The following questions, received under Standing Order 34, were put to the Chairman of the Scrutiny Commission:
Questions asked by Mr John Marriott on behalf of the Campaign to Protect Rural England
In response to a question at the Environment and Transport Scrutiny meeting in March 2019, Mr Pearson acknowledged that
"there is an increasing urgency for action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and that this needs to be achieved through the achievement of carbon neutrality in the quickest time possible"
and that it was
"important to set on record that the County Council is committed to taking actions aimed at reducing the worst impact of climate change."
He noted that
"We will however continue to take action to meet and exceed where possible the commitments and targets set out in our Environment Strategy."
"We take our leadership role seriously and seek to build on the global and national commitments made to address the situation by working with partners to take action in Leicestershire."
Inter alia, one of the actions was
Working with the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership and other partners to identify how we can work together to move Leicestershire towards a low carbon energy and transport future.
In May 2019 the County Council declared a Climate Emergency and in September the Cabinet agreed to Review its Environment Strategy and Action Plan. One of the key actions was to "consider how best to engage with Communities, businesses and other stakeholders."
In September 2019, in response to a question from CPRE Leicestershire, the Council acknowledged that "the private car would be likely to remain the dominant mode of travel." It was claimed that the SGP was predicted to have a minor positive effect overall on Climate Change, although there appears to be no evidence to support this statement.
The joint Leicestershire / Leicester City "Strategic Transport Policies" document has been approved for consultation, however it does not seem to appear on the City Council's web site. This is an extremely simplistic and vague document which lacks any supporting information. It fails to explain how the policies will accommodate additional development or show that it will achieve an acceptable transport and environmental solution. It follows the Strategic Growth Plan in assuming that new road projects, and other proposals to increase highway capacity significantly, are essential. These views appear to reflect the views of bodies like LLEP, Midlands Engine and a small group of 'stakeholders" with mainly business interests.
On the 5th March 2020 the Environment and Transport Scrutiny Committee was due to consider a Revised Environment Strategy (RES) 2018-2030 prior to it being presented to Cabinet on 28 April 2020 and to County Council on 13 May 2020. The RES refers to the County Council's declaration of Climate Emergency and to its commitment to support the limiting of global warming to less than 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement.
The declaration also requested officers to undertake a review of the aspects of the RES necessary to achieve the carbon neutrality by 2030 aspiration, together with an assessment of the cost and technology implications.
The Scrutiny report for RES notes (para 12) that wider ‘local authority influenced’ emissions for Leicestershire includes emissions from the Housing, Transport, Agriculture and Industry sectors. It points out that this will include "Vehicles driving through and within the county". In para 13 & 14 it notes that LCC internal emissions are essentially trivial compared to those which it could influence. Transport is recognised as being a major contributor and potentially the most difficult to tackle.
The recent decision regarding Heathrow Airport and the Government's commitment to the Paris Agreement, makes it even more obvious that an urgent review must be carried out of the SGP and transport policies to produce a sustainable solution to meet Climate Change Commitments while improving the wellbeing of Leicestershire people and minimising the impact on the County's wider environment.
CPRE Leicestershire asks:
1. What discussions has the County Council had with the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership and other partners to identify how it can work together to move Leicestershire towards a low carbon energy and transport future?
2. What progress has been made on engaging with the wider community and interested organisations;
3. Is the County Council aware of Leicester City Council actions in regard to engaging with the wider community, business and organisations concerned with Climate Change and environmental issues?
4. Has the County Council had any discussions with the City Council or other organisations with regard to utilising the Bus Act 2017 to create a much more integrated public transport system for Leicester & Leicestershire?
5. What are the County Council’s plans for engagement in 2020 with organisations concerned with environmental and sustainability issues? Business and the wider community?
CPRE Leicestershire is ready to engage with the County Council and is aware that other organisations also wish to engage.
Response from the Chairman:
The report that went to Environment and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 5 March 2020 explained the County Council’s approach to taking forward action on the commitments made in the Climate Emergency declaration. Leicestershire County Council will be developing actions in two tranches. Tranche 1 (which was included in the papers to the Environment and Transport Overview Scrutiny Committee) deals with the council’s own ‘measured emissions’ (those which we report to the Government) while Tranche 2 will deal with the council’s ‘unmeasured emissions’ (those emissions which we don’t have to report on or are difficult or impossible to measure) and the wider emissions of Leicestershire. Therefore, to date the majority of effort has been focussed on revising the Environment Strategy and Action Plan and in producing the Carbon Reduction Roadmap for the Tranche 1 emissions. Leicestershire County Council is now in the process of starting work on the Tranche 2 roadmap and it is in doing this that we will start examining, considering and taking action on those areas picked up in many of the questions below.
1. The County Council has worked with the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) and Leicester City Council to produce an Energy Infrastructure Strategy for the LLEP area which has made a range of recommendations for how emissions from energy and transport could be reduced. These recommendations have been included with the draft Local Industrial Strategy (LIS). We have contributed to the environmental evidence base that is informing the development of the LIS. We are also working with the LLEP to develop a Natural Capital Investment Plan which will support the LIS. We are participating in a Working Group that has been set up by the LLEP to explore electric vehicles (EV) and EV Infrastructure solutions and a second Working Group that will explore solutions in relation to the use of biofuels.
2. As explained above this will be considered as part of developing the Tranche 2 Carbon Reduction Roadmap. Some initial work has taken place on undertaking some Stakeholder Mapping which will inform what organisations should / could be engaged with.
3. The County Council is aware and has had some discussions with the City Council on this and plans to have further discussions. Their experience will be taken into account when engaging with stakeholders on the environment.
4. The Bus Bill was welcomed by Leicestershire County Council on its enactment as it removed many of the barriers to creating integrated sustainable passenger transport networks across wider areas, and the authorities discussed and explored the potential opportunities offered by the Bus Services Act. However, the realities and cost implications of implementing transport integration from mechanisms such as Franchising or Enhanced Partnerships are prohibitive without the additional support of long-term financial settlements from Government, particularly revenue. To date this remains one of the main barriers to realistically allowing better utilisation of the Bus Services Act 2017 to create more integrated passenger transport networks, and the County Council will continue to press Government to deliver long term funding settlements.
The above notwithstanding, we engage with the City Council and key stakeholders on an ongoing basis within our current working framework with the aim of improving and better integrating sustainable passenger transport provision in Leicestershire, which is to promote, encourage and enable use of more sustainable modes of travel over single occupancy car use.
For example, through our working partnership with the City Council on their Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) bid a bus alliance is being explored to integrate transport provision better, the objectives of which include; improving local air quality, reducing congestion through modal shift and improving commercial viability of the bus network. A notable element of this TCF bid is the electrification of Park and Ride bus services, which are jointly funded between both authorities, which will reduce carbon emissions delivering air quality benefits. (This builds on previous joint working, including to deliver bus service improvements along the A426 corridor.)
We are also in the process of developing the Leicester and Leicestershire Strategic Transport Priorities (LLSTP), in partnership with Leicester City Council, which highlights where the two Local Transport Authorities will work together to deliver common transport aims and objectives to support the development of the Leicester and Leicestershire Strategic Growth Plan out to 2050. The principal aims of the LLSTP are to:
· Improve connectivity;
· Support the transition to a low carbon and circular economy;
· Support national and international efforts in combatting the impacts of and adapting to climate change;
The LLSTP is currently out to public consultation and the key documents can be found at: https://www.leicestershire.gov.uk/have-your-say/current-consultations/leicester-and-leicestershire-strategic-transport-priorities
The County Council continues to seek to identify opportunities to utilise better the mechanisms of the Bus Service Act 2017 with relevant partners within the funding constraints is it working within.
5. Plans are being developed. It is too early to give details of what this may look like, but the intention is to engage with key stakeholders and the wider community.
Mr Marriott asked a supplementary question on the response to question 4, to the effect that the Leicester and Leicestershire Strategic Transport Priorities focused on seeking large amounts of infrastructure funding to build more roads. It did not address what could be done to reduce traffic and improve public transport. He queried whether an estimate had been made of how much that would have?
At the invitation of the Chairman, the Director of Environment and Transport responded to the effect that the County Council had been successful to date in attracting funding to influence behavioural change, for example through the use of buses, cycling and walking. It was hoped that the Government’s new Bus Strategy would provide an opportunity to do more of this. The County Council also looked for opportunities to promote sustainable transport through its new road schemes. Estimates of the impact of sustainable travel schemes would be worked up once the Council knew what funding was likely to be available from the Government.
The Director of Environment and Transport also confirmed that the Leicester and Leicestershire Strategic Transport Priorities were currently out for consultation. The City and County Councils were taking different engagement approaches but if comments relating to the City were made to the County Council, they would be discussed with the City Council and taken into account.