Agenda item

Climate Change and Sustainable Transport Update

To consider the attached report on the progress of the Climate Change and Sustainable Travel agendas.


Climate Change Officer, F Edmonds, and Sustainable Transport Officer, S Lloyd-Jones, reported on their respective areas within the update report before the Committee.


(a)          Climate change update


A public consultation on the draft Climate Change Action Plan was to take place from October to November. This would comprise online elements and include video links, as well as a series of in person events organised for members, the Youth Council and the community to attend. A proposal to plant around 2,300 trees in Jessel Green (Loughton) to enhance the local environment was being funded by a £65,000 grant from the Forestry Commission’s Local Authorities Treescapes Fund. There would be a public consultation to help decide on the final planting design. The Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery scheme would be helping to raise the energy efficiency of lower income and low energy performance homes with a focus on energy performance certificate (EPC) ratings of E, F or G. Split into three phases, the first had been completed in August 2021 with nine properties upgraded. It was also reported that a carbon literacy toolkit had been trialled with some Service Managers that would be used to teach staff the basics of climate change science.


The Committee asked the following questions.


How was the Council engaging with councillors on the climate change action plan? F Edmonds advised that a Member Briefing on the climate change action plan was organised for 14 October 2021.


Who was included in the online public consultation on the draft Climate Change Action Plan? Also, householders were paving front gardens and not leaving any vegetation. F Edmonds advised that a community Q&A would take place on 26 October and had a very wide audience. Parish councils and community leaders had access to carbon literacy courses and the Essex Association of Local Councils was running some planet change courses. Paving front gardens was more a planning matter. Councillor A Patel continued that online video streams worked well, and it would be beneficial if the Youth Council was involved in this project. Also, the Procurement Strategy had been updated in 2021 to enhance climate change ideals.


The Committee was supportive of tree planting. However, it was difficult to visualise the amount of space that would be utilised, as the open aspect of Jessel Green was important as well as its use for activities and what would the likely tree survival rate be? There must also be community involvement for residents in the Loughton Fairmead and Broadway wards and the ward members. F Edmonds replied that to retain its openness, periphery type planting was favoured with residents being consulted on specific areas. Councillor H Whitbread, Housing Services Portfolio Holder and County Councillor, replied that it was a portfolio holder decision and discussions had been held with officers, who had submitted the bid to the Forestry Commission. At County, she was luckily on the Essex Climate Commission. Unfortunately, when a massive tree planting scheme had recently been embarked on in Chelmsford, 90% of trees had died. Therefore, the Council needed to make sure this tree planting initiative would work.


Could anything be learnt from the high percentage of trees dying? F Edmonds advised that the Council’s tree officers were identifying the best sites on Jessel Green. Only trees that were hardy enough and had a survival rate of 75% would be used. Involving the community would help reduce damage to trees. Councillor H Whitbread added that very young trees had been planted in Chelmsford. Councillor B Jennings explained that if whips (bare root trees) were planted there was a high death rate. There was a better success rate with standard to extra standard trees, which could be planted properly. Involving local children gave them a sense of community ownership.


When the houses were upgraded under the green homes grant, was it means tested? F Edmonds advised that the criteria for a home grant was an income of below £30,000 or being in receipt of certain benefits while also having a low efficiency home with an EPC rating of D, E, F or G.


(b)          Sustainable transport update


S Lloyd-Jones outlined progress on electric vehicle charge (EVC) points in the District’s car parks and an increase in the provision of on-site charging at the Civic Offices to accommodate EFDC and Qualis fleet conversion to EV. A campaign was underway to understand incentives and barriers to the adoption of EV by minicabs and taxis. The use of street lamps was not favoured by ECC but at least 36% of local homes did not have access to viable off-street parking, which would seriously impede EV adoption within the next 18 months. General local commuting was still low as a result of hybrid / working from home and other major users like the elderly, who were still being cautious. An EV bus would be trialled in November and December between the Broadway and the Epping Forest Retail Park in Loughton. Demand responsive travel (DRT) would be piloted in the District to Epping Green and Harlow and work was ongoing as there was a demand from school pupils who needed to reach schools in Epping, Loughton and Chigwell.


The Committee asked the following questions.


The Council needed to provide a process for people to find and use EVC and looking at street maps would be a source. Some people might be uncomfortable with going out to use EVC points, so a process did need to be provided to people to enable them to charge EVs. Did the street lamps belong to Essex Highways? S Lloyd-Jones confirmed this and that he would be contacting the London Borough of Redbridge for their advice. Most of ECC’s street lamps were set back from the kerb and he was aware EVC that was safe to use needed to be provided. Councillor M Sartin asked if the three County members at the meeting could lobby ECC on this matter.


Could Council-owned lamp posts be used for EVC and priority should be given to housing residents where it was not possible to charge at properties? S Lloyd-Jones affirmed that EFDC did own some lamp posts.


Could grassed housing land be used? S Lloyd-Jones commented that there was a case for grassed drainage areas owned by ECC and EFDC that might be feasible to use for EVC.


Was rapid charging detrimental to car batteries? S Lloyd-Jones said that rapid chargers should not solely be relied upon as no more than 80% of the battery should be charged by a rapid charger. A network would never consist of rapid chargers only.


How successful had the trial of E-on’s vehicle to grid method at the Civic Offices been, what was the criteria being used and had this expanded? S Lloyd-Jones replied that the vehicle to grid method would be a way and means to expand the system and there was a definite need for it by taxis and road fleets of small electric vans. Instavolt, a commercial company, was judged on usage and was of low to zero cost to the Council, generated site rental and profit share, e.g. for taxis, trade and light industrial vans. Officers were currently investigating if this could work in EFDC owned car parks. Contract terms could help improve the uptake of EVs as they were attractive to taxi drivers and electric vehicle contract renting schemes. It was noted that although a large number of Hackney carriage drivers lived in the District, they worked outside the District.


Disabled drivers might find it difficult to access EVC points, was this being identified? S Lloyd-Jones explained that national connectors to chargers were used but some might not be as compatible as others and he would look into how different kits performed to national standards.


When the retail park was built some members had pointed out that a shuttle service was needed, so the forthcoming trial was welcome. How was accessibility by users and their mobility judged? The Council would be renting a shuttle bus, but it would not have the capability to be lowered to pavement level. The first priority was to test the concept of the shuttle service, monitor usage and accessibility, as adjustments for vehicle lowering could be made to the bus later.


In Chigwell, there was the potential of a school bus with ECC, but it was thought that an alternative strategy was needed. S Lloyd-Jones said that the Chigwell trial was worth undertaking but ECC’s school transport scheme criteria needed to be evaluated including some financial and operational analysis.


N Dawe, Chief Operating Officer, concluded that a further post-consultation report on the draft Climate Change Action Plan consultation and tree planting updates would be useful for members to scrutinise.




(1)          That the Committee considered progress on the climate change and sustainable travel agendas; and


(2)          That a further post-consultation report on the draft Climate Change Action Plan and tree planting updates would be useful to scrutinise.

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