South Shields Green councillor renews calls to end single-use plastics at South Tyneside Council after 'ocean emergency' declaration
South Tyneside Council’s ‘Motion for the Ocean’ was voted through earlier in January, recognising the importance of the ocean in the fight against climate change – and the role that local and national government can play to help protect it.
The declaration commits the council to consider ocean recovery in its decision and policy making, to help improve the way marine environments are used and managed, to rally support for local people to act as marine citizens and to lobby Central Government for change at national level.
Councillor David Francis, leader of the council’s Green Party group, had proposed an amendment to the motion on phasing out single-use plastic products across the council by the end of 2022, with the exception of certain items including PPE and Covid-19 testing kits.
Councillor Ernest Gibson, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety at South Tyneside Council and Chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Coastal Special Interest Group (SIG), however, argued this was ‘unachievable’ within the time scale.
Cllr Francis, who represents the coastal ward of Beacon and Bents, was advised to raise the matter at the council’s Place Select Committee scrutiny panel, which could investigate the issue, and his amendment failed to gain enough backing in the chamber.
The council issued a press release hailing the significance of the motion after it was passed.
Now Cllr Francis has responded praising the motion – but continuing to raise concerns over single-use plastics, which have been highlighted globally as causing particular harm to aquatic life.
He said: “I was really pleased to see this motion come to full council and am grateful to Cllr Gibson and colleagues for their work on this important issue.
"It was great to see the motion calling on national Government to strengthen regulations around single use plastics, but I was disappointed that the Labour Group rejected my amendment, calling on South Tyneside Council to do the same.
"Other local authorities like Exeter, Brighton and Hove and Bristol have all committed to stop using single-use plastics.
"In April of 2018 the motion to Exeter Council called for them to phase out single-use plastics by the end of that year.
"Four years later, we’re being told that this isn’t achievable in South Tyneside.
"Given our status as founding partners of the Seascapes Scheme, lead partners in Stronger Shores and the lead authority in the LGA’s Coastal Communities special interest group I feel we should be leading by example on this issue.”
The ‘Motion for the Ocean’ commits South Tyneside Council to consider the ocean when making decisions, particularly around budgets, planning, skills and regeneration, as well as ensuring that the economic opportunities from the sea, such as fishing, marine technology, renewable energy and aquaculture, are developed in a sustainable way.
It also pledges to invest in the ocean as part of its climate change plans, strive to ensure that all pupils have a first-hand experience of the ocean before leaving primary school and support and promote equitable access to the ocean for all.