Agenda item

Climate change overview

Objective: To look at CBC’s climate change initiatives and the relevant Cabinet/Council decisions in the near future, measuring outcomes and addressing risks


Alexandra Wells (Climate Emergency Project Support Officer)

Laura Tapping (Climate Emergency Programme Officer)


Laura Tapping, Climate Emergency Programme Officer, gave a short presentation outlining the council’s climate emergency plan, as set out in the discussion paper circulated to Members, and highlighting what needs to be done for Cheltenham to become a net zero council and borough by 2030.  She acknowledged that there would be many challenges, that communities and individuals, as well as the council itself, would need to change their behaviour, and that a bigger team and budget would be needed to fulfil all the actions set out in the pathway published last year.


In response to Member questions, officers confirmed that:

-       with regard to the selling of council assets to save carbon emissions, a huge range of things contributed to carbon emissions, and that every service needed to review what it was doing and how, every decision needed detailed consideration of its carbon impact in order to bring about any reduction, and climate change must be the lens through which everything the council does is looked at to reach targets.  New technology and the way the government is looking at the problem should help local authorities to take action. Asked whether the team was looking at hypo-situations, such as the council’s move from the Municipal Offices or analysis of the energy efficiency of its services, Alex Wells, Energy Officer, confirmed that part of the reason why her role had been created was to work with the property team, and ensure that energy efficiency is always considered when looking at the property portfolio;

-       as a brief explanation of heat transfer,  a heat network could connect a number of buildings where excess and waste heat is produced – such as the cloud of steam over the testing facilities at Spirax Sarco – and look for ways to use this to heat other buildings.  This was part of government strategy and a number of potential opportunities had been identified;

-       the ‘missing link’ between the work of the climate emergency team and the council’s green space team had recently been identified, and some baseline surveys of land would be created to understand biodiversity and where improvements could be made, such as by reducing mowing activities. Officer resource would need to be found for this.  The recently-published SPD included a whole section about biodiversity, encouraging homeowners and developers to consider the green spaces around them when taking any actions;

-       improving bus services was a big aim of the team, in addition to encouraging people to walk or cycle;  GCC was responsible for bus provision, and there had been little scrutiny of the service, but officers hoped pressure would be put on bus companies to improve;

-       the remit of the climate emergency team was to offer guidance to CBC departments rather than implement works - the Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP) set out actions for the team, though in some cases this simply meant designing and putting together a business case for a project. The team worked closely with other departments to help make things happen, and was currently undergoing analysis of its role and how best to get its message across to all council departments.  Through the socio-environmental impact tool, they would look at the potential social and environmental impacts of any project the council is hoping to deliver, and work alongside all departments to make sure projects were as environmentally friendly as possible. 

-       regarding the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), and in light of a recently refused planning application for 350 houses with no climate consideration, a statement was being developed, and it would be going to council for approval on 20th June, then publicised as widely as possible.  The Planning team would undergo training to use and apply the SPD; the challenge would be in getting it embedded in the planning system and getting developers to use it.

-       this was a problem nationally, with the national planning framework not keeping pace with the need for reduction of carbon emissions.  Mike Redman, Director of Environment, emphasised the need for local authorities to work collectively and lobby government, and to make the SPD enforceable as policy. It was only intended to be an interim measure until national policy caught up;

-       the team was already working on business cases for council buildings, such as variable speed drives at Leisure@, which would contribute to the climate target and achieve £50k saving a year for 15 years. Getting the prep right and funding in place would provide the data to take work forward;

-       the CEAP remained a work in progress, taking into account  public  awareness, technological changes, availability of grants etc.  The Director of Environment added that he sat on a climate leadership group, together with Cabinet Members from district councils, key partners, and GCC.  GCC was increasingly aware of the role it needs to play, and key areas where it could have an impact – notably transport which was currently responsible for one third of all carbon emissions.  The work was hugely challenging and would require lifestyle changes, which would bring additional benefits.  Going forward, the county would be on board, and CBC would work alongside them, but some of the messaging would not be easy, and everyone had a role to play. The role of councillors was to explain why the proposed changes were so mission critical to the long-term health of the plant;

-       in view of the complex and expensive nature of the messaging, the majority of the public did not understand how much work was going on behind the scenes, and it wouldn’t be reasonable to ask people to do things the council itself wouldn’t do, so communicating this message and emphasising how we could all work together to improve matters would be key. Laura Tapping confirmed that a county-wide climate co-ordinator was in post, and was proving successful in communicating between districts.  Alex Wells added that technology was moving apace with brilliant new innovations – such as solar window film suitable for listed buildings – that Cheltenham would continue to seek out and implement, thus leading by example.


The Chair invited the new Cabinet Member Climate Emergency to say a few words.  She thanked everyone for their congratulations on her new role, the scope and opportunities of which were enormous.  Of all the portfolios, she considered hers has the biggest potential impact but also faces the biggest challenges. She praised the great team of very supportive officers, and looking forward to getting on with the job.

The Chair thanked the team for attending the meeting and giving an insight into this long-running process.  He looked forward to monitoring the progress of its work going forward.


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