A recent announcement by the Church of England that contributing to climate change is a sin should spark an immediate change in the Church's attitude to South Tyneside's Fellgate greenbelt.
The Church, in the guises of the Chapter of Durham Cathedral and the Church Commissioners for England, is pressing for the deletion of the farmland at Fellgate from the greenbelt to pave the way for a massive new industrial estate.
Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, who chairs the bishops’ environment panel said, “There is now an overriding imperative to walk more lightly upon the earth and we need to make our lifestyle decisions in that light." This was supported by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said, "We make choices of moral significance and our relation to the environment is no exception.”
Whilst the Church should be commended for encouraging its members to lead a greener lifestyle and minimise their carbon emissions, it should put it's own house in order if it wants to maintain some credibility.
The Church owns most of the greenbelt at Fellgate, and is backing South Tyneside Council's plans to build a giant industrial estate on the site, from which the Church will no doubt make a handsome profit.
The planned industrial estate fails on all measures on environmental sustainability. The project will erode South Tyneside's greenbelt and lose ancient farmland forever. The selection of this site is specifically aimed at access by road so will only further contribute to the growth in carbon dioxide emissions by encouraging more travel by car.
The only way for the Church to avoid accusations of hypocrisy is to change its position on the Fellgate greenbelt, from being backers of environmental destruction for speculative financial gain, to champions of sustainability and conservation.
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