AN AIREBOROUGH councillor has criticised the tactics of local Extinction Rebellion protestors.

The group blocked off a key access road to the city centre, Neville Street, by occupying Victoria Bridge from Monday, July 15 to Friday, July 19. Extinction Rebellion described the action as part of a five-day ‘summer uprising’ - with similar actions being held in in Cardiff, London, Bristol and Glasgow - to keep the pressure up on politicians to tackle climate change.

Many politicians voiced their support for the group’s actions, both locally and nationally: including MP Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West) who visited the Victoria Bridge blockade.

Councillor Paul Wadsworth (Con, Guiseley & Rawdon) however, the Leeds Conservative group’s environment spokesman, believes the action was misplaced and unduly tolerated.

He said: “We fully support the declaration of a Climate Emergency in Leeds. Indeed, when it was declared we actually wanted the council administration to go further and set up clearer lines of accountability and action that would have seen the council Leader take on responsibility for the issue - and seen it debated at every full council meeting for the foreseeable future.

“It is disappointing that the council and police appear to have tolerated this protest and not attempted to move it along to a more suitable space in the city centre, where it would not have disrupted traffic and people’s daily lives.

“Is this an ‘event’ or is it a protest? We should all be working together on this agenda and I am not sure this is the best way of persuading people to get on board with it. Protecting the environment is crucial for all of us but stopping people getting to work and causing queuing traffic is more likely to enrage people than engage them.”

West Yorkshire Police has defended its position and says the force worked ‘tirelessly’ with other agencies to ensure the right to protest was ‘balanced with the rights and freedoms of others to go about their business’. A Leeds City Council spokesperson said the authority had also ‘struck the right balance’.

Extinction Rebellion protesters who were involved in last week’s actions were contacted but were unable to provide a comment.