Agenda item

Public participation

Members of the public who live or work in the district are invited to put one question or statement of not more than three minutes duration relating to items to be discussed in Part 1 of the agenda only. If a question is asked and answered within three minutes, the person who asked the question may ask a supplementary question that arises from the reply.


A person who wishes to speak must register at least 15 minutes before the time the meeting is scheduled to start. This can be done online by sending the request to or telephoning 01284 757176 or in person by telling the Committee Administrator present at the meeting. We would 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. 


There is an overall time limit of 15 minutes for public speaking, which may be extended at the Chair’s discretion.


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


1. Terry Charles, a resident in the district, made a statement in connection with the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency and the evidential basis upon which the Council made the declaration. In Mr Charles’ view, he felt that climate emergency declarations had been made by local authorities as a result of activists stating that such an emergency existed. He requested whether evidence had been provided by the activists to substantiate their claim when the Council declared its climate emergency.   


In response, Councillor Cliff Waterman, Leader of the Council stated that the specific evidence requested could not be supplied. The declaration of a climate emergency had been made by West Suffolk Council under the previous administration and the current administration continued to support this position. As part of this, the Council would continue to strive towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030.


2. Aaron Leeves, a resident in the district, made a statement in connection with a number of topics which continued on from the statement he made at the last meeting of Council on 20 June 2023.


Specific reference was given at this meeting to the perceived damaging effect the lockdowns imposed during the pandemic had had on the mental health and wellbeing of society; the perceived detrimental impacts caused by taking forward the initiatives identified to support the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency, such as requiring a reduction in car use; and whether the Council should support or justify freedom of movement which enabled the use of private jets, for example.


In response, Councillor Waterman stated that:


·         the current Westminster-led public inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic would analyse a vast range of issues, where it was expected that a number of misjudgements would be identified and learned from.

·         No plans were in place for the Council to request a reduction in car use; however, the harm caused to the air quality caused by cars was aimed to be reduced. One solution was the promotion of greater electric vehicle usage.

·         Greater use of public transport by all, including those with private jets, should be encouraged.


3. Jo Owen, a resident in the district, asked a question in connection with improving arrangements for public participation at meetings and encouraging better public consultation and engagement on important specific projects, such as the development of the West Suffolk Local Plan, the initiatives identified in the environment and climate change action plans, and the rollout of 5G masts.


In response, Councillor Waterman stated that the Council’s recently appointed Constitution Review Group would be reviewing the public participation and speaking arrangements at meetings, which were set down in the Council’s Constitution. Written submissions from the public on potential changes would be welcomed by the group. He outlined ways in which views could be made known, such as through ward councillors or responding to scheduled public consultations. The next stage of consultation on the emerging West Suffolk Local Plan was due to take place in January 2024, details of which would be provided on the Council’s website.


Councillor Waterman concluded by stating that West Suffolk Council had wide responsibilities but only in certain areas. The Council was also bound by the law, and while lobbying could be undertaken to seek a change in law, it must abide by it. The Council could therefore only make decisions on matters that fell within its responsibility and based on criteria set down by central government. 


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.