Agenda item

Climate Change and Ecological Emergency Action Plan

The Committee is asked to consider the Climate Change and Ecological Emergency Action Plan.  Report to-follow.


The Cabinet Member for Environment, the Head of Policy, Comms and Customer Services, and the Climate Change Officer have been invited to attend for this item.


Report published 2 March 2020.


The Chairman welcomed the Cabinet Member for Environment and the Interim Policy and Performance Manager to the meeting.


The Cabinet Member for Environment introduced the report which provided an update on the Council’s response to the declaration of a Climate Change and Ecological Emergency.  He explained that an action plan was required to mitigate against a changing climate and this was set-out at Appendix I of the report.


The Cabinet Member explained that due to staff sickness it had been necessary to engage an external consultant to produce the action plan.  He stressed that it was a ‘living’ document which would be considered by Full Council at their meeting on 1 April 2020 as specified in the declaration.  He referred to the six main focus areas on page 9 of the action plan.


The Cabinet Member referred to the 10 possible actions.  He also talked about some of the enabling tools and explained that of the potential actions some required changes in national and local legislation.


In response to concerns about the quality of the Action Plan, the Interim Policy and Performance Manager accepted there were issues with the report, and explained that this was due to the consultant not having a working knowledge of local authorities.  It had been decided that it would be better for Members to have the long list of actions to consider and to actively give feedback.


The Cabinet Member asked Members for feedback and suggestions for actions.


Members raised points and asked questions of the Cabinet Member for Environment and Policy and Performance Manager. A summary is provided below:


·         Some of the introduction needed rewriting to make it more meaningful;

·         some of the graphs were not clear and were difficult to read;

·         had a Special Projects Fund been established?  The Cabinet Member for Environment stated that it had;

·         concerned about the suggestion to increase the range of edible fruits etc. in Council owned parks, rooftops and open spaces;

·         every action should outline the financial implications and needed to be pragmatic and accept that some might be too costly to action;

·         alarmist to refer to ‘mass extinction.  The Cabinet Member explained that this referred across all animal species and not just humans;


·         suggested the following action points:


-       How we share knowledge with parish and town councils;

-       how we resource;

-       enabling tools;

-       leading by example – where electric vehicle (EV) charging points should be provided;

-       supporting local residents;

-       Local Plan;

-       EVs as a borough and what was required from Kent County Council (KCC);

-       air quality;

-       recycling – want to increase blue bin waste and decrease green bin waste; and

-       green space – which fitted in with biodiversity and ecology.


·                     communication and education were key;

·                     the Council should be encouraging local businesses and schools to provide environmentally friendly lighting which was switched off when the site was not in use.  Was there a way we could enforce this?  The Cabinet Member for Environment stated that that would fall under the ‘Education’ category and be managed by Building Management Systems;

·                     could the actions be linked to their impacts and costs?; 

·                     should include a carbon saving figure;

·                     important to ensure that schools, businesses etc. were aware of any funding that was available to help them ensure their premises were carbon neutral;

·                     noted that the two previous reports did not include the environmental and climate implications.  The Interim Policy and Performance Manager reported that the implications table for reports had recently been updated to include ‘Environment and Climate/Ecological Emergency’;

·                     the Department for Education restricted what schools could do in terms of making buildings carbon neutral.  It was important to lobby Government to change this and ensure that they focused on where revenue was needed; and

·                     recommended that a grid be included showing the cost, carbon reduction, responsible person and timescales.



The Committee then went through the Action Plan page-by-page and raised the following questions and points:


Scope – page 10


·                    The three-point framework could detail the emissions more clearly and not sure the diagrams added anything;


Communication and collaboration – page 11


·                     Remove the diagrams, they add nothing;


Enabling tools – cross cutting themes and actions pages 12 and 13


·                     Needed to make it clear to builders etc. how to access relevant funding;

·                     need to ensure that contractors were up-to-date with the latest technology;

·                     2,000 eco refits a year was not realistic;

·                     what was ‘salix’ funding?  The Cabinet Member for Environment explained that this was interest free public sector funding; and

·                     relevant Kent-wide documents were missing which meant that some Swale and Kent context was missing.


Buildings and energy efficiency – pages 14 to 18


·                     What could be done to encourage developers to ensure new buildings were carbon neutral?  The Cabinet Member for Environment said that it was important that the Council’s planning officers were educated on this and they could support developers at the planning application stage.  Unfortunately houses were still being built that would need to be retrofitted in the future.  This could be resolved through the Council’s Local Plan but this would take time;

·                     needed to check that the Council and Parish and Town Councils updated street lights that they were responsible for with energy efficient bulbs;

·                     error on page 15, the word ‘city’ needed to be removed.


Transport and air quality – pages 19 to 24


·                     The Council should provide more cycle parking to assist commuters;

·                     need to think more creatively about public transport and have more dis-incentives to drive;

·                     aware that a transport policy was being developed via the Local Plan;

·                     needed to consider other technology options such as hydrogen vehicles; and

·                     the Council should be more proactive in ensuring that the Borough had a decent bus provision.


Resource consumption and waste – pages 25 - 27


·                     Welcomed the reduced plastic use and should not use reusable plastic;

·                     not sure paper straws were a good alternative as people often had to use more of them as they went pulpy;

·                     water leaks were currently a huge problem as many water pipes were old and needed to be replaced.


Ecology and biodiversity


·                     Welcomed the tree planting strategy;

·                     the construction industry needed to improve the way they dealt with landscaping for new developments;

·                     the Council should encourage hedges instead of fencing on new developments.  This would be good for biodiversity;

·                     needed to ensure that verges were cut during the correct season to protect pollination;

·                     were the Council doing enough to protect nesting birds?  Planning officers needed to be aware of this; and

·                     allotments were classed as brownfield sites.


Energy generation and storage – pages 33 to 36


·                     Should not consider establishing a Council-owned energy company – recommend this be removed; and

·                     welcome introduction of a viability survey at all council owned sites to accommodate further solar photovoltaic panels.


Resilience, adaptation and offsetting – pages 37 to 42


·         Queried whether poly-tunnels should be supported;

·         Poly-tunnels increased the fruit yield by 40%; and

·         would be useful if the use of fire works could be banned on Council land as it had an impact on air quality.


Councillor Mike Dendor asked that it be recorded that he did not consider two days to read and consider such an important document was acceptable, and did not feel that it should be considered by Full Council on 1 April 2020.


The Interim Policy and Performance Manager stated that Members could forward further comments to officers.


The Chairman thanked the Cabinet Member for Environment and the Policy and Performance Manager for attending the meeting.





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