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Agenda item

Wiltshire Council's Response to the Climate Emergency (Carbon Reduction) and Business Plan Update

A report from the Chief Executive Officer.

Minutes:

The Chairman invited Cllr Richard Clewer, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Corporate Services, Heritage, Arts, Tourism, Housing and Communities to introduce a report on Wiltshire Council’s Response to the Climate Emergency and Business Plan Update. The report was on pages 41 - 62 of the agenda and the proposed addendum to the Business Plan was at pages 55 – 56.

 

Cllr Clewer explained there were two elements to the report. It was stated that an addendum was being added to the Business Plan on climate change.

 

The report also detailed the Council’s response to the climate emergency and the efforts being undertaken for Wiltshire Council to become carbon neutral by 2030. Some elements being undertaken to accomplish this were:

 

·       Changing street lights to LED’s;

·       Aiming to build zero carbon new Council houses;

·       Retro fitting existing Council housing stock to make them more efficient;

·       A new Head of Carbon Reduction (Ariane Crampton) had been employed and would work with Overview and Scrutiny to achieve aims;

·       Setting up a Climate Board;

·       Focusing on walking and cycling;

·       Electric buses in Salisbury Park and Ride sites;

·       Joining the Countryside Climate Network as a founder member, which focused on issues faced by rural councils;

·       Increasing engagement with the public;

·       The strategies being developed would be out for consultation later in 2020 before coming back to Council in 2021 for approval.

 

Cllr Clewer proposed, seconded by Cllr Whitehead, that the recommendations as laid out in the report be adopted.

 

The Chairman invited Cllr Graham Wright as Chairman of the Wiltshire Council Global Warming and Climate Change Emergency Task Group and the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee to speak to the report. Cllr Wright stated that the Task group had looked at all of the proposals, had made some minor adjustments and were fully supportive of the recommendations.

 

Public Participation:

 

·       A statement had been received from Chris Caswill regarding reducing carbon and its priority in the Covid recovery plan. The statement was read out by the Democratic Services Officer. Cllr Clewer responded stating that Carbon reduction was being embedded in every part of the recovery plan.

 

All questions and their written responses were contained in agenda supplement 2. All questions were taken as read at the meeting and supplementary questions were asked as follows:

 

·       P20-11 – Andrew Nicolson had submitted a question to Cllr Bridget Wayman and Cllr Toby Sturgis regarding road schemes on the A350 and the SWLEP Rail Strategy.  Andrew Nicholson asked a supplementary question regarding when Wiltshire Council would develop a local rail strategy as part of the local transport plan and what weight were the council giving to the SWLEP Local Rail Strategy.  Cllr Wayman responded stating that the local plan and part of the local transport plan was currently being reviewed. It would be built into the new local transport plan. They had cognisance of the SWELP strategy and it was being taken into account.

 

·       P20-12 – Andrew Nicolson had submitted a question to Cllr Wayman and Cllr Sturgis regarding the Chippenham Urban Expansion distributor road and traffic forecasting. Andrew Nicholson asked a supplementary question of Cllr Whitehead regarding the basis Wiltshire Council had for the claim that Homes England was requiring them to withhold information about the HIF bid. Furthermore, when the web page regarding the Chippenham Urban Expansion and HIF bid information would go live. Cllr Whitehead responded verbally that confidentiality requests had been made by Homes England, Wiltshire Council would release the information when allowed to, apart from confidential commercial information, but could not do this until the contract was finalised. The Public Consultation was always going to start in the summer 2020 (not early 2020) and had been delayed due to Covid, they now aimed to start this towards the end of 2020. They would go fully public with all information when able to.

 

·       P20-32 – Brig Oubridge had submitted a question to Cllr Clewer regarding plans to reduce carbon emissions from motor vehicles and actions being taken to ensure that the Council's development and planning policies would aid reaching the net carbon zero target in 2030, to which a written response was provided. Brig Oubridge asked a supplementary question regarding how Wiltshire Council was to hit its 2030 carbon neutral target if it waited for the Department of Transport to produce a strategy. Cllr Clewer provided a verbal response stating that the Council could not pass legislation, for example on motor vehicles, so it had to wait for Government to act on some elements. It was also necessary to have the infrastructure in place to deal with the solution, for example electric or hydrogen. As a large rural county people needed to get to places and as half of Wiltshire still lived in rural villages cycling could not provide a solution for everything. It was necessary to get the public on board and to put pressure on central Government to act.

 

The Chairman then invited group leaders to speak before opening the debate to all Members.

 

Cllr Philip Whitehead, leader of the Council, stated that due to a previous Council motion proposed by Cllr Thorn, Council had agreed that amendments would be made to the business plan to include carbon reduction. Rather than making ad-hoc amendments throughout the plan it was decided to add an appendix to the business plan covering carbon reduction, until a new business plan was produced in 2021. Climate change needed to be integral in all elements of the business plan.

 

Cllr Thorn, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, thanked the public for their statements and questions. He agreed with a number of the points made, particularly Chris Caswill’s point that climate emergency themes go right through the organisation including the recovery from Covid. Cllr Thorn also agreed with the points made regarding rail travel. He agreed with Cllr Clewer that Wiltshire as a rural county faced specific problems. Cllr Thorn felt the document was a tremendous step in the right direction, however he would have liked the words of his motion to be added to the report since this work had been requested by him.

 

Cllr Clark, as Leader of the Independents, stated that he agreed with all that had been said.

 

Cllr Rogers, as Leader of the Labour Party, thanked Cllr Clewer for his report and stated that he would like the Council to press on with things that were within the Council’s control, such as Council Housing Stock.

 

There were no amendments moved by Group Leaders and debate was opened to all Members.

 

Statements in support included that this was a good step forward and the embedding of climate change into the Business Plan was welcome.

 

Other comments included that the Council was starting from a poor base, the new administration in 2017 had failed to add climate change to the Business Plan and there had been missed opportunities on street lighting. A question was asked as to when the new Climate Change Team would be up and running. A question was also asked as to why the second tranche of Government funding for cycling initiatives was taking so long to implement. Comments were also made that the Council should share all information regarding the HIF bid.

 

Further comments were made regarding rail strategy, which included there was felt to be little interest in the major rail line in the South of Wiltshire and a route that was strategic to the Country.

 

It was stated that the numbers and location of electric car changing points needed to be increased and the maintenance of current stock should be improved, as sometimes they were not working.

 

It was suggested that some Area Board funding could be ringfenced to support local green projects.

 

Cllr Wayman responded to points raised during the debate, on street lighting Cllr Wayman stated that proposals had to be financially viable. Where they were, they would be implemented. Bids to the central Government cycling funding had to be received by 7 August 2020, over 500 proposals from Parishes had been received and these were currently being looked at. Cllr Wayman stated that attendance at the SELCA meetings mentioned by Cllr Devine was very thin and the Council now attended a more effective meeting. Proposals had been put forward by the Council to various funding streams regarding railways.

 

Cllr Clewer responded to points raised during the debate, stating that Cabinet Members had considered the Climate Emergency motion at Council but specific elements were undeliverable due to the wording of the motion.

 

Regarding missed opportunities on street lighting Cllr Clewer stated that proposals had to be financially viable. It was stated that all schemes he proposed would reduce carbon, be fully funded and deliver savings. Carbon reduction projects must be sustainable long term. The Climate Change Team would hopefully be established by October 2020.

 

Regarding the HIF bid, Wiltshire Council had to build houses to meet Government housing targets. It enabled the Council to make development eco-friendlier and more sustainable and they were aiming for net zero carbon development.

 

Cllr Clewer stated that he would look into any issues with electric car charging points and get them resolved. The Council would look at significantly improving the existing Council Housing stock to make it more energy efficient.

 

Area Board funding was being looked at as a result of Covid, and the possibility of ringfencing money for green projects would be looked in to.

 

Regarding rail strategy there was a lot of effort being put into this and work was currently being undertaken in progressing the Devizes station proposal.

 

The Chairman then followed the procedure for voting on substantive items outlined under minute 41 - Chairman’s announcements and it was;

 

Resolved:

 

1.    To amend the Business Plan 2017-2027 to include a Climate Emergency addendum as detailed in paragraph 8 and Appendix 1 of the agenda report (page 41 – 62).

2.    To note the actions taken in response to the climate emergency since November 2019.

 

Supporting documents:

 

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