People in the South Hams want houses, not more trees, it has been claimed, among angry exchanges as members of South Hams Council discussed its masterplan for the next four years.

The council has placed climate and biodiversity ahead of housing in its list of priorities in the coming year, and an earlier meeting was told that the authority should not be embarrassed to have done that.

But Cllr Nicky Hopwood (Con, Woolwell) told a full council meeting: “Tell that to the people who have lost count of the number of years they have spent on the housing register.

“Ask them what their priority is? The answer is an affordable roof over their heads.”

She said allocating half a million pounds to climate change is too much.

“I support climate change initiatives, but we have to be realistic,” she said. “Our residents want housing, not more trees.”

She wants priority be given to helping people tackle the cost-of-living crisis, and says money could be taken from the climate commitment to fund that.

“This crisis is so important,” she said. “It affects every one of our residents.”

But Cllr John Birch (Lib Dem, Totnes) said Cllr Hopwood’s proposal was ‘half-baked’, and the public wants money committed to the climate emergency.

Cllr Chris Oram (Lib Dem, Bickleigh and Cornwood) said no-one in their right mind would say the council is not doing enough to help with the cost-of-living crisis, while council leader Julian Brazil (Lib Dem, Stokenham) said he understood the “hopes, fears and aspirations” of local communities.

He added: “Tackling climate change and housing are not mutually exclusive, and we hope to do both, but we needed a kick-start with the whole approach to climate change and biodiversity, so there is a pot of new money for that.

“The onus is on us to be an exemplar. We should lead other councils and they can learn from us.”

Cllr Hopwood’s attempt to amend the masterplan was defeated.