The Commission considered a report of the Director of Environment and Transport which sought its views on the draft revised Environment Strategy for 2018-203, the supporting draft revised Action Plan and draft Tranche 1 Carbon Reduction Roadmap. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda item 9’ is filed with these minutes.
Arising from discussion, the following points arose:
Members noted that the Action Plan was a live
document and therefore flexible enough to allow for the current circumstances
arising from the coronavirus outbreak to be reflected. It was suggested that in the pre-amble to the
Action Plan, the outbreak and impact of Covid-19 be recorded and the need for
further work as a result acknowledged.
It was highlighted that whilst the Council’s
current environmental ambitions remained unchanged, some of the work and
timescales for targets would need to be adjusted given that business as usual
was on hold in some areas due to restrictions put in place to fight Covid-19. It was noted that in addition to the Action
Plan, the business cases supporting delivery of some initiatives within the
Strategy would also need to be considered and refreshed.
Members noted the comments of the Environment
and Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee which had also considered the
Strategy and agreed that proceeding with the revised Strategy despite current
circumstances was right and necessary.
Members noted the carbon emissions from the
Council’s internal operations which fell within Tranche 1 of the carbon
reduction roadmap (13,000 tonnes) was much lower than that within Tranche 2
(areas over which the local authorities would have influence) (3.6 million
tonnes). Members agreed that Tranche 2
would be much harder to deliver and dependent on joint working with other
organisations including District Councils and the LLEP. Members noted that those areas over which the
Council was considered not to have
influence included motorways, powers stations and airports which were under
central Government control.
Members expressed the view that whilst the
County Council was not responsible for monitoring air quality, this was a key
environmental factor for local residents and the
County Council would play its part in the design and construction of roads
across the County. Members were
reassured that whilst the report had focused on changes made to address the
Council’s declaration of a climate emergency, the Strategy itself had a total
of 6 themes that went beyond climate change, air quality being one of
them. These had also been updated and
reflected in the revised Action Plan.
The impact of Covid-19 on the Council’s working
practices had been significant with many officers now working from home. It was acknowledged that this had reduced
those driving into the office and therefore represented a positive,
environmentally. It was agreed that
working practices and the benefits of home working on a larger scale may
present an opportunity to be looked at in future. A view was raised, however, of the need to
ensure this was balanced with the needs of individual staff who might feel
isolated working from home and whose mental health and wellbeing might be
adversely affected as a result. It was
agreed, that a holistic view of any future proposals would be necessary.
A lot of work on biodiversity had been
undertaken and the Council’s Tree Management Strategy had been aligned with the
Council’s environmental ambitions.
(viii) HGV transport in the County, particularly on minor routes and in built up residential and rural areas was raised as a concern. Whilst technology was progressing for electric cars, this had not yet extended to commercial vehicles, lorries and HGVs. A suggestion was raised that the use of A and B roads by HGV lorries should be limited, but it was acknowledged that this would require Government intervention and new legislation. Members noted that the Council already worked with partners in addressing environmental matters arising from transport, including, for example, work with the LLEP on the Local Industrial Strategy and its own environment strategies.
That the comments now made be submitted to the Cabinet at its meeting on 28 April.