Decision Maker: Cabinet
Decision status: Recommmend Forward to Council
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: No
Following the Climate Emergency Motion agreed at full Council in September 2019, the development of the draft Rother Environment Strategy and Action Plan was approved for public consultation by Cabinet in February 2020.
The report gave details of the consultation exercise that ran from 25 February until 18 May 2020, the groups that had been directly targeted to take part and the promotional activities undertaken to alert all stakeholders to the consultation. It was noted that the Bexhill Environmental Group had been made aware of the consultation and had responded in partnership with the Rother Environmental Group. In total 135 responses were received via the online survey, email, letter and organisations directly targeted. The ability to promote the draft strategy and engage local champions had been hindered by the COVID-19 measures and whilst this resulted in a lower than expected return for a consultation of this prominence, the quality of the response was good.
The Climate Change Steering Group (CCSG) considered the outcome of the consultation at their meeting held on 2 July 2020, which included 10 further suggested recommendations. The CCSG recommended that the draft strategy be amended by the inclusion of the following seven items before submission to Council for approval:
To be included in the Strategy and Action plan:
· Supply Chains – to ensure that procurement assessment gave greater weight to the environmental impact of the companies with which the Council contracts, including assessments of their supply chains.
· Public Transport – To include activity that would improve the standard, environmental impact and frequency of Public Transport throughout the District as well as promoting its use amongst residents.
To be referred to in the strategy but not included in the action plan at this stage:
· Light Pollution and Dark Skies – to be addressed initially in the Local Plan review.
· References to the High Weald Management Plan - to be addressed initially in the Local Plan review.
· Address Ecological Collapse and Biodiversity Crisis - to be addressed initially in the Local Plan review.
· Include Farmland and the Working Countryside - to be addressed initially in the Local Plan review.
· Vehicle Noise – To be reviewed again at a later date.
That the following three recommendations be kept out of the strategy at this time for the reasons indicated but continue to be considered for inclusion in future years once delivery of the strategy was underway:
· Reduction in Business Rates and Council Tax for Good Environmental Practice – expensive and unworkable.
· Review strategy again due to environmental effects of social distancing, new Government policy post COVID-19 etc. – the COVID-19 impacts would initially be addressed through the Economic Recovery Steering Group who should ensure that actions within the Economic Recovery Plan were compliant with and contributed towards the ambitions of the Environment Strategy.
· Hydrogen and Biomethane – elements of this were already being introduced through proposed changes to building regulations.
It was noted that a revenue budget had been approved for the delivery of the Environment Strategy and the appointment of the Environment and Policy Manager, who was due to commence employment soon. There would likely be a need for further expenditure as a programme of activity was developed, in order to meet the Council’s target of a ‘Carbon Neutral District’ by 2030. Members paid tribute to Ben Hook and former member of staff Alison Spring who had been instrumental in the development of this Strategy.
RECOMMENDED: That the Rother Environment Strategy 2020-2030 be approved and adopted, subject to the inclusion of the items listed in paragraph 13 to the report and as detailed above, identified through the consultation process and recommended by the Climate Change Steering Group.
Report author: Ben Hook
Publication date: 31/07/2020
Date of decision: 27/07/2020
Decided at meeting: 27/07/2020 - Cabinet