To consider the report of the Executive Member for Neighbourhood Services.
The Executive Member for Neighbourhood Services, Councillor Bramhall, described how the Environmental Sustainability Strategy committed the Council to undertake activities across three themes:
· Energy and carbon
· Low impact consumption – (the consumption of natural resources); and
· Biodiversity and the natural environment
The themes were then translated into actions which would help the Council, and the borough, become more environmentally sustainable, and to move toward a reduction in net carbon emissions.
Councillor Bramhall cautioned that the Council’s continuing response to the Covid-19 emergency (and any future waves) may impact on the staff or financial resources available to deliver the action plan, which would be regularly reviewed. The emergency also presented an opportunity to change the way people live and work, and those opportunities would be further explored as part of the Council’s recovery work. Additional resources would be required to deliver the Strategy and initial provision had already been made in the 2020/21 budget.
Councillor Bramhall stressed that contextually, as a second tier authority, there were limits to the powers that were available to generate change. Therefore, it was important that the Council continued to work closely with Surrey County Council and the other Surrey boroughs and districts to agree a jointly owned action plan, which would enable the best use of the powers and resources that were available, and provide a stronger voice to lobby for more.
Progress in delivering the Environmental Sustainability Strategy would be reported annually to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, and the established cross-party task group would continue to review progress.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor Brunt, commended the Strategy and emphasised that it set out the ambition of the Council, and reaffirmed the need for urgent action on climate change and environmental sustainability issues, as previously identified in the Corporate Plan.
In response to questions and observations from Visiting Members, Executive Members explained that:
· The Council was already demonstrating its commitment to environmental sustainability through, for example, working with partners in relation to the Green Homes Initiative, the local cycling plan, the introduction of electric vehicles; and the recruitment of a dedicated resource to drive the delivery of the strategy
· A climate conference would be a meaningful engagement opportunity in the future and resident feedback was already being sought via the Surrey Greener Futures tool
· The Council would continue to seek external funding opportunities
· Subject to clarification from Officers, the notes of the cross-party task group would be made available on the Council’s website
· Whilst some Councils had declared a climate emergency, they may not have a strategy or action plan to achieve change
· Training on environmental sustainability would be provided for Planning Committee Members
· A written response to a query about the funding of Reigate Baths would be provided to Councillor Sinden.
1. That the Executive recognises the need for urgent action on climate change and environmental sustainability issues
2. That the Environmental Sustainability Strategy (Annex 1) and accompanying action plan and performance measures (Annexes 2 and 3) be approved for publication and implementation
3. That the Head of Corporate Policy be authorised, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Neighbourhood Services, to make any additional minor amendments to the Environmental Sustainability Strategy to ensure factual accuracy and clarity prior to publication
4. That the Executive agrees to continue with the cross-party member task group to review and feed back on the implementation of the Environmental Sustainability Strategy, and that progress in delivering the strategy will be reported annually.
5. That the Executive supports the overall approach within the recently adopted Surrey County Council Climate Change Strategy and commits to continue to work with the County Council and other Surrey boroughs and districts to develop a jointly owned action plan and achieve shared climate change objectives.
Reason for decision:
Approval of the Environmental Sustainability Strategy reflects the Council’s recognition of the need for urgent action on climate change and environmental sustainability issues and explains how it will focus its activities and resources to deliver positive progress towards achieving national targets. To deliver its climate change and environmental objectives the Council will need to work closely with a range of partners, including Surrey County Council and other Surrey boroughs and districts.
Alternative options: As set out in the report, and decision notice.