'Motion for the Ocean' promised to boost jobs, health and green agenda in South Tyneside

South Tyneside councillors have declared an “urgent need for ocean recovery” as part of a drive to tackle environmental issues and climate change.

Friday, 14th January 2022, 5:42 pm

Town hall chiefs have promised to boost the economy and slash carbon emissions with plans to improve marine life on the South Tyneside coast.

Pledges ranged from considering ocean recovery in all strategic council decisions and budgets, to “growing ocean literacy and marine citizenship in the borough”.

Other recommendations included promoting “equitable access to the ocean” for all residents and ensuring all pupils are given the opportunity to experience the ocean first-hand before leaving primary school.

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The motion stated South Tyneside residents were being “disproportionately impacted” by climate change, compared to inland communities, due to rising water temperatures, changes in ocean chemistry and “increased storminess.”

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At a local level, it added, this can affect what seafood is caught locally, while also “accelerating the erosion of the coastline” and “increasing the risk to infrastructure and properties.”

South Tyneside Council agreed urgent action was needed to enable the ocean to deliver its full range of benefits, from carbon storage in coastal and marine habitats and coastal protection, to creating “clean safe recreation and happy, healthy coastal communities”.

Councillor Ernest Gibson, cabinet member for area management and community safety on the council, introduced the motion to full council at Temple Park Leisure Centre.

The councillor, who is also chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Coastal Special Interest Group (SIG), said a healthy ocean could have other benefits for South Tyneside, including sustainable jobs, improved health and wellbeing and reduced littering by encouraging residents to “play their part” in protecting the natural environment.

Cllr Gibson said: “We have been leading the way in the region and nationally through local projects like SeaScapes, Stronger Shores and the role of the LGA Coastal SIG.

“It’s natural that we be one of the first local authorities in England and the first local authority in the region to declare an [urgent] need for ocean recovery.”

Councillor David Francis, leader of the council’s Green Party group, proposed an amendment to the motion on phasing out single-use plastic products across the council (SUPs).

This included making South Tyneside Council a ‘single-use plastic free authority’ by the end of 2022 and ending council procurement of SUPs, with the exception of Covid-19 items such as PPE and testing kits.

While noting single-use plastics may be banned by central government in future, Cllr Gibson said bringing forward the SUP proposals within the amendment’s suggested time-scale would be an “unachievable exercise.”

Instead, Cllr Francis was advised to raise the matter at the council’s Place Select Committee scrutiny panel, which could investigate the issue.

After being put to the vote, the amendment from Cllr Francis failed to win support across the council chamber with six votes in favour, 35 against and one abstention.

The original motion was subsequently agreed with unanimous support.

This included South Tyneside Council calling on the government to appoint a dedicated Minister for Coastal Communities and to ensure coastal communities have a “meaningful say in the development of marine policy.’”

A progress report on South Tyneside’s ocean recovery will return to full council within 12 months.

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