An update from Cabinet member for environment and climate emergency, Councillor Catherine Webber, from her involvement in various groups and projects.
The Cabinet member for climate change and environment provided the committee with a number of updates, which were:
a. Work had begun at Faringdon Leisure Centre for the introduction of solar panels and air source heat pumps, and the gas boilers would be removed once this was completed. The view was that the refurbishment would improve the carbon emission efficiency, and would become the council’s first low carbon and renewable energy building. The council was also preparing to apply for funding so it could improve other facilities, specifically the leisure centres of Abingdon and Wantage.
b. The cabinet member had met with Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) to discuss their strategy for electric vehicle infrastructure. There was a pilot scheme for a Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (LEVI) fund underway, and South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse would look into whether a joint bid could improve the funding received.
c. E-learning was being looked into, with reference to how greater learning and training could be provided.
d. There had been 420 trees planted at Rye Farm Meadow. Community groups were encouraged to plant trees on suitable district council land. The cabinet member also added that the process of planting and progressing ‘tiny forests’ was being looked into.
e. A paper on future waste provisions was going to be taken to Cabinet. The committee was invited to future discussions. The committee was told that in relation to this, Biffa was confirmed to be trialling an all-electric waste collection vehicle, and the council was eager to see how this performed in a rural district that contained some urbanised areas.
f. The Environmental Act progress is slow with many elements of regulation still to be published, and the committee would receive further updates as it progressed.
g. The plastic tax would come into effect from 1 April, and this would ensure plastic projects had no less than 30 per cent recycled plastic.
h. The Consistency of Standards consultation results were expected to be released in June.
i. South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse would need to consider whether to issue a joint response regarding the environmental targets that were running to the 11 May.
j. The annual air quality statement was now published, and data was being collected.
k. The procurement for air quality contract and analysis had been completed, and the existing supplier had been successful. They were now awaiting feedback from legal services before proceeding.
The committee asked if the cabinet member was aware of a county pilot for electric vehicle charging places where there were no off-road places. This was where a duct ran under the pavement and had a holder that could be pulled out towards a parked car. The response was that they were aware of similar issues. The cabinet member added that 50 electronic vehicle chargers were in-place at council car parks, but they noted that street chargers were a known issue. A second question was asked seeking clarification on whether the Faringdon Leisure Centre would be using renewable power, including batteries. The response was that batteries were not expected with any surplus energy going back into the grid rather than being stored in a battery.