As the second anniversary (24 July) approaches of the council declaring a climate and ecological emergency and announcing its resolve to drive down our own carbon emissions, it seems a good time to recap on what has been achieved and share some of our ideas for the coming years.
When we announced our commitment to net zero we knew it was not going to be an easy, instant fix. Some areas have proved challenging to work out the best way forward. But we have a carbon action plan, as endorsed by cabinet,which looks at the direct impacts we have from the energy used in our buildings and the fuel used for equipment, machinery and business travel. While this tells us that we emit just over 1,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, we are confident that great progress is being made to putting our own house in order. We are also working towards encouraging our residents and businesses to do what they can too.
Looking to the future we have much work to do but going forward we are delighted that whole-hearted support has been given recently to ensure that climate implications are considered in all decisions that come to cabinet and full council. This crucial work is something that needs to be considered right across the council and that's why climate awareness training has been held for staff and managers so they can make informed decisions in their day to day work.
Finally we've ensured climate is a key part of our new nine year Corporate Plan: Creating Tomorrow Together. A key guiding principle for us is working towards a greener Folkestone & Hythe and one of our four service ambitions is a Thriving Environment. This means that climate is central to our planned priorities until 2030 when we also plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions.
Council Leader David Monk and Chair of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Working Group Councillor Lesley Whybrow
Carbon Action Plan progress
The council's Carbon Action Plan has been developed to deliver our commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions from our own operations and buildings by 2030. The Carbon Action Plan sets the baseline for the council's carbon emissions and identifies a number of actions over the short, medium and longer term that we will take to reduce these to net zero by 2030.
Below is a summary of the progress made:
- We are currently beginning to convert all street lights for which we all responsible to LED.
- From July all relevant cabinet reports will include a Climate Impact Statement. This will ensure the climate impact of decisions is taken into account.
- A new training programme was rolled out in May which will ensure that staff will receive introductory training on climate change; an additional in-depth session was held for managers in June, with a further session for staff planned in July.
- We continue to push the use of MyAccount, digital interaction and e-billing to cut down on the use of paper. The number of printers and photocopiers in the civic centre is to be reduced.
- We have set up the Climate Change Champions network which is a meeting of staff interested in actively promoting measures at work to combat climate change. Currently more than 30 enthusiastic staff attend from across the council with a variety of different interests.We have found the cycle to work scheme is a good incentive for sustainable travel and our next Climate Change Champions meeting will explore other schemes to promote this e.g walking buddies.
- Our procurement team have started to investigate potential changes to develop sustainable procurement policies and we are exploring the practicalities and financial implications of changing to a green energy tariff.
- As restrictions ease and staff return to the Civic Centre we will be delivering messages around reducing single use plastic, energy use and water use. We are also targeting ways to reduce contamination of recycling as well as reducing general waste in the building. We are reducing our plastic use by using glasses in meeting rooms and china cups for vending machines. This follows on from our decision to purchase bulk refills of cleaning products to cut down our use of bottles.
- A condition survey of our housing stock has been awarded to property surveyors, Rapleys LLP who began a four month survey in June. This comprehensive assessment of the condition of council stock will enable more accurate budget modelling and works programming for the years ahead. It will also inform us of the work required in order to improve the energy rating of our sheltered housing stock as well as what will be required in order to help meet zero carbon targets.
- Beyond these direct emissions, there have been significant reductions in the wider emissions resulting from staff travelling to and from work. The pandemic forced us into working from home but has resulted in us saving a staggering number of commuter miles over the last 12 months. We estimate that approximately 368 tonnes of carbon has been saved from the reduced mileage - the rough equivalent the carbon absorbed in a year from more than 17,000 trees! Together with the subsequent success of being able to continue to deliver services this has prompted a review of what the workplace should look like and we intend to embed this in our new agile way of working going forward. However, as this saving is part of the wider impact of the council this will not be counted against our baseline assessment of 1,536 tonnes in our Carbon Action Plan.
Driving the electric challenge
We are working with KCC to deliver around 60 on-street charge points on lampposts in various locations across the district. 75% central govt. funding is available, and we have committed £40k for the remaining 25%.
The council is also working with Kent County Council to secure funding from the office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) to provide charging points in every council car park during 2021 with a roll out in the autumn of around 60 charging points. This adds to the six off-street charging points already provided by the council and the 23 by commercial businesses.
In addition to charging points, electric equipment, such as hedge cutters, drills and saws, are also being bought where possible for maintaining the parks and open spaces. New vehicles which reduce emissions have been introduced as part of the new waste contract.
The grounds maintenance team is going to great lengths to ensure that the district is being kept beautiful but with a constant eye on the future of the environment.
- 95% of in-house green waste is mulched and composted at the Hawkinge depot continuing to reduce our need to buy compost externally. The mulch also cuts down the amount of water or pesticide needed around newly planted shrubs or bushes by creating a protective barrier. A local compost unit has been installed at East Cliff and other units are being looked at for New Romney, Kingsnorth Gardens and the coastal park.
- The team is working with the Bumblebee and Butterfly and Moths trusts and have volunteered their own time to plant friendly habitat. For example, seasonal bedding is pollinator friendly with bright colours, large, single petal heads of various shapes and an attractive perfume. In addition seasonal bedding is grown in reusable trays which are sent back to the grower after use.
- Using sedum matting on the coastal park operational depot roof has been such a success that it is now being rolled out on the refurbished, tiered beach huts along Folkestone's Marine Walk. The matting forms a thick matt of plants which thrive in dry conditions and provide an excellent micro-climate for insects.
- The mowing regime is being reviewed to test what can be done to increase biodiversity. Where cutting has been reduced to encourage pollinators, Bee Friendly signs have been installed to explain what we are doing. Working with Kent County Council four trial sites have been identified in Folkestone - Southern Way, Churchill Avenue, Cherry Garden Lane and Tile Kiln Lane where cutting or the roadside verges will be reduced. We have also identified council owned sites where this method will be beneficial too.
Private Sector Housing
The council's private sector housing team work to promote and encourage energy efficiency in the private housing sector through the following initiatives and activity:
Warm Homes (Kent) - Working in partnership with Arun Services Ltd, the team deliver energy efficiency measures for households on low incomes or with long-term health issues. The scheme is funded through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) funding. The council has assisted Arun to identify low income households in the district.
Winter Warmth Grants - delivered through better care funding to vulnerable households over 65 years of age to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, to prevent future ill-health.
Joint working with landlords to raise awareness of the need to improve energy efficiency and provide advice and sign posting on available resources to assist with this, particularly for vulnerable tenants. Where landlords fail to deal with identified excess cold in their properties, the team are able to take enforcement action on this.
The council provides Disabled Facilities grants to vulnerable households in the district to enable them to live independently in their homes. Where necessary, works are extended to include measures to improve the energy efficiency of the client's home.
The team are actively working to explore other funding sources to deliver further energy efficiency measures across the private sector housing stock, including the Local Authority Delivery initiative with the South East Energy Hub.
Engaging the community
Litter picking by volunteers has always been a strength in our district and a huge thank you to all those who have been involved. Recently a team of 100 Saga staff and children joined up with the Marine Conservation Society to carry out beach surveys and collect litter with support from the council. The volunteers undertook the litter pick as part of Saga's corporate social responsibility programme.
At the last meeting of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Working Group (22 June) children from Seabrook Primary School were able to join via Zoom. They had written to the council particularly citing their concern about single-use plastics and were able to meet with councillors and put their views across directly. The children had a number of good ideas and we hope to follow up these up with the school over the coming months, as well as meeting up with other schools across the district.
We are also exploring working further with schools and engaging young people to find out more about how we can work together to deliver improvements to the district's environment.
Reducing the amount of short vehicle journeys by encouraging residents onto a bike or to walk is a key part of our strategy going forward.
We have a Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) which gathered audit data on the use of existing routes and identified where, with sufficient central funding, improvements might be made to the existing network over the next ten years.
The government's Active Travel Fund was announced in May 2020 and submissions by those authorities which had prepared LCWIPs (F&HDC was one of three authorities in Kent which had done so) were scored more highly. Funding was allocated and Kent County Council (as the transport authority) carried out improvements on a shared cycle and walking route on the Cinque Ports Cycleway in Hythe. These improvements included better signage, resurfacing and widening of the route.
Under the second phase of Active Travel, two of the five major schemes in Kent to be awarded funding are in the Folkestone & Hythe district and consultation on the routes between the central rail station in Folkestone and Cheriton and the other between Hythe and Dymchurch is taking place.
In addition Explore Kent provides a number of options for longer routes within the district for exploring on foot or two wheels and was developed by district council officers together with those from the county council.
For more information or feedback on any of the climate action work please contact our Low Carbon Senior Specialist Olu.Fatokun@folkestone-hythe.gov.uk