This report will follow in an Additional Papers pack, once the report has been published for consideration of the Executive Committee.
The Vice-Chair welcomed the Net Zero Projects Manager from the Midlands Net Zero Hub to the meeting who provided a detailed presentation regarding the Redditch Borough Council’s Carbon Reduction Strategy and Action Plan. During the presentation Members’ attention was drawn to the following:
· Redditch Borough Council’s Carbon Reduction Strategy and Action Plan covered exclusively the carbon dioxide emissions of the Council (including direct emissions from the activities of the Council and the emissions that the Council had influence over).
· The Strategy and Action Plan would need to be reviewed annually and progress against targets monitored twice a year.
· The Council’s carbon reduction targets were set in line with the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) target of 50% carbon reduction by 2030 and the ambition of becoming net zero by 2040.
· To reach an interim target of 50% carbon emissions reduction by 2030, the Council would need to reduce its emissions by approximately 110 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. To achieve net zero in the remaining 10 years to 2040 a target of approximately 87 tonnes of emission savings per year was needed.
· Even though the Council’s own emissions were only a small part of the borough’s total, it was in a strong position to exert influence on the wider geographical area.
· For the purposes of carbon reduction strategies, carbon dioxide emissions were categorised as coming from three sources – direct use of fuel (such as transport, gas heating), use of electricity, and indirect emissions (such as via the supply chain).
· A climate change officer would be appointed (a shared post between Redditch and Bromsgrove) and there would be further resource requirement as the Strategy was implemented. This would be accounted for in the Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP).
· There had been significant investment planned for the Town Hall such as putting heat pumps and new glazing.
Following the presentation, a question was asked regarding how many times the Council’s Climate Change Steering Group met since the Council declared a climate emergency in 2019. The Portfolio Holder for Climate Change stated that the group met on average four times a year since 2019, and three times in the municipal year 2021/22 which included having speakers from various stakeholder groups coming to the Steering Group meetings. Some Members considered this insufficient and stated that the Council must be bolder in tackling climate change.
Members asked about how the Council could encourage developers to build carbon neutral homes and asked whether planning policy powers were available to the Council in this area. Officers responded that the only way to require new builds to be carbon neutral standard was to make this a requirement in the Borough of Redditch Local Plan that acted as the Borough’s statutory development plan. Such a requirement would be, however, far in excess of any current national Building Regulation standards and could be challenged by developers on legal grounds. This issue would therefore need to be carefully considered before any commitment be made. There was also the need for any consideration of carbon reductions in the local plans to be underpinned by viability assessments to ensure that the demands placed on developers did not have an overly adverse impact on housing delivery.
Some Members expressed the view that changes to the Local Plan needed to be implemented in a measured way and stated that the Carbon Reduction Strategy Implementation Plan that was before the Committee represented an ambitious plan which had carbon reduction targets that were more ambitious than those set at a national level.
With this view in mind, Councillor Baker-Price proposed that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee endorse the recommendation contained in the report, that is to recommend to the Executive that the Council’s Carbon Reduction Strategy and Action Plan be endorsed and adopted
Councillor Khan then proposed the following amendment:
“That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee advise the Executive that the following additions be made to the Carbon Reduction Strategy Implementation Plan and the Borough’s Local Plan, due to the seriousness of the situation and the need to ensure that the Council does more to reduce carbon emissions for the benefit of all residents of the Borough:
i) An amendment to the Local Plan to encourage developers to build carbon neutral, carbon negative, wooden or virtual plastic free housing of which examples already existed in Redditch.
ii) An additional section in the Carbon Reduction Strategy Implementation to state that the Council would research and seek grant funding and run a campaign promoting the insulation of new build housing.
iii) A requirement in the Local Plan that all new builds in the Borough should not only have EV chargers but also solar panels.”
This amendment was debated by the Committee.
The Leader of the Council commented that the points raised in the amended recommendation were important and would be taken into account by the Executive Committee as the Council needed to lead by example on this matter. He further noted that a number of important measures were already being implemented such as the Council doubling the amount of tree planting. Lastly, the Leader of the Council commented that considering changes to the local planning policy might better be considered by a planning panel, for example a planning advisory panel (PAP) which could be reconstituted.
Some Members made general observations that the Climate Change Panel was first instituted in 2007 and the Council’s first Climate Change Strategy was introduced in 2019. In connection with this, some Members felt there were limitations to the Council’s ability to have an influence on climate change, at least in the short term, as was the case with use of motor vehicles by the general population. It was thought that awareness-raising campaigns were the best instrument available to the Council in driving behaviour change on such matters.
Following the discussion, the amended motion proposed by Councillor Khan was put to the vote. On being put to the vote this recommendation was lost.
Councillor Baker-Price’s original recommendation was then considered and on being put to the vote this recommendation was carried.
RECOMMENDED to the Executive
that the Council’s Carbon Reduction Strategy and Action Plan be endorsed and adopted.