Agenda and minutes

Environment Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday 15 November 2023 10.00 am

Venue: Council Chamber - Shire Hall, Gloucester. View directions

Contact: Sophie Benfield  Email: sophie.benfield@gloucestershire.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

2.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 118 KB

To confirm and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 6 September 2023.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the meetings held on 6 September 2023 were approved as a correct record.

3.

Declarations of interest

Members of the Committee are invited to declare any pecuniary or personal interests relating to specific matters on the agenda.

 

Please see note (a) at the end of the agenda.

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were received.

4.

CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION PLAN ANNUAL UPDATE pdf icon PDF 90 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

4.1       The Chair invited Kelly Osbourne, Sustainability and Engagement Officer, to introduce the fourth Climate Change Strategy Annual Report and Action Plan. Members noted the following points:

 

·         This Action Plan update was due to go to Cabinet in January 2024.

·         Gloucestershire had improved from sixteenth to tenth place in the Council Climate Scorecards rankings, which was an independent national review system for council climate action. The team were very pleased to have this national recognition that the action plan had improved.

·         There were five key components to the report which included an outline of carbon emissions both in the county and within the council estate, highlights from this year, an update on progress against the 2021/22 actions and the five-year action plan.

·         The vision and targets for the overall plan remain unchanged.

·         Figures 1, 2, 3 and Table 1 in the report outlined carbon emissions within the county. These showed a marked drop in emissions during 2020, which was largely attributable to the Covid pandemic and in 2021, emissions had bounced back towards the longer-term trend however they did continue to decrease.

·         Countywide emissions per capita continued to be lower than the southwest average.

·         Corporate emissions continued to decline in line with longer term trends. This year, the council had seen a reduction of 76% in gross emissions against the baseline and net emissions had reduced by 82%, taking account the production renewable electricity from the Energy from Waste facility.

·         The report outlined 63 actions planned over the course of this year and gave a RAG rating on progress for each. There was also a distinction on whether the action focused on corporate emissions or countywide action. 92% of these actions were rated amber or green and had therefore seen some progression this year.

·         Pages 22 and 23 of the report outlined any change to the action plan from the previous year, highlighting if these were new, changed, or merged actions. Some notable changes were new actions on land use which reflected the council’s recruitment of a biodiversity officer, and in the waste section which reflected a recent restructure which brought the waste and sustainability team under one head of service.

·         The final section of the report gave a full overview of the five-year action plan.

 

4.2       A member questioned whether the current action plan (at around 100 actions) was realistic and deliverable, particularly noting reference made to capacity and resource pressures, and the inevitable financial pressures coming in the next financial year. It was advised that during the review of actions, the team had considered what was achievable and deliverable within each theme and that was what had been presented today. The reality of climate change meant there was an urgent need to do so much and therefore the right approach was to take action on as broad a front as possible, rather than simply focusing on a few areas. The example was given where national bids were made, the council might submit 5 or 6 bits in  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Climate Leadership Gloucestershire pdf icon PDF 144 KB

To receive an introduction to the Countywide Climate Change Coordinator team, and update on Climate Leadership Gloucestershire themes and projects.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

5.1       Afriqnmun Lovejoy and David Sharman gave a brief presentation to introduce this item. The following points were noted:

 

·         CLG had been in existence since November 2021 and brought together all local authorities in Gloucestershire as well as the NHS, Police and Local Enterprise Partnership to act together on shared climate ambitions and countywide action.

·         The associated Greener Gloucestershire Action Plan aimed to be agreed and published in February 2024.

·         There were 10 CLG themes and associated thematic leads. In line with previous discussions, the areas covered within these themes were broad as no one area was more important than the other and needed equal attention.

·         Being considered at the November meeting were bids for: a Green Skills Coordinator, a green economy supplier platform to stimulate in-county skills provision, development of a Gloucestershire Local Area Energy Plan and a bid writer post as a shared resource across the county.

·         At the meeting in February, there will be a discussion around a communication plan for CLG as the Group recognise the need to increase its visibility locally and nationally.

·         Councillors were welcome to join a meeting of the CLG Engagement sub-group to discuss opportunities to engage the public as previously discussed at today’s meeting, as well as join CLG in an observer capacity.

 

5.2       In response to a question, it was advised that the Food and Farming theme was more in its infancy compared to the other themes, but it was certainly an intention of that theme to address production and regenerative farming in the county. There was a challenge as to finding the best way to engage with farmers and landowners directly on these issues and the theme leads were exploring utilising existing groups and forums who were already regularly engaged with farmers and landowners, to start those conversations.

 

5.3.      A member questioned whether the bid writer post previously mentioned would be available to community groups as well. It was advised that funding for this post was only a proposal at this stage, so the detail had not been worked out but if approved, access for community groups was a great idea to consider. It was added that the Community Fund available via CLG was also a good way for groups to access smaller pots of money for local projects.

 

5.4       Considering the theme around retrofitting, a member asked what support was in place for residents who could not afford to retrofit their own homes. It was advised that this area of the theme was actually more developed which is why there was less focus within CLG’s action plan. Severn Wye Energy Agency Ltd had a Warm and Well project which was aimed at tackling fuel poverty in Gloucestershire and had a very clear and well established offer of support in place. It was added that working with landlords in retrofitting rented property was on CLG’s radar but was a more complex area to address.

 

5.5       Noting the final slide on member engagement it was suggested that officers could consider  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Update on Air Quality pdf icon PDF 1 MB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

6.1       The Chair invited Sophia Beglinger, Climate Change and Air Quality Officer, to introduce this item. Members noted the following points:

 

·         The DEFRA Air Quality grant project involved the use of e-cargo bikes by an organisation that had operations across Cheltenham and Gloucester, which included air quality management areas (AQMAs). £40,000 had been requested and the NHS were engaged as an interested partner.

·         The Air Quality monitoring webpage was being developed to provide accessible data on air quality monitoring. The team would continue to look into what else could be presented on this webpage including particulate matter data for example.

·         The report also gave a summary of the outcomes from the Air Quality Workshop held in October 2022. The key points were listed at point 12 and further detail provided at Annex 2 of the report.

·         The Air Quality District Grant would seek to offer funding opportunities to assist district with monitoring equipment and studies. The detail of the grant was still being agreed but officers hoped to have this ready as soon as possible.

·         In summary, GCC had made progress with projects seeking to improve air quality for the county.

 

6.2       A member highlighted that in July 2010, Lydney was afforded an AQM status and with this, the Forest of Dean District Council received a £44,000 grant from DEFRA to help address the issue. Since then, however, the town had grown substantially and the traffic issues in Lydney town (the centre of the AQM area) had only become worse. Noting paragraph 16 in the report, whilst the member welcomed research into a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for air quality, local planners had not taken much if any note of the AQM status back in 2010 and therefore felt an SPD would have a similar impact. Another member added that SPDs often involved a huge amount of resource and resulted in limited impact, suggesting it would be better for local authorities to work together and look at a policy during local plan development that was enforceable.

 

6.3       It was advised that there would be a ‘two-pronged’ approach in terms of planning. The SPD would be produced and would be a material consideration on planning application determination once agreed. In addition, during the development of local plans for the district councils, GCC would carry out its role as a statutory consultee to the local plans and ensure all relevant aspects of its roles and responsibilities were reflect in those documents. The team responsible would liaise with all relevant departments at GCC, including the air quality team, and ensure comments on these aspects were fed back to the district for their plan development.

 

6.4       A member stated that it would be useful to have geographical maps for members detailing areas of air quality hot spots and management areas.

 

ACTION:       Sophia Beglinger

 

6.5       The Chair shared an example of a local project with Berkeley Green students to programme low-cost air quality monitors, which were then hoped to be rolled out across the district.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S REPORT: ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT & INFRASTRUCTURE pdf icon PDF 229 KB

The attached report is to be taken as read and members have 30 minutes allocated at the meeting to ask questions. Members are encouraged to pre-submit questions beforehand if they are able via Sophie Benfield in Democratic Services.

 

This includes Quarter 2 2023/24 performance data.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

7.1       The report was taken as read and opened up to questions from members.

 

7.2       It was advised that two pre-submitted questions had been received from Cllr Baker, the responses to which can be found as an annex to these minutes.

 

7.3       Referencing the previous questions on Arle Court Transport Hub, a member questioned whether there was any intention for the national coach services to depart from here, rather than the centre of Cheltenham. The member raised concern that if this was the case, it would discourage people from travelling to Cheltenham due to the Hub’s distance from the town centre.

 

7.4       Officers understood these concerns however the Interchange Hubs across Gloucestershire were aimed at providing a central coordination of transport in its towns and cities. Particularly for Cheltenham, there were serious air quality concerns on the main route into the centre and removing the need for coaches to travel in would help towards this. There would also be cleaner electric vehicle connections into the centre from the Hub.

 

7.5       A member raised concern that the waste performance indicators were not ambitious enough as they were targets that had been consistently met with ease. It was suggested that the member meet with the team to discuss how these targets could be made more challenging, but this would need to be balanced with its resulting impact on an already under-resourced team.

 

7.6       An update on the Community Infrastructure Levy payments advised members that Stroud District Council had now implemented a process which GCC had submitted its annual bids to, and Cotswolds District Council had recently set up a bidding system which GCC were actively engaging with. The combined authorities of Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury were currently considering governance arrangements for a future process to be implemented, which GCC hoped would be in place as soon as possible.

8.

Work Plan pdf icon PDF 51 KB

To review the committee work plan and suggest items for consideration at future meetings.

Minutes:

Members made the following amendments to their work plan:

 

  • Items on e-scooters, Traffic Regulation Orders, and the Bus Improvement Scrutiny Task Group were added to its meeting in January 2024.
  • An in-depth item on waste management and reduction was requested for the May 2024 meeting.
  • The next update on the Electric Vehicle Charging Point rollout was scheduled for July 2024.
  • A future item was added on the process for allocating bus subsidy.