It’s Autumn once more and the leaves are about to start falling: always a good time to take stock, rearrange your holdings and prepare for the challenges ahead.

That’s as true for MCA as it is for others. We have to redouble our efforts to make ourselves relevant, and a force for real change in the Moorlands.

It’s a little over a year since we managed to persuade Staffordshire Moorlands District Council to declare a climate emergency in our area.

That initial local recognition of the importance of the issues we were campaigning on added to the first flush of enthusiasm, as we had only recently come together as a grouping of like-minded individuals. 

SMDC’s failure to turn talk into action – or, as yet, any real plans for action – has been profoundly disappointing. While maintaining a public façade of progress, the council itself has now reorganised its approach to climate change in what many privately acknowledge as recognised lack of progress in the first year.

At the first meeting of the new climate sub-committee Mike Jones challenged Councillor Joe Porter on his failure to even respond to MCA’s detailed critique of his first report. Cllr Porter’s reply that he hadn’t bothered to respond because it ‘contained a mistake’ was so embarrassing to all that the committee chairman intervened to promise that Cllr Porter and officials would respond.

MCA members have already taken part in the first two of the new working groups, pressing for practical proposals that can be turned into real action focussed on reducing carbon emissions. On the first meeting of the Housing Working Group MCA pointed out that SMDC’s enthusiasm for the government’s Green Home Grant was likely to be undermined by the lack of builders advertised as qualified in the Moorlands; creating a central register of these builders available to residents is likely to the first proposal to emerge from the group.

We haven’t been quiet elsewhere, with the most promising developments being on the nature front. As Wendy points out in her article the Nature group has decided to refocus its activities into core areas.

One of these is working with the relevant authorities on more environmentally-sensitive management of green spaces. Working through its representation on Leek Town Council’s Climate Change sub-committee, MCA members met with Leek town and SMDC councillors and officials to discuss plans for Brough Park – in particular on planting and management. The plans seemed sensible and officials certainly seemed to know what they are doing but Alison and other MCA members will continue to keep up pressure to ensure that good intentions are turned into actions.

Pesticides use – one of the focuses of the Nature group - is finally coming to the fore; both Leek and SMDC are now moving toward stopping their use altogether on land they own and pressuring the County Council to do the same. They are also planning to encourage allotment owners and private gardeners to follow suit, though this will be a harder task.