PUBLIC pressure has forced Winchester civic bosses to today back down from diluting their policy on tackling climate change and poverty in its poorer areas.

Green campaigners were worried that the community strategy had dropped the commitment to fight global warming.

Council leader Keith Wood said this morning: “Our commitment to climate change remains unchanged.”
He also said the council was still committed to battling poverty in the three areas of Highcliffe, Winnall and Stanmore.

A public consultation led to some 250 replies with most urging the council against the change of stance on climate change.

Angela Sealey, vice-chairman of Winchester Action on Climate Change (WinACC), told Cabinet today: “Thank you for listening to the public. Over three-quarters of almost 250 people who commented wanted to see climate change in the strategy; only one wanted to see it go. This is an overwhelming vote of support for the city council on climate change.”

On poverty, Cllr Wood said he wanted the council to look at issues across the district in places like Weeke and Wickham.

But Labour group leader Chris Pines said removing places like Stanmore would have an impact: “Because of that significant given, community associations and other organisations in those areas were able to draw down grants and help from a wide range of grant-giving bodies.
“These are very long-term and deep-seated issues; we cannot change them in one or two years.”

Rachel Aron, chairman of Stanmore Community Association, expressed disquiet at the proposed dropping of naming Stanmore in the new strategy. “It matters because this move will make it more difficult for us to do what you want us to do – stand on our own two feet and attract resources from outside.

“Just as we have got a head of steam behind plans to build a new community building, it feels like the rug has been snatched from under our feet. We need the council to underline to potential funders that Stanmore badly needs investment in community facilities.”

Ms Aron said the need was great. The derivation figures for education, skills and training in North Stanmore have worsened recently. In 2004 it was in the 18 per cent in England; now its in the lowest 7 per cent.

Cllr Wood agreed that Stanmore, Highcliffe and Winnall could be placed back in the strategy.

“There is no reduction in the commitment to Stanmore, Winnall or Highcliffe. I spent all day in Stanmore recently. We are aware of the problems there and support a new community building. We are proposing to start work on how to make this happen.”