Front of Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, London.
A motion a full council called for Camden’s planning committee to be “carbon literate”. Photo: Fitzrovia News.

Members of Camden’s planning committee should get better training to help them weigh up the carbon costs of new developments as part of the borough’s response to the climate emergency.

Cllr Matthew Kirk (Lib Dem, Belsize) proposed that councillors should get the training they need “to be carbon literate.”

He said demolition should be the “last resort, not the first” after measures such as retrofitting have been rejected. It is about “putting embodied carbon at the heart of all decisions”.

In a motion to full council on 26 April he pointed out that putting climate change at the heart of planning decisions “requires consideration and calculation of embodied carbon”. He said councillors need support to get to grips with a “complex, new and developing” subject.

He felt current training was “insufficient.”

The motion also called for Camden to lobby government about lifetime carbon assessments for major developments as buildings contribute 40 percent of harmful carbon emissions, which is helping fuel the catastrophic climate change.

Opposition leader Tom Simon who sits on the planning committee said it was “very challenging” to understand the carbon impact of major developments. “We need better training in the immediate future.”

Their fellow Liberal Democrat Judy Dixey (Belsize) said the recent four days of climate action had put a renewed spotlight on the importance of reduce, renew, recycle.

She called for more retrofitting — making buildings more energy efficient and fitting them with green measures such as solar panels or heat pumps.

She said: “It’s a war on waste and that should apply for buildings too,” stressing that carbon must be captured in buildings.

She challenged the council “not to be complacent but to act.”

The Labour administration’s cabinet member for new homes and jobs Danny Beales said he agreed that the “whole life” of a building and its environmental impact had to be considered and it is one of the “driving policies” of Camden’s revised local plan.

Camden has joined 18 other councils to commission a net zero study to shape planning, he said.

“We will tackle climate crisis but will also tackle the housing crisis as well,” he said.

Planning committee vice-chair Edmund Frondigoun (Lab, St Pancras and Somers Town) said there has to be a balance between environmental pressures and the need for housing.

“We have environmental concerns as well as housing concerns. We have a real crisis, people in obsolete homes. We can’t just carbon, carbon, carbon.”

Camden’s only Green councillor Sian Berry said: “In terms of our survival on the planet we cannot be building all our carbon budget because the carbon budget is gone for survival on this planet.”

Anna Burrage (Lab, Primrose Hill) said: “We have a responsibility to reduce carbon dioxide and I am confident that we are.”

A Labour amendment, stating the council will build on its existing net zero work around new builds and training was approved, with two abstentions by Conservative councillors.

Camden Council: Full Council — Wednesday 26 April 2023.