Engaging the council

We want to keep the issue of climate change on the agenda – literally! So we have submitted public questions at the full council meetings of East Herts council. These questions are submitted in advance of the meetings, giving the council time to prepare their reply.

Council meeting 3 March 2020

We asked the following question of the Council:

In the light of:

  • a) the transport options identified for Bishop’s Stortford in the Aecom report of April 2018;
  • b) the Council’s vision and priorities to “put sustainability at the heart of everything it does” and “to reduce reliance on cars to get around the district” and “provide good quality housing with a sustainable travel infrastructure”; 
  • c) the Parking Task and Finish Group recommendations considered by the Executive at their meeting on 11 February 2020, which included for Bishop’s Stortford the need for modal shift, and the expectation that shifting long stay parking out of town would increase revenues; and 
  • d) Shaping Stortford’s application for the town to be a Sustainable Travel Town, submitted in February 2020

What staffing and resources plans, dedicated budgets and delivery timelines has EHDC set in place for working up and delivering proposals for infrastructure improvements and communications to start securing modal shift in Bishop’s Stortford?  

Council meeting 29 January 2020

We submitted a written question:

The Council’s draft Corporate Plan, which it is considering at this meeting, appropriately references its 24 July 2019 commitment to a Climate Change motion to do everything in its power to reduce its impact on the climate and to support the whole of East Herts district to become carbon neutral by 2030. The Plan presents this within its commitment to put sustainability at the heart of everything it does through the plan period. But its selection of actions by no means addresses all the key ones for delivery.

One key omission is the Council’s land use policy.  Land use policy and extending the scale of tree cover do not replace the need for reducing carbon emissions, but are complementary policies and have additional benefits for biodiversity, improving soil and aquifer replenishment and people’s well-being. Grassland in the Council’s parks is a sink for carbon, but over time more scrub, wider hedgerows and additional trees add to the rate of sequestration of carbon on the land. The Woodland Trust is asking local authorities to ensure that new developments include 30% tree canopy area. The Government in its manifesto committed to 75,000 acres of tree planting a year and providing a new £640 million Nature for Climate fund. The Council has the opportunity to use its land, its influence and resources to support the community in changing land use across the district.

So our question is: why has the Council not shown its commitment to work with others to support change in land use and extending tree cover in the district in its Corporate Plan and in particular whether it will commit to:

  • a)      Review its own land holdings and parks to establish the areas used for recreation and hence the full extent of residual areas it can use for extending hedges and tree cover;
  • b)      Supporting the planting of new community orchards; and
  • c)       Ensuring that new developments include a minimum of 30% tree cover.

This question was not included directly in the council meeting but these ideas were covered by a proposed amendment to the East Herts corporate plan. However, the amendment was not accepted.

Council meeting 18 December 2019

David Royle asked the Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability: “In your work to draw up the action plan for your climate change motion (“to do everything you can in supporting the whole of East Herts District to become carbon neutral by 2030”), what are you doing to quantify the heat used by the existing housing stock in the District and to identify how the Council can support the radical reduction needed in this by 2030? Have you, for example, sought government HNDU (Heat Networks Delivery Unit) funding to help undertake this analysis and the potential for heat networks to be part of the solution?”

The minuted response from the council:

“Councillor G McAndrew agreed tackling the decarbonisation of heat was a key issue, at both local and national level.  The Council had previously undertaken a domestic housing stock condition survey, and had access to national EPC data.  A range of actions would be considered for existing housing in the new Environmental Sustainability Action Plan.  Energy efficiency and encouraging the use of low carbon fuels would be essential.

Councillor McAndrew said that, from a planning perspective, whilst HNDU funding had not yet been used, the Hertfordshire Renewable and Low Carbon Study (2010) had considered opportunities for district heat networks(?) in East Herts. To explore potentially viable locations for heat networks, the study had concluded that the areas which were most likely to provide opportunities for such networks were urban areas and higher density new developments.  For new developments, the adopted East Herts District Plan (2018) required such developments to demonstrate how carbon emissions would be minimised, and heat networks could potentially be part of this process.  The Council would be producing a new Supplementary Planning Document on Environmental Sustainability, which would include the issue of heating?”.

Council meeting 23 October 2019

Jill Goldsmith asked Councillor McAndrew as the Executive Member for Environmental Sustainability, “What has the Council done to examine whether its current District Plan includes the very best measures to help the District become carbon neutral by 2030 and more specifically has it examined whether and to what timescale it could revise the Climate Change chapter in the Plan or agree a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) to deliver its commitment in its Climate Change motion?”. 

The minuted response from the council:

“Councillor McAndrew said the Council was committed to addressing climate change, and recognised its role in reducing emissions.  The SPD would reduce emissions to sustainable levels, through requiring use of less energy and increasing energy efficiency.  The detail of the SPD was currently being finalised, and would, once adopted, become a material consideration in development.  Work would also be undertaken in planning for the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town to enhance sustainability, and Officers would ensure all planning guidance would promote the Council’s policy.  Work was also being brought forward on the Hertfordshire Planning Partnership.

Jill Goldsmith welcomed the response and said she looked forward to being involved in consultations.  She said it was important the SPD should require developers to be committed to measuring their predicted emissions, and asked whether the SPD would include this requirement. 

Councillor McAndrew said he anticipated that the SPD would include this provision, but he would reply in writing to that further question.”