‘ONE of the most important and exciting things the town can do’.

That is how the new leader of Otley Town Council has described its aim of hitting a carbon-neutral target by 2030.

The council made the ambitious commitment earlier this year at the same time as it became one of the first town councils in the country to declare a Climate Emergency.

Councillor Richard Hughes (Lib Dem, West Chevin) has just taken over as the town council’s new Chair. His predecessor, Councillor Ray Georgeson (Lib Dem, Danefield) had made the environment one of his main focuses during his four and a half years in charge.

Cllr Hughes sees no reason to change that, though he admits some of the challenges ahead are ‘huge’. He said: “Our ten point plan for the town is what we want to deliver on.

“The first thing on there is the plan to make Otley carbon neutral by 2030. That’s a huge task but also one of the most ‫important and exciting things that the town council will do, and it’s probably the thing we’ll try the hardest to accomplish.

“Other parts of our proposals, concerning the Neighbourhood Plan, the Digital Otley Strategy and especially StreetVision2030, which aims to make Otley a safer place for cyclists and pedestrians, link up and support Otley 2030 too.

“There’s a lot of joined-up thinking in there and I’m happy to keep going down this path. A clear vision and strategy was set out by the previous Chair and I intend to implement it.”

He believes the council will be in a position to show it has made ‘good progress’ towards reaching those goals by 2023, when the next local elections will be held.

An Otley resident for 19 years, Cllr Hughes only got involved in local politics after retiring from teaching (his last role was as headteacher of Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College, in Bradford) in 2017, aged 55.

He is determined to keep the level of debate within the Liberal Democrat controlled town council civil, and points to the contribution of Green Councillor Mick Bradley (Green, Danefield) as an example of good cross-party co-operation.

“He also holds up the council’s backing, by seeking to arrange a £275,000 loan, for proposals to redevelop the Otley Old People’s Welfare Centre as an example of the positive role it can play.

He said: “This is an example of where we can help a local project while also using our influence, in this case by asking them to make the refurbishment as sustainable as possible. They agreed and we hope the result will be a model of what can be done with a building in terms of improving sustainability which will then, hopefully, encourage others in town to aim for the same standard.”