Climate change protest will block traffic in Wellingborough

Action from another Extinction Rebellion roadblock elsewhere in the country.
Action from another Extinction Rebellion roadblock elsewhere in the country.

Campaigners will form a temporary road block in protest at Wellingborough Council's failure to declare a climate emergency.

More than 100 UK councils, including Kettering Council and Northamptonshire County Council, have already declared a climate emergency and promised to put climate change at the heart of every decision they make.

Extinction Rebellion say Wellingborough Council's ruling Conservative group "heavily watered down" a bid to declare their own last month, instead opting for an amendment to note Parliament's decision to do so.

And in protest at the decision they will take to the town centre on Saturday (August 17) and "swarm" the Sheep Street area, causing temporary disruption to traffic.

A group spokesman said: "We’re sorry that it has come to this and we hope that this won’t cause too much disruption to the residents of Wellingborough.

"The fact is that traditional methods of petitioning, emailing and lobbying politicians have not worked.

"We are not causing disruption without a purpose. It has come to a point where this is necessary. 110 Councils across the UK have now declared a climate emergency. Why hasn’t Wellingborough?”

The protest will begin at midday with speeches outside Wellingborough Council's offices before a 'funeral procession' to The Hind Hotel.

The swarming - when protestors will block the road for seven minutes before coming off for three minutes and then returning - will start from 1pm and last for between one and two hours. It means traffic will not be at a complete standstill all afternoon but it is still expected to have a major impact.

At a council meeting last month Wellingborough Council did not declare a climate emergency. Instead it noted Parliament's decision to declare one and gave approval for the establishment of a cross-party climate change working group to 'refresh' the council’s climate change strategy.

A Wellingborough Council spokesman said the council is committed to doing its part for the environment and will consider the climate impact of all activities.

Council leader Martin Griffiths (Con), who voted against a climate emergency motion at Northamptonshire County Council, said: “Climate change is a national and global issue, which is of huge importance to this generation and future generations.

“As a council we agreed unanimously to set up a cross-party review of our strategy for climate change and consider all we do locally to make an impact to our community. As we move forward to a new unitary authority we will work with our neighbouring councils to ensure that the climate is considered in decisions we make.”

Extinction Rebellion said the council was not taking the climate emergency seriously and that they believe this was the only form of protest they had left.

A group spokesman said: "The fact that elected officials still continue to deny the true gravity of the situation we’re in just highlights why we have to do what we do.

"The passing of this amendment sends a clear message to all of us at Extinction Rebellion that Wellingborough Council does not want to take the climate emergency seriously.”

Leader of the Labour opposition, Cllr Andrew Scarborough, said: "There can be no doubt that we are facing a global climate emergency.

"Wellingborough Council can and must do much more to tackle climate change issues locally. The working party a good idea but it is only a start.

"We need to work with local people to deliver quick and radical action. We can't afford to wait."

Extinction Rebellion use a strategy of non-violent civil disobedience and their actions in London in April brought the capital to a standstill for a fortnight.

More than 1,000 people were arrested during the protests and Parliament declared a climate emergency on May 1.

The group say more protests like the Wellingborough one will be planned unless their three key demands - a climate emergency declaration, a target of net-zero emissions by 2025 and a citizens' assembly - are met across the country.

A Northamptonshire Police spokesman said: "We are aware of the protest planned by Extinction Rebellion this Saturday in Wellingborough and are working to facilitate a peaceful event with minimum disruption to the local community.”