Agenda item

Environmental Sustainability: Progress update

To receive a progress update on the work towards the objectives set out in the Council’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy and proposed new actions at Annex 1 and 2.

To provide any observations for consideration by the Executive on 18 November.


The Committee received an annual update on the work towards the objectives set out in the Council’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy, adopted in July 2020.


Councillor Lewanski, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Policy and Resources, outlined the work that had taken place over the past year. More detail was given in the environmental sustainability strategy update slide pack published as part of the agenda pack. In addition, the agenda pack included two annexes: Annex 1 which set out the progress, challenges and next steps of the Action Plan in 2020/21. Annex 2 set out additional proposed actions.


During the past year, the new sustainability team had been established at the Borough Council. Despite the challenges faced during the pandemic, good progress had been made and action on more sustainable ways of working was being weaved throughout services across the Council. These activities were based on four key themes: energy and carbon, low impact consumption, biodiversity & the natural environment and implementation cross-cutting areas such as Planning, partnership working and procurement.


The sustainability team had two main areas of focus:


1)    To work to become a more sustainable Council. Actions to date have included purchasing energy with renewable tariffs and offsetting so our energy supply could become carbon neutral; switching to low carbon vehicles as these were replaced and improving the Borough’s green spaces to absorb more carbon dioxide and to support biodiversity. A range of activities to support and train staff and Members to underpin a more sustainable future was underway.


2)    To support residents and businesses to become a more sustainable Borough such as: joint working with Surrey local authorities and Surrey County Council; bidding for Government funding for decarbonisation of housing stock; supporting schemes such as Solar Together to install solar panels in the borough; installing new electric vehicle charging points in Horley (with more to come in Banstead); working with community groups to identify areas to plant trees; planned work to engage young people on climate change through local schools.


Councillor Lewanski thanked the Cross Party Member Sustainability Working Group for their detailed questions and feedback on the strategy.


Written answers had been provided to members on the Council’s staged approach to working towards the Council’s 2030 net zero carbon target and use of carbon offsetting measures and hedge cutting in the borough.  A supplementary question from Councillor Essex requested more detail on offsetting schemes and costs as a follow-up written response.


Committee Members highlighted four priorities which would require significant planning, financial spend and delivery to achieve carbon reduction and get the Council to net zero by 2030.

These were:


·       Improving the Council’s own assets and buildings.

·       A plan to convert the Council’s fleet.

·       Rolling out electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure – including for taxis and private hire vehicles.

·       A plan for domestic retrofit programmes.


Members asked questions and made observations on the following areas:


Engagement with young people – Members asked about plans for working with young people on climate change and sustainability issues. Plans were underway for a pilot scheme to work with one primary and one secondary school in the Borough initially before expanding more widely to schools and colleges


Electric vehicle (EV) charging points ­– plans for EV charging was discussed in the north of the Borough such as Tadworth and Tattenhams where many residents parked on roads and there were limited public car parks to access EV charging points. Officers confirmed that they wanted to ensure a good geographic spread of EV points. Surrey County Council as highways authority was due to roll out trials of EV charging points next year in the Borough. Officers were working with the Energy Saving Trust to review where additional charging points in the Borough’s own car parks could be placed.


Members asked about procurement and funding models for future EV charging points. It was noted that there are various different models available. Members highlighted Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding as a way of investing in strategic projects to assist environmental sustainability. It was noted that Council-owned land and facilities (not only Council car parks) could be used to benefit the community in this area such as EV charging points.


Work with Surrey County Council – the Committee noted that Surrey County Council had published its Climate Change Delivery Plan at the end of October and asked how RBBC’s Action Plan dovetailed with this to avoid any overlaps and also highlight any gaps. Officers reassured the Committee they were working closely with the County Council including input into its Climate Change Delivery Plan to make best use of limited resources that were available to local authorities.


Publicising the RBBC action plan – updated web pages giving guidance and funding advice to residents and businesses about climate change and sustainability, articles in the Borough News and social media campaigns had been published as part of the communications plan. Members requested further public-facing messaging to further increase awareness of the work the Council was doing to combat climate change and help residents act sustainably. Further work was planned to gather feedback and views from residents.


Borough-wide emissions – the data graph on p45 of the agenda pack showed Borough-wide emissions in domestic use and transport were higher than in Surrey and England. This was common in more affluent areas where there were a greater number of residents living alone in larger detached houses and using their cars rather than public transport. The Council’s total carbon footprint was well under 1% of the Borough’s emissions.


Planting new forestry -  Members noted the work to improve the natural environment – the Council had planted 181 trees and created or improved 128 square metres of soft landscaping within the borough. Members drew attention to Council-owned fields next to Banstead Common and asked if some of this area could be considered for planting new forestry to extend Banstead woods to assist work on enhancing the Borough’s ecology rather than its current use as low-level agriculture land. Officers confirmed this idea would be explored with the Greenspaces team.


Fleet replacement strategy – 13 low-emission vehicles within the Council’s fleet (10% of total) had been purchased with moves to use more efficient diesel refuse lorries. An electric refuse vehicle was being trialled.


Insulating Council-own buildings – Members asked for information on plans to improve the insulation of buildings owned and leased by the Council and plans to install alternative heating sources. A written answer would be provided.


Domestic retrofit of homes ­– the Committee asked about support for residents who may struggle in harder to heat homes. The Council had been working with the Solar Together Surrey project to support solar panel and battery storage discounts and the Green Jump Surrey scheme which helped to fund grants towards home energy efficiency upgrades.


Natural environment – as part of ecological improvements, glyphosate (a type of weedkiller) was only used as a last resort. Member asked how the Council liaised with stakeholders who owned land next to Council land to ensure that they also adopted this approach.


RESOLVED that the Committee:


(i)             Note the progress on work towards the objectives set out in the Council’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy and proposed new actions provided at Annex 1 and Annex 2.

(ii)            Provide observations set out in the Minutes for consideration by the Executive at its meeting on 18 November 2021.

Supporting documents: