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COP26 public consultation report

On 30th March 2022, we submitted the CAST COP26 public consultation report to Jonathan Tew (Chief Executive Officer, South Tyneside Council) and his colleagues in the Regenerationand Environment Department. The fully-evidenced report presented YOUR ideas and recommendations for the direction YOU want to see the council taking to fight climate change. The council claim their 'role is to champion and represent the social, economic and environmental well-being of the area.' Can they live up to that billing?

Read their response to our report and decide for yourself! We're preparing our response so please let us know what you think here 

Full STC response to CAST COP26 Public Consultation Report

South Tyneside Council welcome this report and are grateful to all involved in the Citizen’s Assembly. The important recommendations that have been put forward need to be carefully considered alongside the work that is currently being undertaken as part of the Council’s Sustainable South Tyneside Strategy and 5-year Action Plan, to seek alignment and maximise resources.

In response to the comments put forward in the CAST COP26 report, please see the following information:

Reaching Net Zero

1. Follow the example set by councils such as Northumberland, Stockport and Leicestershire and offer staff carbon literacy training.
Response: This year, the Council is planning on implementing a climate change e-learning module to all staff this summer, as well as providing a cohort of officers, members and senior leadership with more focused climate change public engagement training, to upskill and support our staff to embed climate friendly practices both at work and at home. 

2. All new housing applications satisfy stringent environmental criteria requiring all new homes to be as sustainable as possible and include the installation of heat pumps, effective insulation and solar panelling to ensure high standards of energy efficiency.

Response: The emerging Local Plan will have policies relating to climate change and reducing carbon emissions.

Next Steps:

  • Our internal environmental sustainability monitoring process will continue to identify new construction projects and ensure that sustainable technologies are being considered where appropriate.

3. The accelerated installation of EV charging points.
Response: There are currently 59 Operational units in the Borough (as of February 22). The network was expanded by 18 units in the 2021/22 financial year.

Next Steps:

  • Any future expansion of the charging point network will be subject to appropriate central government funding being allocated.

4. CAST proposal: The creation of a support network – a central, regularly updated repository of resources and tools. These resources must be available in ALL local authority assets and other public buildings and in multiple formats.

Response: There is a directory of useful climate change local resources held on the climate change pages on the Council’s website The Council has also created a Climate Change Toolkit for all schools across the Borough, which can be accessed online via the local schools network. This toolkit contains practical advice and guidance to teach children about the causes of climate change and the actions that can be taken to create a more sustainable future. It identifies opportunities to drive down carbon emissions while enhancing the school's natural environment such as promoting active travel, tree planting, setting up composting and a food growing space, reducing waste and recycling more.
Next Steps:

  • We are starting to work with businesses to share tools and resources with them, with a Business Climate Change Toolkit in the pipeline.

Protecting Communities

5. Air quality monitoring at schools and the surrounding areas.
Response: The Council understands the importance of air pollution and how this is associated with a number of adverse health impacts. Since 2000 we have had a statutory duty for managing local air quality under the Environment Act 1995 and are required to carry out annual reviews and assessments of air quality in South Tyneside.

We do this in a number of ways by:

  • Routinely monitoring air quality across the Borough
  • Enforcing air quality laws
  • Ensuring air quality is considered for new development
  • Delivering Traffic projects aiming at alleviating congestion

We know transportation plays an important role in supporting daily activities; however we also know active travel (cycling, walking and use of public transport) can increase physical activity levels and improve physical and mental wellbeing. Prioritisation of active travel is a key area of focus as it helps to reduce the reliance on motorised transport, contributing to improved air quality.
Next Steps:

  • The Council will continue to monitor air quality around the Borough in line with required our Annual Status Report which is a Central Government requirement.
  • The Council is to introduce initiatives to reduce the reliance on the private vehicle use as part of the school run through the promotion of active travel measures.

6. An immediate halt to the use of leaf-blowers to safeguard insect populations.
Response: We are currently preparing to go to tender for the new Grounds Maintenance contract and innovation/new machinery to reduce carbon impact will be considered as a key element of the tender process. Over the past 10 years, the Council has increased meadow grass and decreased amenity grass, helping to safeguard insect populations.

7. A move to herbicide-free weedkillers.
Response: This is already in place with a number of trials already undertaken, this will continue alongside the current weeding process.
Next Steps:

  • The Council has already committed to looking at and using effective alternatives as and when they come to the market.

8. The expansion of a β€˜no mow zone’ initiative.
Response: We already have meadow grass areas and are working with colleagues to see where else within the Borough these would be suitable whilst maintaining usable green and open spaces for the public
Next Steps:

  • The Council continues to look at ways to significantly increase biodiversity across the Borough and will do this by increasing community involvement to ensure these schemes succeed.

9. A more ambitious tree planting policy – the current target of 3000 per year doesn’t make clear whether these are in addition to those planted to replace those cut down.
Response: In 2021/22, the Council planted 3000 whips and 830 large standard trees throughout the Borough. This year has also seen the successful launch of the North East Community Forest.
Next Steps:

  • In 2021/22 the Council was successful in receiving grant funding from a number of external sources and we will continue to take these opportunities as they become available to ensure expansion of our tree stock.

10. Greater priority to identifying areas for woodland creation.
Response for 9 & 10: As a partner in the newly-formed North East Community Forest (NECF), we are working on ambitious plans to plant 500 hectares by 2025 across the NECF area. Working with the NECF gives us a great opportunity to increase tree numbers, but more importantly to increase overall canopy cover across the area.
Next Steps:

  • We have recruited a Tree and Woodland Officer who will progress tree planting initiatives across the Borough.
  • This year we have successfully applied for all appropriate government grants and part of the criteria was to identify areas of land with lower canopy cover and higher levels of deprivation. We are hoping to submit bids for these schemes this year as well.

11. Mature trees take high priority when considering planning applications.
Response: The emerging local plan has a policy to protect existing mature trees and hedgerows where appropriate.

12. New buildings are not constructed on flood plains.
Response: The Local Plan policies will be in line with national planning policies with regards to flood risk. A Strategic Flood Risk Assessment has been undertaken to support the Local Plan.

13. CAST proposal: Generating ideas for the overhaul of our existing natural spaces, such as Temple Park, to enable local people to make more effective use of the space. Reestablishment of community gardens and allotments.

  • Our Community Engagement Officer works closely with Friends of Parks groups, schools, and other voluntary groups, to ensure our parks, cemeteries, and greenspaces benefit our community, climate, and wildlife.
  • A Food Action Plan is being produced by Public Health, Environmental Sustainability, and Economic Policy, which includes actions on community growing projects.
  • The Council currently has over 1,500 allotment plots spread over 25 sites across the Borough.

Mobilising Finance

14. Environmental protection consideration must be placed at the heart of all budgetary decisions.
Next Steps:

  • Consideration is currently being given to a council-wide Environmental Sustainability Policy to embed sustainable practices at the heart of all council operations and practices.

15. Follow the example set by councils such as Cardiff, Birmingham, Islington, Lambeth and Waltham Forest and fully commit to full divestment of pension funds from fossil fuels.
Response: South Tyneside Council is the administering authority of the Tyne and Wear Pension Fund. Climate change has been recognised as a material financial risk to the Fund. At Pensions Committee in November 2021, the Fund committed to range of carbon reduction targets as follows:

  • A net zero carbon target for the Investment Portfolio of 2050, or sooner.
  • A net zero carbon target for the administrative functions of the Fund of 2030, to align with the Council’s ambitions.
  • A reduction in carbon emissions of 30% to 35% by 2025.
  • A reduction in carbon emissions of 50% to 60% by 2030.
  • To monitor progress against these targets, a carbon footprint of the Fund will be undertaken annually. The exercise for March 2021 showed that there had already been a reduction in carbon emissions of 30% from 2010, 15% of which has been over the two-year period to March 2021. A further carbon footprint of the Fund is underway as of March 2022.

16. Genuine investigation into moving to a 'sustainable well-being economy'. The Wellbeing Economy Alliance provide support and resources to facilitate this transition.
Response: The Council is currently refreshing a number of its key corporate strategies in the wake of the pandemic, including the Health and Wellbeing Strategy (initial work is placing a real focus upon wellbeing, financial security and sustainability) and plans around the economy following on from the 2020 South Tyneside Economic Recovery Plan. The Recovery Plan placed a key emphasis upon green growth with one of its three key drivers being to β€œcatalyse green and sustainable growth by maximising the potential of our low-carbon and digital assets and expertise”.

17. Push for NEXUS to provide more eco-friendly, reliable and affordable public transport.
Response: The Council are working with Nexus and Local Bus Operators to ensure that public transport is reliable, affordable and does not act as a detriment to the environment.

18. Increased promotion of Meanwhile Use Leases to encourage innovative local enterprises and reinvigorate our town centres.
Response: The Council are keen to support initiatives that bring empty/surplus properties back into use in our Town Centres, including considering short-term or flexible lettings that will provide new businesses and opportunity to become established so that they may then commit to becoming a longer-term occupant in the locality.

19. STC run carparks offer low cost/free car-parking to EVs and dedicated spaces with electric charging points.
Response: STC will endeavour to provide electric charging points (subject to the appropriate external funding) within Council operated car parks, with the appropriate enforcement undertaken to prevent misuse by conventional vehicles.

20. Support for Right to Repair initiatives.
Response: The Council will continue to look at ways to champion a circular economy within the Borough.
Next steps:

  • We will look to work with business to promote circular economy in their practices.