Since its inception as a Transition Town group, members of Sustainable Devizes have been meeting our local leaders and others of influence.
Recently a small delegation met Devizes MP Claire Perry to introduce ourselves and quiz her views post-Brexit. Did she agree with Our Five Ambitions? What was she prepared to do to help us become less reliant on fossil fuel?
It was encouraging that from the outset Claire Perry was anxious to tell us that she was “very much in agreement” with our Sustainable Devizes manifesto “Our Five Ambitions” (link here to view) and responded to each of our post-Brexit topics and questions.
She went on to say that Greg Clarke, MP for Tunbridge Wells, is the new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is very knowledgeable and respected for his views on holding down the earth’s rising temperatures. "We are committed to continuing to work closely with our European neighbours". We expressed our expectations that Greg Clarke will do far more to promote a low carbon economy and strengthen our resilience against the negative effects of climate change than hitherto. [Note 1 below]
Claire Perry believes that the decades of European legislation developed to protect our environment will be adopted wholesale for the time being, but scrutinised in due course. She said: “We won’t be throwing away that environmental protection”. Sustainable Devizes expressed concern about the importance of third party oversight which the European Courts currently bring. Air quality was a case in point where the UK Government are being challenged for being in breach of their legal duties. Cities like London are well over acceptable limits but there are identified hot spots in Devizes which must not be ignored.
The town is increasingly congested and much more needs to be done to get people to switch to public transport, cycling and walking. We impressed on our MP that more serious action should be taken to reduce Devizes traffic pollution and improve the air we breathe.
We learnt that Claire Perry regularly uses the bus home from Pewsey station and is frustrated to see so many people get off the train from London and jump in their cars. She offered to help us leaflet rail commuters, an offer we gladly accept!
Water quality in some local rivers has improved over the last few decades, the battle has not yet been won. Nitrates and other pollutants from intensive farming pose a serious risk. For instance, an application to construct a large slurry lagoon in Etchilhampton near the headwaters of the Hampshire Avon is planned. The local parish council and Sustainable Devizes are concerned about the possible disastrous effects on wildlife should there be any risk of leakage. Serious incidents in Frome and Cornwall were cited. Claire Perry asked to be kept informed of developments.
It was heartening that Claire Perry wants to encourage everyone to see themselves as part of a ‘transition town’ and said, “We have a strong local economy, which is a good base to build on.”
John Saunders, Chairman said: "A town and surrounding area that relies more on local producers and traders, our own skills and hard work will reduce its dependence on imports and on fossil fuels. With the support of influential people like our MP, we hope that the Devizes Community Area will become increasingly self-sufficient and resilient to whatever the future holds."
Photo: Claire Perry meets John Saunders, Margaret Green and Kate Freeman
9 September 2016
 Claire Perry said she was following closely the Opposition Day Debate on climate change urging government to ratify the Paris Climate Change Treaty (7 September 2016) The mood of the debate reflected our Group’s concerns, neatly summarised by Ed Miliband who said “… Front Bench Ministers all care about these issues, so I urge them not to leave their climate convictions at the door when it comes to the Whitehall battles around Brexit. As I said at the outset, I do not doubt their commitment, but they have got to prove it in the proposals that the Government eventually produce.”