Jackie Hook

Liberal Democrat County Councillor Newton Abbot North, District Councillor Bushell Ward Learn more

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Climate Change and Housing Development

by Jackie Hook on 8 February, 2020

We are compelled by government to build a certain number of houses per year in Teignbridge. How as a District do we match that imposition from government, with our District target to be carbon neutral by 2025 and the urgent need to address the climate emergency?

For some time now, some of the public have suggested that TDC should rip up its Declaration of a Climate Emergency because of the continuing housing development, in particular because of the recent approval by Planning Committee of the Langford Bridge application for 450 houses. I receive regular abuse across social media and in the newspaper, for this apparent anomaly, even though I wasn’t actually at the Planning Committee that made this decision. I don’t know how I would have voted if I had been there, since I haven’t heard the full range of opinions and information that were presented at the Committee. However, in my role of Portfolio Holder for Climate Emergency I would have spoken about how important it is that we build new houses in sustainable sites, near to public transport, and in particular near to railway stations, so that we can minimise the use of cars.

The housing numbers situation is well known, but just to stress again, the number of houses each Council are required to build are dictated by central government. The figure for Teignbridge District is 760 per year. We are tested by a Housing Delivery Test to ensure we keep to this target, with increasing penalties, including the requirement to allocate even more land for development if we do not keep up with this target. Those who say “grow some balls” and just defy government are suggesting a highly irresponsible path that will result in more indiscriminate housing development over a wider area. It’s a bit like suggesting to people “grow some balls “ and stop paying your income tax, it wont work and you will suffer more as a result.

So, if we are compelled to build 760 houses the question is where and how will we build them to ensure they are as sustainable as possible. Since the biggest element of carbon emissions from a new housing development will be the travel patterns of those that live there, then we must ensure they are built near existing facilities, employment, shops, education, and public transport, especially railway stations. Draw a circle of 2 miles around every railway station in Teignbridge and a small number of potential housing sites present themselves. Some are brownfield sites but these are few and even if we build densely on these we will fall far short of the 760 per year. However, one of those sites within 2 miles of a railway station is represented by the Langford Bridge planning application. It is in fact far more of a sustainable site than the expansion to the west of Newton Abbot.

Having located the best place for housing development we must then ensure that houses are built to the highest possible standards in terms of energy efficiency, ideally powered by renewables. We should ensure as many facilities as possible are included within the development to cut down on travel, and that there are good public transport and cycling and walking facilities provided. Lastly all of this should be done without damaging ecology and biodiversity, in fact we are now obliged to achieve a 10% increase in biodiversity.

Now one could question whether all this is possible, I question it myself, in particular, with regards to public transport, to which our current government gives little support. To be honest I have little confidence that the legislative framework provided by the current government will allow us to deliver these developments in a sustainable manner, all we can do is make sure that the housing we are compelled to provide is located as sustainably as possible, and have ambitious policies in our new Local Plan that will best achieve sustainable living.

If there is any lobbying that needs to go on it is at national government level, to challenge their house building numbers, ask them to increase our ability to provide more genuinely affordable housing, to provide real and significant support for public transport, and better enable local renewable energy supply.

I didn’t vote for this Conservative government, for a Prime Minister who didn’t turn up to the Climate Debate, or for a local MP who didn’t turn up to the local Climate Change Question Time, but this government now has a huge majority, and probably believes it has a mandate to continue ignoring the issue of climate change. That will make our job, my job, here in Teignbridge all the more difficult. We can only do so much locally and you can be assured that I will do all I can to address the emergency in our District.

New development will only contribute a small amount to our carbon emissions, the big areas we need to tackle are all our existing travel choices, and retrofitting for energy efficiency our existing housing stock. Concentrating exclusively on new development will mean we fall well short of our carbon target.

Thankfully we are working with Action on Climate in Teignbridge, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic group of volunteers, who have brought together existing climate action groups in Teignbridge under one umbrella. Together in a constructive and cooperative manner we are engaging with Town and Parish Councils with projects moving us towards our carbon target. I would urge you to get involved and play your part. I’m not ready to rip up our Declaration of Climate Emergency and I hope you are willing to get on board as well.

You can find much more information at https://www.teignbridge.gov.uk/environmental-health-and-wellbeing/climate-change/climate-change-emergency/

including a link to join ACT.

Please get in touch if you would like to chat over any of the information. “

   1 Comment

One Response

  1. Sally Monk says:

    Thanks for such a concise informative article. There are no easy answers and you will never please everyone.

    As to housing, I would like (although not easy to deliver quickly) more emphasis on social housing to rent at affordable prices.

    I have shared your article in the hope of educating some of my friends with Tory leanings!

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