Agenda item

Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan

To consider the report of the Cabinet Member for Environment seeking the adoption of a Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan.


95.1    The Cabinet Member for Environment, Councillor Cook, introduced the report and explained that Cabinet was being asked to recommend to Council to resolve that the Climate Change Strategy be adopted and issued for public consultation. He reminded Members of the background of the strategy, which was outlined in paragraph 3 in the report, and advised that Section 4 of the Climate Change Strategy, provided in Appendix 1, outlined in significant detail how the Council intended to approach decarbonisation. Councillor Cook thanked WSP consultants and senior Officers for their efforts in producing the strategy, as well as Members who had provided comments and contributions.


95.2    The Chair expressed the view that the report was very detailed and made for good reading. He asked how the Council could best influence areas, such as transport and highways, which were not under its control but were considered to be significant drivers of emissions. The Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead agreed that the Council was not the responsible authority for highways, however it was his hope that Officers would work collaboratively with colleagues in Gloucestershire County Council.  He also noted that the Climate Leadership Gloucestershire group was key in driving collaboration between the District and County Councils. The Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead further commented that the Council was leading by example, through its hybrid working model and green travel initiatives, and could use its assets to assist the highways authority, such as providing more electric vehicle charging points in car parks and promoting green infrastructure.


95.3    The Chair referred to the Council’s ambition to plant more trees, and asked whether there would be provision for tree lined avenues as a requirement in new planning applications. The Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead confirmed that developers were now required to include tree lined streets in planning applications, which also had public health and social value benefits. Councillor Cook further confirmed that under current planning legislation, developers were required to show how they would contribute to biodiversity net gain.


95.4    Councillor Pullen thanked Officers and Councillor Cook for the detailed report. He asked for further details as to how the Council proposed to consult on the Climate Change Strategy. He wondered that as the strategy was such an important piece of work for the city, whether consideration could be given to consulting through roadshows as well as the usual online consultation methods. Councillor Cook responded that the detail around how consultation would be undertaken was yet to be developed. The Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead noted that as a District Council, the Council was more limited in funding than larger authorities but would look to improve consultation, particularly in its discussions with young people.


95.5    Councillor Pullen referred to the narrative in the report at 3.8 concerning Member engagement, and asked whether consideration could be given to a Member Briefing following the 2024 local elections to brief new Councillors on the Climate Change Strategy. Councillor Cook noted his agreement, and confirmed that this could be included as part of the new Council induction cycle.


95.6    Councillor Pullen expressed the view that the Climate Change Action Plan needed to be driven at the highest possible political level owing to the importance of the strategy. He commented that a designated Cabinet Member for Climate Change or a Member Champion would be best placed to drive this forward. Councillor Cook noted his agreement but commented that this would have to be a matter for the Council administration post-May elections.


95.7    Councillor Morgan queried whether the Climate Change Strategy ought to have been put out for public consultation as a draft document. Councillor Cook noted that the strategy was a live document and would incorporate any changes which the Council felt had merit. The Managing Director further explained that the Council was keen to avoid any further delay and wanted to publish the document for public consultation so as not to push the strategy into the new Council term following the upcoming local elections. The Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead stated that the Council would be required to undertake biannual reviews of its progress.


95.8    Councillor Wilson observed that an evolving Climate Change Roadmap had the potential to be capital-intensive and asked whether the Council was aware of a steer from central Government in respect of long-term funding for such projects. Councillor Cook stated his agreement that additional funding would be needed from central Government, and provided an overview of an initiative he was aware of where private sector businesses were working in partnership with the public sector to deliver climate change commitments. The Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead asserted that there was a high degree of assumption that central Government would need to release capital investment in this area.


95.9    Councillor Hilton referred to the commitment of the Council to reach net zero across its functions by 2030 and noted that there was no detailed action plan in place as to how this would be achieved. He further noted that many residents in Gloucester would not be able to self-fund green improvements such as solar panels, and that Gloucester had an added challenge in that there were extensive conservation areas throughout the city. The Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead confirmed that the Council had contributed to lobbying central Government to remove VAT on solar panels.


95.10  In response to additional comments from Councillor Hilton regarding the use of hydrogen fuel as an alternative green fuel, the Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead noted that in relation to buses, the use of hydrogen fuel was not widely applied owing to the cost and electric vehicle batteries being much cheaper. He agreed that hydrogen fuel did have significant potential in industries such as heavy shipping.

95.11  In response to an additional question from Councillor Hilton, Councillor Cook clarified that ‘HVO’  was an acronym for Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil fuel.


95.12  Councillor A. Chambers queried why there was no reference to the Strategic Local Plan (SLP) in the report and Climate Change Strategy. The Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead noted that this was an oversight and confirmed that the Council would need to develop its planning policy framework when delivering the Climate Change Strategy.


95.13  Councillor A. Chambers asked for the Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead’s view on the proposed future housing development at Podsmead. The Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead noted his understanding that the site had been scoped for additional tree planting, and that there was significant housing demand in Gloucester which needed to be balanced with the Council’s green aspirations. The Managing Director reiterated that the developer would need to demonstrate biodiversity net gain as part of any planning application.


95.14  In response to a question from Councillor A. Chambers regarding the latest waste recycling rates in the city, Councillor Cook confirmed that the percentage of total waste recycled currently stood at around 43%.


95.15  In response to additional points from Councillor A. Chambers regarding what was meant by the GHH acronym at 4.9 in the report, the Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead highlighted that the strategy document included a glossary of terms, and confirmed that minor text errors would be taken up with WSP consultants and amended prior to the document being put to public consultation.


95.16  Councillor A. Chambers asked how many electric vehicle charging points were available in Gloucester currently, and how many additional charging points were likely to be in place by 2023. Councillor Cook advised that a report concerning electric vehicle charging points was being brought to Cabinet in March. It was explained that Gloucestershire County Council were the responsible authority for on-street charging points, however if approved, phase 1 of the Council’s electric vehicle plan provided for an additional 6-9 charging points, with phase 2 aiming to deliver 68 additional points in Council-owned car parks.


95.17  Councillor A. Chambers referred to the 4-step Process of Climate Mitigation Assessment at 3.1 in the strategy document and asked for an idea of expected timeframes. The Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead explained that the strategy before the Committee was a strategic document which needed to be read in conjunction with a Climate Change Action Plan.


95.18  In response to concerns raised from Councillor A. Chambers regarding a previous tree planting initiative, the Climate Change and Decarbonisation Lead pointed to the challenges of unusual planting conditions as a result of extreme weather but acknowledged that woodland planting would be done differently in the future, through further coordination with the Open Spaces team.


95.19  Councillor Pullen proposed the following recommendations, which were agreed and approved by the Committee.


RESOLVED that the Overview & Scrutiny Committee RECOMMENDS that:


(1)  Consideration be given to undertaking consultation in the form of roadshows, as well as online consultation, with a particular focus on ascertaining the views of young people on the Climate Change Strategy.


(2)  A Member Briefing be offered to new Councillors on the Climate Change Strategy following the 2024 local elections.


(3)  The development of the Climate Change Action Plan be driven at the highest political level, either through a designated Cabinet Member for Climate Change or a Member Champion.




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