Agenda item

Annual Update of Progress of the Climate Neutrality and Climate Resilience Plan

This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor for Climate Change, Councillor Dixie Darch


Report Author: Jonathan Stevens, Assistant Director Climate Change, Regulatory Services and Asset Management.


Cllr Dixie Darch presented the report which was the second and final update of the Climate Neutrality and Resilience Plan.


It is divided into 8 workstreams: Built environment, energy, industry, farming and food, natural environment, waste, water and transport. Only 50% of the outcomes in the report are under the control of Somerset West and Taunton Council, so partnership working with other agencies, public sector and stakeholders are key to delivering on the strategies.


Some good news stories included:-


·       Built Environment – 117% reduction on carbon emissions at Wellington Depot. Essentially the depot is putting electric back into the grid through use of solar panels.

·       1.5million decarbonisation funding received from Central Government to allow improvements to the Wellington Depot and Alcombe Childrens Centre, Minehead. (This will include a move to greener energy sources, as the gas boilers as these sites are coming to end of life).

·       EON – 20million eco-funding received to enable whole house retrofit (holistic approach) on the least energy efficient council housing.


The committee welcomed to the report and comments and questions were raised on the following points:-


It was asked whether the EON funding would bolster existing retrofit budgets, or whether this would be a new fund? The Council Housing Retrofit plan does have a budget, but this is a long-term plan which relies on drawing down external funding from other sources as and when it becomes available. One of the aims of the strategy is to identify those energy companies (and other funding sources) in order to maximise those opportunities when they arise.


Tree planting on Exmoor National Park (ENP)– This partnership approach was working very well, and it is hoped that it will be extended to other parts of the County. 110 hectares of ENP land had been identified for tree planting, and an employee of SWT was working with the park to physically plant and manage the trees. Bi-monthly meetings were taking place, and the employee had good knowledge and education on tree planting, woodland management and layout and types of trees required to meet the needs of various sites. It was enabling the planting of trees efficiently and more importantly allowing for good after care to enable the junior trees to flourish. (Last year due to the drought, 50% of trees planted by SWT did not survive their first year). ENP has a much better survival rate with 70/80% of trees surviving. This has been attributed to the after-care and initial thought going into the types of tree at site specific locations. SWT maintains its 3:1 ratio of replanting following removal of a tree.


Fruit Trees – Can these be planted? It was agreed that fruit trees are included in the re-planting schedules, but these need to be the right tree, in the right location and properly managed to ensure they flourish.


The Committee recognised that good work had been done to secure funding bids to progress the energy plans, especially in respect of carbon retrofit to Council Housing. It was asked what help private homeowners could access as this was an area where SWT seemed to fall short? On average 20% of dwellings in Somerset fall below E in the energy rating, but in the districts of Sedgemoor and SWT it is in fact 50%. It was suggested that homeowners could look to the Centre for Sustainable Energy to see if they had any grants available, and the monthly Climate Newsletter also included helpful links.


It was questioned whether signage was put up in areas where SWT was not cutting grass to reduce the number of complaints? QR codes were put in these places so that someone with a smartphone could click on it and see what the policy for grass cutting/re-wilding was in that area. In general, amenity land which was used regularly such as parks and play areas would not be left to grow. (If the grass was longer in those areas, it was most likely because the localities worker was behind on the cutting schedules). Areas that were being left, would be clearly designated.


It was asked whether SWT was offering funding to assist private homeowners who were suffering fuel poverty? Not to officer knowledge within SWT, but there are several agencies who can assist – Somerset County Council, Somerset Community Foundation and Community Council for Somerset.


Active Travel – Some comments that were made included:

·       The infrastructure on existing pathways and access routes in Taunton such as Longrun Meadow needed to be upgraded and maintained. Resurfacing would enable better cycling and pedestrianisation and benefit the safety of the Parkrun at this location. Longrun Meadow was a recognised flood plain, so that will always present challenges in this area. The main access point through the Meadow would be maintained to the required standard.

·       The Steam Coast Trail – had a resolution been found to link up the various routes, especially at Blue Anchor by the chalets? Sarah Ellwood, the project officer for this has now moved to SCC, but SWT is continuing to work with all agencies and land-owners to try and find a workable solution. The value of the Steam Coast Trail as an alternative route for walkers and cyclists is recognised. Work is still ongoing to extend and maintain these trails.


The Committee then expanded the conversation to include the PFH update.

Supporting documents: