Activists representing climate change campaign organisation, Extinction Rebellion held a peaceful, low-key public demonstration in Sleaford town centre this morning (Monday) and sought assurances of support from the Leader of the district council.
A handful of supporters of Extinction Rebellion Lincolnshire gathered at the Handley Monument at 10am, overseen by local police officers, and headed along Southgate bearing banners, placards and flowers.
They first paid a visit to the site of two large trees which have been chopped down on Handley Street to make way for a housing development of six homes.
Speaking for the group Steve Morley said: “We are having a peaceful protest without sit-downs or anyone gluing themselves to anything and without vandalism, because that has to be resourced and policed. I have to live locally and we are following the motto of ‘local to global’. I think we can create a local model, we are happy to educate people rather than upset them.”
On the subject of the two mature trees cut down on Handley Street, he commented that the district’s tree officer had done his job correctly, but said: “He said they were ‘unremarkable’ and they were removed for off-street parking. But they had a marvellous canopy and retain a lot of surface water in the town centre where we have the most traffic. These are beautoful living beings.”
They moved on to MP Caroline Johnson’s office to leave leaflets and on to North Kesteven District Council’s office to meet the Leader, Coun Richard Wright.
Mr Morley said: “I have asked for a tree preservation order for all trees within the Sleaford conservation area. We thought the ones on Handley Street would be protected - we have bigger climate problems than local housing issues. We need to stop and think.”
He offered his organisation’s expertise to help advise the council in amending its policies regarding climate change, after the council declared a climate emergency recently, something that ER are calling governments to do as well.
Mr Morley said the country needs to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2025, rather than the current target of 2050.
Coun Wright summarised for the group the many “bold and ambitious” measures being taken as a climate-conscious council committed to environmental improvement.
“They were genuinely impressed that as a council we have a strong priority of co-ordinated action in support of our environment, that we were the first council in Lincolnshire to declare a Climate Emergency and that we are committed to making a significant and lasting difference,” said the Council Leader.
“Having cut our own carbon emissions by 67.2 per cent over a decade and worked with others to achieve a 25 per cent reduction across the district, we are now committed to achieving zero carbon as soon as possible.
“Understandably they were concerned about the welfare of trees given their vital role in carbon capture and contribution to a better environment. They were reassured by the council’s actions on respect of saving almost 30 mature trees in Ruskington and the measures taken to ensure the trees we have insisted on as replacements for those removed in Handley Street are given better growing conditions for better health and longevity.
“They asked whether all of the trees within Sleaford’s Conservation area could be protected by Tree Preservation Orders, but there is no need. All trees within a Conservation Area with a trunk thickness greater than 75mm receive the same level of protection as those which are individually TPO’d. Any requests for work on these requires consideration by the council’s tree officer and an assessment as to their health, visual amenity and other considerations and if the work isn’t agreed to, the default is to TPO them as protection.
“All in all it was a positive, useful and respectful engagement where I was able to assure them of the sincerity and extent of our climate action and the depth and breadth of impactful and ambitious measures within our emerging environmental policies. I appreciated their respectful and peaceful approach and the concern that they clearly have for the area and its environmental welfare.”
The main event began today in London, with hundreds of campaigners vowing to block roads around Westminster for the next two weeks, resulting in a number of arrests already.