To receive an update since the last CEAC meeting.
Cabinet member updated the committee.
Future Oxfordshire Partnership - Environmental Advisory Group
The last Environment Advisory Group (EAG) meeting took place on 02/03/2023 and the main item of discussion was the Oxfordshire Net Zero Route Map and Action Plan which we will be looking at later on in the agenda.
There was also a discussion about what the EAG could do to help inform the current debate around the location of ground mounted solar farms. Further work was required to scope out what needs to be done and this will be brought back to a future meeting of EAG for discussion.
Following the successful bid to the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme and the award of £5.99m for works to Wantage Leisure Centre and White Horse Tennis and Leisure Centre, we had started work looking at our other buildings, with a contract to be awarded for site decarbonisation assessments for Abbey Meadows Pool and the Beacon. These assessments will determine what works were required to decarbonise the buildings and will inform the evidence required to make future funding bids to the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.
APSE Energy had been appointed to undertake a feasibility study into investing in solar energy on council land with an aim to offset the councils’ unavoidable carbon emissions. The report will include a financial model as well as contractual, planning and grid supply issues and will feed into future decisions about investment.
Climate Action Fund (CAF) 2022/23.
A total of £42,835 was awarded to 15 organisations across the Vale of White Horse, to support projects taking climate action. Following the successful allocation of funds in 2021/22 and 2022/23 officers had initiated a review of the previous CAF rounds in order to prepare for launching the next round of funding which will benefit from an increased allocation of £100k.
Bid to Net Zero Fast Followers Fund
Officers submitted a funding application to the Net Zero Living, Fast Followers programme. If successful in this bid, this project will fund an officer post and consultant support to develop an approach to investment in nature-based carbon offsetting in Oxfordshire, aiming to offer Oxfordshire's businesses and local authorities' opportunities to invest in nature-based carbon sequestration schemes within the county. South Oxfordshire were leading the bid, and Vale of White Horse District Council, Cherwell District Council, West Oxfordshire District Council and the Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership were project partners.
Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (LEVI) funding
The Office for Zero Emissions Vehicles (OZEV) had awarded £700k from the pilot LEVI scheme (we were previously unsuccessful with OZEV wanting to “level up” other areas). The money will be used across the county to fund cable gullies enabling Oxfordshire residents with properties on the street without off street parking to run an Electric Vehicle charging cable under the pavement to charge their EVs.
Officers in the Climate and Biodiversity team worked with the Parks and Communications teams to develop the ‘Let it Bee’ project which aims to promote wildlife friendly management of council owned land. This follows on from the No-Mow May trials which ran across the last growing season and will involve a total of nine sites covering around 51,000m2 where the grass will be left to grow for the benefit of wildlife. The sites are spread across Abingdon, Faringdon, and Wantage. In addition, we also created a new wildflower meadow at Herons Walk in Abingdon where the grass was scarified, and a wildflower mix was sown. All the sites will be monitored this summer to determine how successful the approach is both in terms of wildlife benefit, costs and public perception.
Cabinet member also mentioned the International Panel for Climate Change’s (IPCC) current warning to take more ambitious action for a sustainable future for all. She thanked all committee members and urged those continuing in the role after the elections to continue to push for climate action.
In questions to the Cabinet member, Cabinet member would send Cllr Grant details of the member who had EV gullies in their ward, to get further information.
Another question was raised about solar panels on car parks. Currently there were no plans, the current focus for redevelopment on carparks was green and blue infrastructure. Examples in France were much larger than what we have. Cabinet member suggested that there were many rooftops to utilise first. Climate and Biodiversity Team Leader also added that there was a study commissioned to look at ground mounted solar panels on council properties, by a company called APSE. The pros and cons of such work, including car parks, would be looked at.