For information: To receive an update from the Environment Advisory Group. Summary notes from the meeting held on 12 December 2022 are attached.
In providing his update, Councillor David Rouane referred to the notes of the Environment Advisory Group meeting held on 12 December 2022. He stated that significant discussions had taken place at this gathering regarding the issues around solar farms and, that given the links to development management and planning, it had been suggested that these matters should be considered jointly by the Environment Advisory Group and the Planning Advisory Group (once established).
The most substantial piece of ongoing work for the advisory group was the Pathways to Zero Carbon Oxfordshire (PaZCO) workstream. This represented a methodology to achieve zero carbon which focused on the issues and actions that could be delivered in practice locally. The Partnership was reminded that a report on the PaZCO would be brought to its next meeting. This would set out 15 proposed actions, grouped around key themes, which would set out what needed to be done to achieve zero carbon. The resources and funding requirements to progress these proposals would be a key challenge that needed to be considered and addressed going forwards – a plan would, therefore, be needed to secure the requisite financial support.
The Environment Advisory Group had also received a presentation on climate resilience. This had set out the measures that would be required to mitigate the impacts of global warming.
Councillor Rouane also addressed the issue of public access to advisory group documents. Although the summary notes of their meetings were publicly available through the Future Oxfordshire Partnership agenda, the papers considered by the groups were regarded as private documents and were not accessible. He commented that often there were reports or papers of wider interest that he felt should be disseminated more widely and, therefore, he suggested that officers be asked to look into this – a request supported by Councillor Susan Brown.
Councillor Brown also commented that due to the number of groups working within the climate change space, it was important for the different pieces of work to be coordinated. This would help to avoid duplication and ensure that individual projects remained distinctive. In addition, she also supported the need for climate change resilience planning. This would be needed to cover a broad range of issues including the insulation of buildings from extreme heat events. Councillor Rouane agrees that this was important.
Angus Horner referred to the interconnectivity of the issues raised during the meeting. He highlighted the need, notwithstanding the local plan process, to take urgent action to address not just the issue of climate change but also of housing and health. In addition, Mr Horner expressed his concerns around the serious delays faced by major projects in connecting to the electricity distribution grid and suggested that the Partnership, perhaps through the Infrastructure Advisory Group, explore options around what grid measures might be investable and how the funding to do that could be secured. He also commented that there might be areas of the county where grid infrastructure schemes or projects (similar to the ground source scheme at Oxford Brooks) could effectively be self-financed with stakeholders rather than relying on the existing distribution network operator process.
In discussion, the Partnership considered the constraints and opportunities relating to energy generation and connectivity – particularly given the anticipated increase in demand for electricity resulting from the greater usage of electric vehicles. After Councillor Liz Leffman suggested that it might be appropriate to arrange a workshop on the issue, the Chair proposed that the topic could be explored further outside of the meeting. He also advised that it might be helpful to produce a briefing note setting out some of the key facts and issues given the complexity of the subject.
Nigel Tipple spoke to the work currently in progress with the distribution network operators to reduce delays. He commented that the scale of some of the required projects were so significant as to require national grid reinforcement. Mr Tipple commented that he would work with Andrew Down, Future Oxfordshire Partnership Director, and others to contribute to the possible briefing note suggested by the Chair.
RESOLVED: That the update be noted.