Kettering Council approves motion to encourage cycling after heated debate

Things got heated at Kettering Borough council's full meeting last night
Things got heated at Kettering Borough council's full meeting last night

At a full council meeting yesterday evening, councillors approved an amended motion to "continue" encouraging and investing in walking and cycling.

A motion to protect residents and visitors from road danger, air and noise pollution and improve community well-being was hotly debated when Cllr Ian Jelley (Con) proposed an amendment.

The motion had been proposed by Cllr Anne Lee (Lab) who said: "You pass the emergency climate motion but at the first resolution you are already saying 'we want to continue what we are doing'

"As soon as it comes to actually doing something, you chicken out. You are not listening. That's a lesson to the people in the audience that they cannot trust you."

Cllr Lee's motion originally said: "This council aims to protect residents and visitors from road danger, air and noise pollution and improve the health, economy and wellbeing of local communities.

"The council recognises that creating a public environment that encourages cycling and walking is a low cost and highly effective way of achieving these aims.

"Therefore, investment should be made in changing patterns of travel in favour of walking and cycling."

Cllr Jelley proposed an amendment that said the council would "continue to aim" to protect residents and visitors, removed the words "low cost" and finished: "Therefore, this council believes investment should continue to be made in support of changing patterns of travel in favour of walking and cycling in conjunction with public and private sector partners."

Cllr Jelley's amendment was not well received by Cllr Lee, Cllr Linda Adams (Lab), Cllr Maggie Don (Lab) or Cllr Jim Hakewill (Ind) and there were also several interjections from members of the public, many of whom had made passionate pleas for greater cycling safety and provision.

One member of the public described how she cycles to work in Kettering from her home in Desborough and said: "Every time I get on my bike, I wonder if I am going to get home."

The dangers of narrow cycle lanes, raised manhole covers and potholes were all raised. Several public speakers were members of Extinction Rebellion and the Green Party and spoke of the benefits to the environment through reduced emissions if more people were able to walk or cycle.

Cllr Lee had wanted the motion to help support the implementation of a cycling strategy developed for Kettering back in 2005, which planned for many cycle routes.

Cllr Michael Brown (Ind) said: "I think this motion is well meaning," but said he was concerned that the motion favoured cycling and walking provision over road provision for motorists.

After Cllr Jelley's amendment was proposed, Cllr Hakewill accused the Conservative councillors of playing games.

He said: "They [the amendments] should have been before us tonight ready to go. I feel a bit sad that we are not just ready to go with Cllr Lee and Cllr Don's motion.

"I think you are just playing games with our future.

"It adds nothing to the motion."

Cllr Hakewill's remarks sparked approving nods and murmurings from the public audience, but Cllr Lloyd Bunday (Con) said: "A couple of meetings ago, [Cllr Hakewill] refused to share some information that he wanted to bring to the council.

"He shared it with Labour but not with us until the last possible second. He was scared we were going to change it."

Things became heated again later when Cllr Philip Hollobone (Con), who missed the Prime Minister's first statement to Parliament following the Supreme Court's ruling that proroguing was unlawful to attend the meeting, accused Cllr Hakewill of misleading the public.

Cllr Hollobone said: "We have to be realistic with people."

He said the council is a small authority that lacks jurisdiction and funds to change much in the road system, but said the council could influence the county council, which he said spends tens of thousands on roads.

Cllr Hakewill asked for the remarks to be withdrawn, but they were not. Cllr Paul Marks (Con) echoed Cllr Hollobone by saying Hakewill's statements were "designed to mislead", a statement which was also not withdrawn after Cllr Hakewill's request for Cllr Marks to do so.

Moving things along, Madam Mayor said: "This is not Parliament."

The amendment was passed with five votes against and three abstentions. The amended motion was passed with only Cllr Brown abstaining after his proposed amendment to remove the word "favour" was not picked up.

The Green Party said in a statement following the meeting: "Kettering Green Party are very pleased to see the motion pass - promoting cycling and walking is so important as a means of reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and also comes with obvious health benefits.

"Green Party members Jamie Wildman and Dez Dell spoke passionately in support of Cllr Lee's motion and are excited to see the outcome.

"The climate crisis necessitates the need to use less polluting means of transport and any methods that Kettering Council can take to help residents be less reliant on their vehicles are much needed."

An Extinction Rebellion statement said: "After a whole lot of faff and bluster from the council, Extinction Rebellion Kettering were happy to finally see the motion to encourage cycling and walking pass. Its a shame it wasn't unanimous.

"To address the climate and ecological breakdown we are going to have to change our habits drastically. Reducing our reliance on forms of transport that emit CO2 into the atmosphere is absolutely essential.

"We have more actions planned for Kettering and we will be joining hundreds of thousands of Extinction Rebellion members on October 7 in the International Rebellion."