Planning and Sustainability (C-010-2021-22) – to note the progress made on the delivery of the environmental and air pollution strategies supporting the Local Plan.
1) The Cabinet noted the considerable progress made by the group since its inception and the number of additional ideas and suggestions made by the group that are currently being investigated prior to possible implementation; and
2) The Cabinet noted that the group’s success was heavily dependent on the ideas generated by the group, the evaluation of these ideas and advice given on their implementation. All members of the group were thanked for their contributions to date but it was considered that they would need to remain active in this regard over the following months.
The Planning and Sustainability Portfolio Holder, Councillor Bedford, introduced the report on the progress made by the Portfolio Advisory Group on the Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy. It was noted that the Council was already making significant progress with many of the environmental initiatives contained within the Local Plan, including bringing forward the first three of the green infra-structure projects and also significant developments in terms of Electric Vehicle (EV) charging, demand responsive transport and safer cycling routes. Specifically, in respect of air quality, the Council had implemented a published procedure where all new planning applications were scrutinised to determine whether they would deviate from the assumptions in the Local Plan air quality modelling, and to ensure that the necessary mitigation was built into their applications. Specifically, even with the release of small-scale developments, the environmental impacts of these were being re-evaluated, including held approvals, using the AECOM modelling approach. Councillor Bedford added that the detailed work continued as well as the promised establishment of an officer technical group to inform the development and implementation of IAPMS actions and measures and tap into technical knowledge to keep abreast of emerging air pollution mitigation initiatives .
He added that according to the latest government figures EFDC was now the second highest district in terms of ultra-low emissions vehicles on the roads in Essex. Initial surveys of council car parks to ascertain their electrical capability for charging points were taking place. It was anticipated that the first site would be at Oakwood Hill. We were working with Essex County Council to try and establish charging points in lamp-posts focusing on areas where off street parking was lower. We were establishing working arrangements with parish and town councils on addressing climate change and air pollution. The Council would also be developing new proposals for council owned car parks and looking into the electrification of the council’s refuse fleet. They were also urging TfL to roll out further charging points at underground station car parks.
Councillor Philip welcomed this report and encouraged the portfolio holder to bring regular updating reports going forward. He would like to know about the amount of work that the City of London was putting in to improving the air quality in the forest. Councillor Bedford said he had raised the issue of car parking charges and one of the issues he was looking at was to maybe bring a zero charge for electric vehicles. As for the Corporation of London they would be discussing the possibility of making their car parks free for electric vehicles.
Councillor Avey noted that some good ideas had come from the aborted “Next” application around Woodridden Hill and the junction with the M25; would these be brought forward and explored? Councillor Bedford conceded that was a sensible approach and was something to explore.
Councillor H Whitbread asked how the Council was engaging with local businesses to be more carbon neutral. She was told that they were being contacted with advice and education they needed to start now and not wait until 2025. Councillor H Whitbread then asked what work they had done with the Essex Climate Commission, which she was a member off. Councillor Bedford said he had just attended a meeting with them. There were a lot of ideas coming forward, they were also bidding for additional government funding for electrical vehicle charging points on the streets.
Councillor Philip invited Councillor Bedford to write an article for the monthly business email newsletter.
Councillor Murray welcomed the report remarking that this was the way we should have done it from the beginning. He asked what progress had been made on safer cycling routes but took exception to the use of the phrase ‘opposition parties’ and would like to be referred as political groups. He was also very interested in the statement on page 17 of the agenda, starting ‘Some improvements are already planned for the Roding Valley section with better signage and clearance of green material…’ and would like some information on this, but not necessarily tonight.
He noted that the statement at paragraph 10 was accurate but thought it was worth mentioning that the Corporation of London were using charging to encourage usage of the forest where people can go to and cause less damage and park for free.
Councillor Bedford said that the paragraph mentioning cycling routes was talking about the area behind the Bank of England and they had a short video clip showing the area and identified some improvements that could be made. They were also interested in looking after the nature reserve at Rodding Valley by having better signage etc. He also noted that the Corporation of London would be charging for every car park in Epping Forest. The problem was that they needed an electric supply to the car parks for the machines, or better phone coverage to use a parking app. We could help support this as part of the portfolio holder advisory group and minimising the effects on local residents by maybe having seven day parking permits so visitors to the forest did not take residents spaces. This will need looking into and consultation, but it does need an urgent review.
Councillor Brookes welcomed the emphasis placed on cycling. She noted that in London the more provision made for cyclists the more people took it up. But it was still very dangerous on our local roads, she also welcomed electric cars but noted that people with less income could not afford them. Councillor Bedford said that the issues of cycling routes had been raised by the advisory group and officers were looking for funding to improve them. He understood the problem about affordable electric vehicles but noted the current problem was the lack of computer chips for them. The costs were coming down slowly.
Councillor Patel asked what level of engagement did his group have with other local authorities. He was told that they were engaging with other surrounding authorities, such as Waltham Forest. Working with other authorities was key to them. We were part of a group who shared legal and technical advice with other Local Authorities, the Corporation and Natural England.
Councillor C Whitbread said that last week he had launched an ECC Social Value Strategy Catalogue, underpinning their procurement policy. They have now increased the social value element to this and have also added climate as a principle. He recommended that officers look at this and engage with our own procurement and social value policies.
He also noted that at present there was not much coming forward from the advisory group and wondered if group leader should look again at the makeup of the membership of the group to make sure they had the right people there.
Councillor Bedford agreed that it would be a good idea to review the membership and asked group leaders to consider this.
1) The Cabinet noted the considerable progress made by the group since its inception and the number of additional ideas and suggestions made by the group that were currently being investigated prior to possible implementation; and
2) The Cabinet noted that the group’s success was heavily dependent on the ideas generated by the group, the evaluation of these ideas and advice given on their implementation. All members of the group were thanked for their contributions to date, but it was considered that they would need to remain active in this regard over the following months.