Agenda item

Heating and Energy Policy

Report of the Cabinet Member Climate Emergency


The Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency introduced the report, saying that everyone was aware of the current cost-of-living crisis and spiralling energy costs, and that as well as making sure residents have access to advice and information, the council must lead by example and take action to lower its own energy bills, while protecting its finances and the planet. Its large portfolio, which includes Trust properties and Cheltenham Borough Homes, results in high energy use, and the report sets out a pathway, starting with benchmarking to understand better our energy use and make sure solutions are equitable, and taking account of changes in the way we operate, such as encouraging on-line meetings where possible, retrofitting older buildings rather than demolishing them, and looking for innovative solutions such as solar power.   She thanked the climate, finance and property teams for their hard work, and asked Members, as civic custodians of the property portfolio, to make sure they lived according to the principles in the document and encouraged partnership organisations to do the same – meeting Net Zero is a team sport, and we must work together to achieve our climate goals.

Members thanked the Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency for her comprehensive and diligent report.  In response to Members’ questions, she said:

-       she was conscious that the Municipal Offices are old and large, with a heating system that doesn’t work as well as we would like.  She confirmed that its future was under constant review, and where possible, officers were encouraged to work from home;

-       she had no reports of staff currently working from home deciding to work in the office to save on heating bills, so could give no opinion on the potential implications of this - she will make some enquiries;

-       regarding the council’s carbon footprint, consideration of this tended to focus on its properties rather than any increase incurred by encouraging staff to work at the office rather than at home, resulting in additional vehicle use, single-use plastic and so on.  The council is always looking for alternative solutions, encouraging staff to understand the impact of what they do, and looking at ways to be more sustainable – it was all about finding the best ways to do business with the lowest possible climate impact;

-       regarding Scope 3 emissions, which seem to be quite low in the report,  those of the council are different from those of an average business, and she hopes to present meaningful and accurate statistics, looking at work the council and its partners do.  It is an ongoing project;

-       she confirmed that Cheltenham Trust is a key priority in the report, particularly as it includes many beautiful heritage buildings which the council wants to preserve for future generations while reducing operation costs;

-       she shared a Member’s concern that energy, gas and water usage would no longer be included in tenants’ service agreements, leaving them responsible for managing their own consumption.  She did not want to leave tenants at the risk of the market with prices spiralling, and was working with the public sector decarbonisation fund, looking to retro-fit existing properties, and making sure future properties were more sustainable and cheaper to run and heat.  Cheltenham Trust is the focus of the report, but CBH tenants will always have support.

Members then moved to the debate, where the following points were made:

-       CBC is taking the climate crisis issue very seriously, and will need to take a more pragmatic planning approach to support residents and businesses who want to make their conservation area or listed homes and buildings more energy efficient, with solar panels, double glazing, air source heat pumps and so on.  Officers are understandably bound by policy, which leads them to recommend refusal, but Planning Committee is more inclined to permit these proposals going forward;

-       Cheltenham’s bigger buildings face tough decisions, such as the Lido, which will see a huge increase in its energy bill when its fixed term contract comes to an end;

-       consideration should also be given to smaller buildings which are now surplus to council requirements, such as the building in Sandford Park – should this be sold off to a developer, demolished, or re-purposed?

-       the report is very welcome, but with the climate emergency declared in 2019 and the cost-of-living crisis in July, the council needs to act faster – it is not being responsive enough;

-       the energy cap will now not apply after April, which will have a huge impact on people all across the country.  It would be helpful if the Cabinet Member could look into this and bring a report to the next meeting;

-       the report doesn’t just set out new ideas but also highlights what the council has already done to tackle the climate emergency.  The declared climate emergency, motions, and adopted supplementary planning document set out the assumptions we want private developers to make regarding renewable energy, and the next review of the Cheltenham Plan and Joint Core Strategy (Joint Spatial Plan) should include very strong policies to combat climate change and energy use.  The Planning Committee has made some brave decisions, including to permit the first zero carbon private housing development in Leckhampton, which demonstrates the council’s commitment to take this agenda forward;

-       it is hoped that the development in West Cheltenham will build in energy efficiency from the start rather than needing to retro-fit in the future.

Summing up, the Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency welcomed the assurance that Planning Committee was working to ensure that developers live up to the council’s aspirations, and agreed that the SPD is a useful tool for heritage and conservation applications.  She said she would be happy to meet with the Lido Trust to discuss solutions to their future energy bills, and confirmed that a lot of partnership work across the Cabinet is taking place to solve the problems which will arise for residents when the energy cap comes to an end.

The Mayor moved to the vote where Members voted unanimously in support of the recommendations as follows:

1.    to approve the Heating and Energy Policy included in Appendix 2;


2.    to delegate to the Director of Climate Change, in consultation with the Director of Finance and Assets (Deputy s151 Officer), responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the Policy.




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