To discuss progress relating to the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan. This item to be considered in conjunction with item 8.
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 11 to 52, which gave details of progress relating to the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP) for the period January to March 2021.
Gregor Murray, Executive Member for Resident Services, Communications and Emissions attended the meeting to answer Member questions. Rhian Hayes, Interim Assistant Director Housing and Place and Diana Tovar, Climate Emergency Manager also attended the meeting.
Gregor Murray addressed the Committee and gave details of progress against key targets in the CEAP, as follows:
· Over £1.5m in additional funding, e.g. Active Travel, Defra, Salix (Energy Efficiency), Woodland Trust (tree planting).
· Commencement of work on two Park and Ride sites.
· EV Charging Strategy Survey informing work on a new strategy.
· Defra funding from Air Quality Action Fund (WBC officer).
· Joined air quality project run by Reading University.
· Planning application submitted for solar farm in Barkham.
· Established the Climate Emergency Fund (first meeting to be held shortly).
· Eco funding had led to improvements at 428 homes (cavity wall/loft insulation).
· Retrofitted schools across the Borough, e.g. added solar PV to Addington school.
· Full retrofit for home in Riseley as a pilot.
· Work started on new Waste Strategy.
· Climate Emergency drop in session for Town and Parish Councils.
· Climate conversations with local businesses.
In the ensuing discussion Members raised the following points.
Park and Ride Projects – were the Park and Ride projects leading to the redistribution of existing traffic rather than traffic reduction?
If vehicles used the new Park and Ride in Norreys, what would be the impact on car parking in the town centre? Would there be a town centre parking review as a result?
Gregor Murray stated that Highways questions would be submitted to the WBC Highways team for a detailed response. In relation to behaviour change the Council needed to understand the reasons for local journeys across the Borough and develop alternative solutions. Park and Ride was one of these options.
There was a lot of engagement going on with local communities and schools. How were businesses being engaged? Gregor gave details of the Climate Conversations with local businesses. It was clear that many businesses were working on sustainability initiatives. WBC could play a role in supporting these initiatives, thereby helping businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. The aim was to speak to all businesses in the Borough during 2021/22.
The Council had delivered a significant increase in recycling over the past year. What work was taking place to deliver further improvements? Gregor commented that more work was needed to reach the 70% recycling target. It was also important to focus on reducing the amount of waste generated through a focus on reduce, reuse, recycle. Re3 would be a key partner in this process.
When would work start on the Winnersh Triangle Park and Ride? The impact of the pandemic over the past year (reduced traffic) should have provided a good opportunity to progress the park and ride. Gregor confirmed that this point would be referred to the Highways team for a response.
The report provided a lot of information on specific initiatives. However, it did not provide details of the carbon reduction arising. Nor did it set out the magnitude of carbon reduction from each initiative, so it was difficult to assess overall progress against the 2030 target. As an example, the stalling of the Green Bank project resulted in a significant gap in the CEAP. Gregor commented that the Government data used to measure progress was published two years in arrears. Big projects in the CEAP also took time to come on line and start to deliver carbon savings. Gregor would meet with officers to consider specific comments on the CEAP including any double-counting issues. The annual update on the CEAP would be submitted to Council in July. This would include greater detail on specific targets and the level of carbon reduction arising.
AS reported in the Climate Emergency Task and Finish Group’s reports, there was a significant gap between the CEAP and the Net Zero target. Furthermore, the assumptions in the CEAP on the impact of national policy meant that 24% of the Borough’s emissions did not have any mitigation assigned to them. What measures were being assigned to these emissions? Gregor stated that further details would be included when projects began to deliver carbon reductions. Gregor confirmed that there was a significant gap in the CEAP, but this reflected its status as a living document. The situation would continue to change as the CEAP rolled forwards to 2030. Changes in national policy would bring significant carbon reductions which benefitted the Borough.
What was the latest position relating to local deliberative processes? Gregor commented that research had been carried out into w wide range of potential processes from climate assemblies to focus groups and online forums. A report would be submitted to the Executive with a business case for adopting a specific process. Gregor was happy to bring the report to the Management Committee before it went to the Executive. This was consistent with a recommendation from the Climate Emergency Task and Finish Group.
The impact of the Barkham solar farm would be to save 1% of the Borough’s carbon footprint, so was it worth building? Gregor commented that the solar farm was a useful project as it would deliver green energy for the Borough and would demonstrate the Council’s commitment to tackle the Climate Emergency.
As discussed earlier, the KPIs relating to Climate Emergency needed to provide more clarity on the current position of individual projects. Gregor confirmed that he would be happy to talk to Members about any of the KPIs relating to Climate Emergency.
In relation to the new green recycling sacks, the sacks could not cope with large cardboard boxes. This resulted in more cardboard being taken to supermarket recycling sites – with additional car journeys. What was being done to ensure that large cardboard pieces could be collected at the kerbside? Gregor commented that the Council would collect large items, including large cardboard boxes by appointment.
Motion 420 to Council (September 2019) related to a strategy to deliver lower transport emissions. This included emission of carbon, carbon monoxide, particulates and nitrogen oxides. The CEAP update referred to a Low Carbon Transport Strategy. Was this consistent with the original Council Motion? Gregor commented that the Motion agreed by Council had led to the development of this strategy, which would be submitted to the Council shortly.
Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) Fund – what progress was there in relation to a partnership bid with local bus operators and other stakeholders?
Increasing the uptake of cycling from local businesses by promoting the Love to Ride programme – was this comparing data from 2020 or 2019? Can metric measurement be used in future? Are these new cyclists or existing cyclists? What proportion of journeys relate to the switch from cars to cycling?
Completion of the Cross-Berkshire Cycle Route – the A329 cycle route is a poor scheme and is not complete. It is not suitable for inexperienced cyclists.
London Road Corridor – adaptive traffic management corridor. What carbon savings were identified in the March 2021 report? What is the forecast future saving as increasing network capacity has increased?
Speed management programme – why was the RAG Green when Phase 2 had not been finished and the A/B Road report had not been published? Gregor stated that the Highways queries would be submitted to the Highways team for comment.
Local deliberative processes – would the evaluation of deliberative processes be submitted to the Management Committee in line with the Task and Finish Group recommendation? Gregor confirmed that this would happen.
What progress was there in putting solar PV on all WBC buildings? Gregor stated that WBC had committed to putting solar PV on schools and work was under way to assess the suitability of rooftops, which had to be strong enough to support the equipment. Safety was the number one priority. Officers could confirm progress relating to specific schools.
What facilities were situated at 12 Rectory Road and 75 London Road? Gregor confirmed that 12 Rectory Road hosted a community contact support centre. 75 London Road was a social housing project.
1) Gregor Murray, Rhian Hayes and Diana Tovar be thanked for attending the meeting to answer Member questions;
2) further responses be circulated to the specific issues raised by Members;
3) progress on the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan be noted;
4) a further progress report be submitted to the Committee at its meeting in October 2021.