'We're ahead of the game in race to go Green'

Torbay Weekly

The South Hams are ahead of other districts in Devon as a result of their ambitious plans to tackle climate change and increase biodiversity, councillors have been told.
The council’s executive committee when given an update on their Climate Change and Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, heard that while there is still much more to be done to achieve Net Zero, their approach to climate change and the Community Forum has been highlighted by the Local Government Association
Among the actions taken so far are the securing of £600,000 additional funding to make local homes more energy efficient and moving forward with plans to equip the district with additional electric vehicle charging points.
Cllr Judy Pearce, leader of the council, when asked how South Hams was faring compared to other areas, said that while she can only compare with the other Devon districts, several of them are struggling to even appoint a climate change officer.
She added: “We seem to be ahead of the other districts and it is amazing what we have managed to accomplish.”
Key areas of progress highlighted in the report to the meeting included:

An additional £600,000 in Green Homes Grants has been secured, which will help improve energy efficiency in 90 more homes. The £600,000 grant is in addition to the £900,000 Green Home Grant funding previously secured and will enable more local homes to benefit from energy- and money-saving improvements.
Eight new EV charging bays will be installed in Kingsbridge and Totnes.

Up to £3,000 per Member will be available to support local climate change and biodiversity projects which is due to be available from June and is in addition to the existing Members’ Locality Fund.
The South Hams Climate and Biodiversity Action Fund has been launched on Crowdfunder which provides match-funding for local projects and is backed by £200,000 funding.
A feasibility study has now been commissioned into EV charging, solar and battery storage on council-owned car parks, exploring the potential for direct energy feed to nearby assets.
A survey into local need for shared electric vehicles and bikes is planned.
An application has been submitted for funding from the Government’s Natural Environment Investment Readiness Grant in partnership with the AONB unit (as lead bidder) and Ambios (Sharpham Estate).

Cllr Pearce added: “We are determined to tackle the issues of climate change and biodiversity quickly and efficiently. We’re taking direct action to cut our own emissions as an organisation and instigate a district-wide approach to change as well as using our position to apply for any funding that can be fed into community groups who are doing an excellent job with projects on a very local level."

Cllr Jonathan Hawkins added: “We have been doing a lot but we are a small and rural district council, but working with Devon County Council on their carbon plan, we can make Devon a greener county."

But Cllr Nicky Hopwood said that while people say that they are committed to tackling climate change, a ‘reality check’ was needed as there are still plenty of people who are ‘not interested’ and that some of the language used around climate change goes over their heads and needs to be ‘more normal’,

The report said that the council’s ’agile’ approach to working has resulted in significant carbon savings since January 2021 of an estimated 300,000 miles of travel, leading to an estimated saving of over 100tCO2e (Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalent), but Cllr Hopwood said: “We need to come way down to basics and stop using some terms like carbon tonne.”
She added: “I have no idea what a carbon tonne is. Saying we saved 106 tonnes of CO2 – I don’t know what that is, but I do know what 300,000 miles of travel being saved is and that is a significant sum.”
The executive unanimously noted the progress against delivery of the adopted Climate Change and Biodiversity Action Plan.