Reigate & Banstead only borough to endorse Surrey’s climate strategy

Admin, 21 September 2020

(Image by Steve Buisinne via Pixabay)
By Julie Armstrong, Local Democracy Reporter, 18 September 2020

Surrey County Council (SCC) is disappointed only one borough council has got on board and endorsed their climate change strategy.

A £297 million investment over the next five years was approved in March to support Surrey’s ambition to reduce carbon emissions to net zero between now and 2050.

They now have an extensive programme of activities planned with funding bids submitted, including electric buses, electric vehicle charging bays and making 700 homes more energy efficient.

The only lower tier council out of 11 that has endorsed it so far is Reigate and Banstead, which Natalie Bramhall, cabinet member for environment and climate change, also sits on. She said she thought funding was the problem.

She said: “We can’t bear the cost of these ambitions alone, and so there is an important role for partners, both public and private sector, as well as our government.”

Councillor Mike Goodman, who was cabinet member for environment when Surrey declared a climate emergency last summer, said: “There’s no way that we as a council can achieve 2050 net zero by ourselves.

“We do need our borough colleagues and I’m disappointed more haven’t yet committed to it.”

Councillor Andy MacLeod, a Surrey county and Waverley borough councillor, said: “Surrey talks about the boroughs and districts as key delivery partners but these are the bodies that they are saying should be abolished.”

Councillor Bramhall said she thought becoming a unitary would have a positive impact on their ability to deliver their carbon reduction targets.

“The division of environmentally related services across two tiers of authorities prohibits progress and innovation and opportunities to make financial savings,” she said.

“It doesn’t incentivise boroughs and districts to increase their recycling rates because the cost of the waste to landfill is borne by SCC.”

A tool to help residents understand their carbon footprint had 1,700 hits in the first month and can be found online.

What kind of projects have been planned?

  • Laser has been commissioned to produce costed scenarios showing how SCC can reduce carbon emissions from its own corporate estate to net zero by 2030
  • 50,000 saplings being planted over the next few months, funded by the Woodland Carbon Code
  • 89,000 streetlights being converted to LED by 2022
  • On-street electric vehicle charging bays implemented by April 2021
  • Training and grants for energy efficiency and low carbon measures to SME businesses, to start next month, funded by EU (committed until 2023)
  • Tapping into national green funding, bid has been submitted for £7 million (£10,000 per dwelling, 700 properties) for energy efficiency and low carbon measures for low income households living in the most inefficient housing (SCC contributing an extra £750,000 for solid wall insulation and air source heat pumps)
  • Bid has been submitted to Government for £11 million for electric buses in Farnham.

Green Party Councillor Jonathan Essex was impressed by how much progress had been made but says the strategy still does not go far enough to meet the scale of the challenge.

He said: “We’ve gone from very little happening six months ago to a strategy setting out detailed actions, and expertise right up to high responsibility director level.

“But we shouldn’t underestimate the scale of the challenge – to retrofit every home in Surrey, every health building, school, office block, shopping centre – we cannot expect one team to lead on that, though it is really good the council is taking a lead.

“We’re not where we need to be yet, we have got to move further and faster. We still need the private sector to make it happen.

“The glass is half full but we’ve got to fill up the glass.”

Jonathan Essex is a Green Party councillor for both Surrey and Reigate & Banstead