I AM WRITING this column ahead of the full council meeting on Thursday evening, writes Councillor Steve Davis. I am hoping, by the time this appears in print on Friday morning that councillors of all persuasions will have supported our calls for the council to officially support Zane’s Law.

Zane’s Law aims to close loopholes in the Environmental Protection Agency Act 2010 on registration of landfills and recognises the Human Right to a Healthy Environment, as approved by the UN General Assembly back in 2022. Its measures include instructing local authorities to keep a regularly updated register on contaminated land within their boundaries and to make the information available to members of the public.

The proposed law takes its name from Zane Gbangbola, a seven-year-old who died in 2014 when his home was flooded with water from The Thames which had passed through a contaminated landfill site – with his family convinced they were poisoned by hydrogen cyanide gas from the site.

Zane’s parents have been campaigning for a change in the law ever since and calling for the government to provide people with greater protection against the potential risks posed by historic landfill sites.

Having spoken to Green Party colleagues on Lewes District Council, which recently became the first local authority in the country to formally support Zane’s Law, myself and fellow Green Party councillors here in the city wanted to make sure Brighton and Hove City Council quickly followed suit.

My colleague Cllr Kerry Pickett proposed a notice of motion which was set to be voted on last night. In it, Greens called for the city council to recognise the need to address the crisis of contaminated land in the UK, to support the campaign for Zane’s Law, and for the council to do all it can to encourage the government to help progress Zane’s Law through the legislative process.

It is an important issue, not least because the British Medical Journal estimates around 80 per cent of people in the UK live within two kilometres of landfill.

The heartbreaking circumstances surrounding Zane’s death should be enough to focus the minds of policy makers and for once, this is a campaign which I am confident councillors throughout the chamber will rightly think deserving of their support.

Current regulation is insufficient and dangerously inadequate and existing Environment Agency data on known landfill sites throughout the UK is almost certainly incomplete.

What information there is is difficult for people to access and, without specialist knowledge, can be hard to decipher. Simply finding out where sites are, who was licensed to operate them, and what waste may still be present, is almost impossible.

Zane’s family were unaware the land behind their home was a former landfill site, and nothing showed up during environmental searches taken out before they bought the property. That really isn’t good enough and people deserve to know how safe the home they are moving into is and be able to easily identify any potential concerns.

Zane’s Law also contains an important principle, that of polluter pays, which would mean local authorities would be able to recover costs from those responsible for leaving land contaminated and potentially dangerous.

As someone who became involved with politics to tackle poor air quality near my son’s school, I am full of admiration for Zane’s family and the dignified and passionate way they have campaigned for these changes. I simply cannot begin to imagine what they went through or how they have found the strength to fight for this legislation. His father, Kye Gbangbola, was expected to attend last night’s meeting. I certainly planned to meet him and offer my support for his campaign.

We hope this legislation is eventually approved by central government. Greens are certainly fighting for it to be and I hope the incoming Labour government will prioritise this once in office.

In the meantime, it is important the city council follows the example set by Lewes District Council and agrees to do all it can to help the campaign for Zane’s Law to succeed. I believe there is also a vote being taken elsewhere in Sussex, by Adur District Council.

This issue is above party politics. It is simply the right thing to do. I have had critical words to say about Labour in this column in recent weeks, but I am confident enough councillors will back our motion to ensure it passes.

As a local authority we have a duty of care to our residents and as such have a responsibility to make sure people are protected from environmental dangers, such as contaminated landfill. Zane’s Law will play a vital role in helping do just that.

Zane’s Law has the potential to provide vital protection for future generations and is something I am proud to support. I hope enough of my fellow councillors agreed.

Steve Davis is the Green leader of the opposition on Brighton and Hove City Council