To consider the Draft Climate Change Strategy.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:12pm and reconvened at 8:22pm.
Councillor Pepper introduced the item; she responded to Councillor Dean’s point about litter in the district. There were staff shortages at the Waste Depots due to the pandemic but she had set up initiatives and encouraged green champions in the local community to pick up litter and address this issue.
She introduced both reports and thanked all those who helped getting the documents ready. The Climate Change Action plan had set out a clear robust carbon reducing time frame with key objectives and actions. This report was the first of 2 reports, and the key objective was to make a complex subject easy to follow for all residents of any age so the wider community could support the net zero carbon target.
The second part would have all 5 key objectives:-
It would also include lobbying in a tabled 5 to 10 year plan with measurable targets and actions which were being worked on. It would need to be proof read and checked by Officers before going to Cabinet on the 9th February 2021.
She explained that the pandemic had helped with some key climate objectives e.g. working from home, more cycling, walking and support for the local shops. She hoped this would be a long term behavioural change. The Climate Change interim policy document would indicate to developers the Council’s commitment to reaching the net zero carbon target. She said Uttlesford District Council would be more likely to approve planning applications from developers who were serious about mitigating the impact of climate change.
In response to a question from Councillor LeCount, Councillor Pepper said the amendments would be made by the Cabinet meeting on the 9th February 2021.
Councillor Pepper said it would be published in two parts with milestones and time frames. She was unable to give an exact date as it would need to be sent to Officers, she wanted it to be a democratic process and therefore it would also need to go back to the community and working groups.
Councillor Dean said that the first document was an attractive leaflet but wanted more details on what the Council planned to do. He said otherwise it gave the impression that it was all down to the public to make the changes. He proposed that the second document was launched at the same time so that there was more detail of the Council’s intentions.
The Climate Change Manager said he also wanted to get the document out as soon as possible and build on existing actions. One of the key partners to take into consideration was Essex County Council (ECC) they had produced their interim report but he was waiting for their action plans as these would feed into the Council’s plans.
He said the other factor for consideration was the Environmental bill which was due in late spring and would also feed into Uttlesford’s strategy; with key elements related to Planning and Waste. He said there were actions and schemes that were on going and would also form part of the new strategy.
Councillor Dean said he thought there could be an interim action plan published that set out what the Council was committed to do. It would send a strong message that the Council was not just waiting for others before action was taken. It could then be updated when ECC and the Government had produced their reports.
The Chair agreed and said there was not much being implemented in the next few months that would produce results.
Councillor Pepper explained the difficulties as it was an evolving and constantly changing document. She said there had been no funding until September and the ECC interim document had also been published and needed to be taken into account. Other factors related to the pandemic which had stopped the take up of some grants and caused uncertainty about companies being allowed into houses and whether work could be carried out.
Councillor Sell said it was now 2 years into this administration and he was not clear who set the objectives and how the funding was being monitored. He suggested that there was a role for someone to be going into schools to educate students.
Councillor Pepper said that they would have a dedicated climate expert to look at how the funds were spent and unfortunately at the moment schools were shut so it was more difficult to complete all the objectives. She said it would be promoted through the Youth Council with video clips and she had already forwarded details of the Green Champions to Parish and Town councils. She also hoped to secure a monthly feature with Broadcast. The intention was for another part time member of staff to be recruited to work only on Climate Change.
CouncillorCoote said he was concerned about the term ‘key partners’ in relation to ECC and Central Government he felt it was not accurate as they were not collaborative partners. He thought care was needed to ensure the Council was pushing these ‘partners’ rather than waiting for them to act.
He explained that the Committee was not criticising but scrutinising; it was important to makes these points that may otherwise be missed.
He picked up on Councillor Sell’s point and said the new administration had followed the previously set budget in the first year and had only now been able to set a new budget with £3m for the green issues. He said the conversations in the meeting needed to be fair and balanced.
Councillor Pepper said she had good communication and meetings with ECC especially in relation to cycling, reduction of speed limits, street lighting and pavement.
She said she had also been in touch with Councillor Gooding to ask Essex College to provide different courses to fill skill shortages e.g. plumbing, installation of heat pumps and solar panels and to ask the hotels in the area to offer accommodation and food for these courses to encourage sustainable employment.
In response to a question from Councillor LeCount who suggested sending the brochure to Uttlesford residents, Councillor Pepper said that the objective was to save paper.
The Assistant Director – Planning explained that it was not a brochure but the actual strategy, which would be backed up by a more detailed action plan. He said they would be working towards an interim document and reiterated that it was a live document which would be available for scrutiny every 4 months.
The Chair said it needed to show deliverables and specifics and asked when this would happen.
The Assistant Director – Planning said the draft action plan had been providing measurable outcomes, but then funding had been allocated and there were new elements of the action plan that needed to be considered. He said there was not the technical knowledge in house and external help would be required to get the best results.
The Chair suggested and it was agreed that this action plan was brought back to Scrutiny in 3 months’ time.
Councillor Driscoll suggested publishing in the newspapers in the letters section. Councillor Pepper said they could advertise and would consider this as it would save paper.
The Chair asked for permission for the meeting to continue at 9:00pm. The Committee agreed.
CouncillorCriscione said he was part of the working group and could think of little to argue with in terms of objectives. He reserved the right to speak later on the detailed action plan and asked for it to be bold and innovative.
Councillor Pepper said it would deliver on many targets, but it was an investment and would take time.
The Chair said he was looking forward to this item coming back to the Committee in the future with deliverables, performance indicators and measurable achievements.