Agenda item

Public participation

Council Procedure Rules Section 6. Members of the public who live or work in the district may put questions about the work of the council or make statements on items on the agenda to members of the Cabinet or any committee.


(Note: The maximum time to be set aside for this item is 30 minutes, but if all questions/statements are dealt with sooner, or if there are no questions/statements, the Council will proceed to the next business.)


Each person may ask one question or make one statement only. A total of five minutes will be allowed for the question to be put and answered or the statement made. If a question is raised, one supplementary question will be allowed provided that it arises directly from the reply and the overall time limit of five minutes is not exceeded.


If a statement is made, then the Chair may allow the Leader of the Council, or other member to whom they refer the matter, a right of reply.


The Constitution allows that a person who wishes to speak must register at least 15 minutes before the time the meeting is scheduled to start.  We urge anyone who wishes to register to speak to notify Democratic Services by 9am on the day of the meeting so that advice can be given on the arrangements in place.


As an alternative to addressing the meeting in person, written questions may be submitted by members of the public to the Monitoring Officer no later than 10am on Monday 20 March 2023. The written notification should detail the full question to be asked at the meeting of the Council.


The following members of the public spoke under this agenda item:


1. Aaron Leeves, a resident in the district, asked a question in connection with so-called ’20 minute neighbourhoods’ that were being trialled in towns in various parts of the country. It was asked whether West Suffolk Council was also going to trial a ’20 minute neighbourhood’ in any of the district’s towns.


In response, Councillor Andy Drummond, Portfolio Holder for Regulatory and Environment, first drew attention to a document produced by the Town and Country Planning Association which provided guidance to local authorities on planning for climate change. He urged attendees to read the document.


He then responded to the question firstly by reinforcing West Suffolk Council’s commitment to addressing the challenge of climate change. That commitment was very transparent through the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency and the production of an action plan. The annual monitoring of the action plan, together with the Council’s environmental performance was reported to Cabinet with the papers published on the Council’s website.


The action plan stated the need to address travel and transport emissions through a range of measures; however, the evaluation or rolling out of 20-minute neighbourhoods was not featured. 


West Suffolk Council was also a partner in the Suffolk-wide Suffolk Climate Emergency Plan. This Plan also recognised the need to address transport emissions and means by which these could be reduced. As Suffolk was a very rural county, this would be challenging; however, there were currently no plans for 20-minute neighbourhoods across Suffolk.  


2. Robert Seys, a resident in the district, provided a statement in the lead up to his question. He expressed concern regarding a number of issues relating to global sign ups to Agenda 21, Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals Programme. On a local level, he felt that the infrastructure was not in place to support the so-called ’20-minute neighbourhood’ zones. The specific question related to the Council’s understanding of the origins of Agenda 21, Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals Programme.


In response, Councillor Drummond reiterated the various policy approaches there had been to addressing environmental challenges. The references made by Mr Seys related to international approaches. The UK Government had put in place its own policies which directed the work of the Council. All this information was publicly available.


3. Ian Smith, a resident in the district, expressed concern that West Suffolk Council had signed up to the UK100 organisation, which as a member included pledging ‘to deliver a Net Zero future’. Mr Smith asked whether the Council supported the implementation of restrictive traffic measures in Bury St Edmunds or other towns in Suffolk. He urged members not to implement a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN), otherwise known as a ’20-minute neighbourhood’ or a ’15-minute city’.


In response, Councillor Drummond reiterated the reply he had given earlier to Mr Leeves and hoped that this had addressed his concern regarding ’20-minute neighbourhoods’ and restrictive measures. The Council joined the UK100 organisation last year in order to confirm their commitment to Net Zero and to work with other councils to help achieve this. Councillor Drummond added that Suffolk County Council was the Highways Authority and no ’20-minute neighbourhoods’ had not been set out in their Local Transport Plan, which covered the period 2011 to 2031.


4. Geoff Mealing, a resident in the district, provided some background to the use of digital currencies and so-called Digital Concentration Camps, and his views on what he felt were the potential impacts of their implementation. He specifically asked whether the Council knew anything about Digital Concentration Camps and whether the Council would be a part of it.


In response, Councillor Robert Everitt, Portfolio Holder for Families and Communities stated that the Council was not aware of this issue and thanked Mr Mealing for bringing the matter to members’ attention.


4. Ellie De Pasquale, a resident in the district, provided a statement in the lead up to her question. She gave her views on what she felt were the potential impacts of 5G emissions on human health, the environment and biodiversity. She specifically asked what health and safety risk assessments and environmental impact assessments had been done before installation of the 5G communication masts in Bury St Edmunds. Concern was particularly expressed regarding exposure to, in her view, potentially harmful levels of radiation emitted from the 5G towers.


In response, Councillor David Roach, Portfolio Holder for Planning, stated that applicants were required to self-certify that the levels of exposure to radiation met international recognised guidelines as stated in paragraph 117 of the National Planning Policy Framework. Councillor Roach quoted this paragraph to those present. 


In response to an additional question regarding the exchange of sources of information relating to this matter, Ms De Pasquale was advised to email Councillor Roach directly outside of the meeting.


No further questions were asked. The Chair concluded this item and invited the members of the public present to remain in the meeting to observe the following agenda items should they wish to do so.