Protecting and enhancing the environment are at the heart of the Lib Dem-controlled South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Business Plan for 2019-2024. Our goal of creating a cleaner, greener, low-carbon future for the district informs everything we do. We are working with urgency to deal with the climate and ecological emergency facing us all.
We have pledged to make South Cambs carbon-neutral by 2050, not just in terms of the council’s own property and operations but in terms of the entire district. This will be achieved through planning policies for housing, energy and transport, and through waste management among many other things.
Cambridgeshire is one of the UK’s least biodiverse counties and among those with the fewest trees. It is also one of the most water-stressed. At the same time, it is one of the fastest-growing counties. So, as well as avoiding adverse impacts on the environment from this growth, we want to ‘double nature’ in the county by increasing the amount of rich wildlife habitat and green space, and also by increasing tree cover by 50%. The role of nature in our physical and mental health is beyond dispute; for instance trees are now proven to reduce noise as well as absorbing and filtering pollution.
We are continually exploring opportunities for green energy generation, greater energy efficiency, more recycling and improving air quality.
So far we have:
- Eliminated the procurement and use of single-use plastics at the council within just three months.
- Put in place a full recycling system at the council offices, where minimal recycling was being carried out previously.
- Installed solar panels on the roof of the Waterbeach waste depot, which are providing 25% of the energy the plant needs.
- Set targets for increasing household recycling and reducing the total volume of black bin waste. We aim to achieve these through information campaigns and working with resident groups.
- Initiated the drafting of a two-year climate change action plan. In partnership with Cambridge University, we will produce a baseline of current carbon emissions from all sectors, and scenarios of projected emissions as a result of current growth plans in transport, construction, housing, etc. We will use this as a basis for decision-making about what we can do directly and indirectly as a council to radically reduce carbon emissions.
- Launched the Zero Carbon Communities grant scheme, which provides funds to local groups for measures that reduce their carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.
- Included a green investment stream in our new Business Plan’s investment strategy.
- Started tackling the growing problem of fly-tipping.
- Adopted a new taxi licensing policy to make our taxis greener.
- Supported an initiative to convert used coffee grounds from cafes into biofuel.
- Carried out a public consultation on proposals to make new housing developments as green as possible through sustainable design and construction that minimise carbon emissions (as well as running costs), flood risks, pollution and pressure on water sources.
- Started to replace 1800 footway lights with LED, which will save 60-70% energy.
- Purchased a trial electric vehicle in our recycling and waste services.
- Facilitated a solar panel group-buying scheme with Solar Together Cambridgeshire
Going forward, we plan to:
- Impose high environmental standards on new homes, in the form of sustainable design and construction that minimise carbon emissions (as well as running costs), flood risks, pollution and pressure on water sources.
- Ensure new homes are built close to places of employment to reduce commuting, and work with partners to make sure walking, cycling and public transport improvements provide alternatives to using the private car.
- Provide electric-vehicle charging points.
- Install new air-quality monitors in hotspots across the district, such as schools on busy roads.
- Audit our stock of council houses and retrofit them with insulation and other energy-saving measures, to keep people warm, and reduce both their energy bills and their carbon emissions.
- Make Biodiversity Net Gain a mandatory consideration in planning.