B Smith Reply

    February 16, 2020 at 8:57 am

    This council was elected on a ticket of increased transparency and democracy. We now have one person (Cllr Jackson), in charge of a committee, making decisions on climate measures for the whole borough. This is the total opposite of the point of an assembly to re-engage voters who have lost faith because of the failings of our elected officials.

    Cllr Jackson clearly doesn’t actually understand the difference between a council and a citizens assembly, so he’s not even sure what he’s refusing to engage in!

    The point of an assembly is to improve the democracy of a council’s decision making by allowing the public – informed by experts in emissions – the chance to choose climate policy without party political influence nor the influence of the businesses which are driving climate change.

    A council is simply made up of a few people with enough time on their hands to get involved, none of whom are being guided by anything other than their own point of view, and are typically acting outside of evidence and along the lines of their world view.

    Given that climate breakdown is being driven by an economic system which demands infinite growth on a planet of finite resources, this is too challenging to the world view of people like Jackson to actually be able to deliver the results needed to tackle the problem.

    Don’t worry though, at least we’ll still have a £3m bridge – albeit it might be submerged by the time Jackson takes action on climate change.

  2. Kathleen Parrish Reply

    February 16, 2020 at 9:39 am

    I think there are far too many cars on the roads littering up pavements and grass verges.

    I think there should only be one car to a family and all who use it should pay into a kitty to run the car and its upkeep.

    What are they going to do with all the cars running on petrol and diesel when all cars have to be electric.

    I have never driven a car so you can get by without one.

    I used to ride a bike or go by bus or train, but now due to the blunders of the NHS causing me to be disabled I have to use a mobilty scooter but still environmentally friendly.

    I also hope that electric cars are also not built of plastic that cannot be recycled.

  3. S Chadwick Reply

    February 16, 2020 at 4:15 pm

    I’d like to invite all Guildford Borough councillors, but particularly Councillor Jackson, to attend this talk on citizens assemblies on 27th Feb.

    If he wants to argue against something, he should at least make the effort to understand what he is arguing against.

    Citizens Assemblies have been shown to be successful in resolving complex problems and have recently been used to inform local policy on climate change, for instance in Oxford.

  4. Julia Shaw Reply

    February 16, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    Some great ideas: car free day and citizens’ assembly.

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