by Jackie Hook on 31 January, 2020
Globally, nationally and locally, 2019 will be remembered for amongst other things, the term “Climate emergency” not only becoming common parlance and a headline for many news stories but also becoming the subject of Declarations by many Council’s across the country. Whether it’s news of Australian fires, our own warmest decade on record or more extreme weather events, increasing numbers of people, are demanding that we as a Council address this issue.
It was in April 2019, before the local elections in May that I, as an opposition Councillor, put forward our Declaration of a Climate Emergency for discussion at Teignbridge Council. Fortunately, the Declaration received unanimous support. With our (Lib Dems) victory in the election, to run Teignbridge Council in May 2019, I found myself appointed (upon request I should say) as Portfolio Holder for Climate Emergency and Housing. It has thus fallen to me to implement the Declaration I proposed. This is of course is no small task, and I and the Lib Dems are conscious of the great responsibility that now lies with us to achieve urgent action in Teignbridge.
9 months into our administration and some really good progress is being made.
The Declaration of Climate Emergency committed us to a number of actions, one of these was to lobby government, which we have done, and received a letter back from both recent PM’s!! Several parts of our letter remained unanswered by government and it is clear that continuing to lobby government by a variety of means is urgent and crucial, if we as a country are to collectively make progress to carbon neutrality. We as a local Council cannot do this alone without drastic policy and funding changes from government.
The Declaration also committed us to produce an Action Plan, within 6 months, which would outline adequate staff time and resources to undertake the actions to achieve the target. The Framework for Action and approval for the advertising and funding of a Climate Change Officer post was approved at Full Council on Sept 24th We have now appointed a Climate Change Officer.
Another important part of our work has been as part of the Local Plan review of policies. The review of policies was due in any case, our Local Pan being 5 years old, and thus provides us with a fantastic opportunity to update our policies to be exemplar ones that reflect our commitment to low carbon sustainable development. The process of adopting a new Plan takes approximately 18 months, so we were also keen to ensure that our current Local Plan policies were bought up to date with regards to national climate targets and that we committed to give increased weight to those Local Plan policies, when considering planning applications. This was approved at Executive in October 2019. Also approved was a £5000 budget for specialist planning advice to assess planning applications for compliance with low carbon policies prior to our full time Climate Change Officer being appointed.
During 2019 we also consulted on an Electric and Low Emission Vehicle Policy. This was approved this January, after we received widespread support from Town and Parish Councils. The policy includes commitment to install 4 EV charging points in car parks in Newton Abbot and Teignmouth in/or close to the town’s Air Quality Management Areas, which are areas of poorer air quality. It also amongst other things includes commitments to replace parts of our vehicle fleet (those where it is possible) with electric vehicles, and to require future residential, commercial and public car parks to install EV charging facilities.
In addition, we have overhauled our Sustainable Procurement Policy. Teignbridge DC spends approximately £21m per year on goods, works and services. These contracts, if awarded in recognition of good sustainable practices and procedures, can have a positive effect on our local economy, wellbeing, environment and carbon footprint. We will continue to review our procurement policies, and are also undertaking work to identify opportunities to increase and retain local spending power and improve local economic resilience, through “community wealth building”.
In Teignbridge Council itself works are ongoing to enable more “agile” working, minimising staff travel and increasing officer efficiency. The Council purchased 2 electric bikes for officers to use, instead of their cars for local site visits also saving the Council mileage payments. Improvements in the heating system at both Forde House and Broadmeadow Sports Centre are programmed.
What we do here in Teignbridge is also within a Framework of Action taking place at a Devon wide level. A Devon Climate Emergency Response Group has been set up with all the agencies that would normally be in an emergency response group. Devon County Council will also be undertaking a County wide Citizen’s Assembly, these are specific mechanisms for community engagement which get together a demographically and socially representative group of the public for an intensive look at a topic.
Lastly, but possibly most importantly we have set up and agreed a close working relationship with our community partners Action on Climate in Teignbridge (ACT).
I met with key individuals from the existing Climate Action network in Teignbridge immediately after the Declaration was made and they organised the very well attended Climate Action meeting at Coombeshead Academy in early July. Since then they have formed topic based Task groups, come up with initial ideas for action and policy changes, and we have since gone on to formally approve a close working relationship with them. We as a Council and District can count ourselves extremely privileged to have such a dedicated, hard working committed set of experts from our community that we can work with.
There is more detailed information on TDC’s webpage, including information about what you can do as an individual to reduce your own carbon footprint.Leave a comment