Home > News > Greens unveil ideas to help West Berkshire move to zero carbon by 2030

Green West Berkshire councillors today (Tuesday 23 July) published a list of practical suggestions – including a Clean Air Zone in Newbury town centre – for how the council can move towards its target of carbon neutrality by 2030.

The initial list of ideas covers air quality, energy, recycling, transport, tree planting and other issues which the Greens look forward to discussing with the other political parties and council officers.

We also want to hear from the public as we believe it is important for everyone in West Berkshire to be involved in the process of acting urgently to reduce carbon emissions.

The council declared a climate emergency on 2 July in response to a campaign by West Berkshire Green Party and other local groups. An Environment Advisory Group (EAG) was set up and the Green councillors have submitted the following ideas to be discussed at the first meeting of this group.

General

• Carry out a West Berkshire carbon audit.

• Include a full climate change impact assessment (just as we do equality impact assessments) in officers’ reports, to include the impact of any proposals or recommendations on CO2 emissions, biodiversity, and other environmental factors.

• Organise a climate change action conference in September/October involving experts, local campaign groups, and members of the public. Not just a talking shop – the council must commit to act.

• Allocate a number of council staff to prioritise climate change emergency response tasks. For example: there are many grants available (from the government, the EU, and other bodies) – someone needs to chase up every avenue. Oxford City Council, for example, received a £500,000 government grant for taxi charging points, and £1.7m funding to upgrade buses.

• A small group of EAG members (one from each of the three parties) and officers to visit the following areas to see best practice: Nottingham, Bristol, Stroud, Oxford, Greater Manchester.

• Create a “grant pot” to encourage and enable carbon-reduction schemes within West Berkshire. Companies, charities and other groups would be able to apply, the criterion being CO2 reductions per pound spent.

Air quality – town centre

• Set a target to complete a Clean Air Zone for the centre of Newbury. Specifically, make Northbrook Street and the eastern end of Bartholomew Street completely traffic free by a specified date (we suggest Clean Air Day 2020), in three stages:

1 With immediate effect, extend the traffic-free period at each end of the day from 8am to 6pm.

2 Extend the traffic-free period to three days, ie 8am Friday to 8am Monday, by (say) March 2020 to allow time to work out deliveries, market traders, etc. Liaise with Newbury Town Council over this.

3 Clean Air Zone, emissions-free, takes effect in summer 2020. Then consider how best to extend it.

Air quality – schools

• With immediate effect, update guidance to drivers near schools to say engines must not be left running, pointing out that this is actually illegal, as well as dangerous to their own children’s health.

• Consider introducing fines for those who flout this. (A number of local authorities already do this.)

• As suggested by the Secretary of State for Health, develop vehicle-free zones near schools between 8.15-9.15 and 2.45-3.45.

• Examine and introduce a range of measures to encourage safe walking and cycling to and from school (see Walking and cycling).

Plastics

• Eliminate all single-use plastics from West Berkshire in three stages:

1 Council offices.

2 Other council-maintained buildings, eg schools, leisure centres.

3 Everyone else – contractors, suppliers, businesses. This would follow a period of consultation in which expert advice was offered to these stakeholders (many of course are already acting to do this).

Recycling

• Renegotiate contract with Veolia to prioritise recycling and make West Berkshire a leader in the field.

• Specifically, allow more items to be recycled, eg yoghurt pots, plastic trays.

• Expand sale of compost from recycling centres, marketing this effectively to rival garden centres.

Private cars

• Agree a date for West Berkshire Council’s fleet to be fully electric ASAP.

• Introduce incentives for council employees to leave their cars at home.

• Big increase in charging points, especially in car parks (eg top floor of the Kennet Centre – whole row should be introduced next to the two existing ones).

• Expand Car Club, with more vehicles and in particular more pick-up and drop-off points.

Public transport

• Investigate how to make Vodafone buses available for wider public use.

• Establish how much it would cost to run a free electric “hopper” bus service between bus station, rail station, retail park etc from the next financial year, and develop a plan to introduce such a service.

• Introduce a workplace parking levy to pay for this and other improvements in public transport. (In Nottingham, this scheme brings in annual revenue of £9m!)

Taxis

• All West Berkshire-licensed taxis to be electric by an agreed date, to be achieved as follows:

1 Incentives to be offered to firms to go green – eg they get a discount on their licence for each electric vehicle in their fleet.

2 The process, including final date, to be agreed with the trade via discussions with the Licensing Committee and officers.

3 Provide charging points, specifically for use by taxis, at the Wharf taxi rank, rail station, and elsewhere. (Government money may be available for this.)

Trees and verges

• Agree a target, say to plant X thousand trees a year for the life of this council.

• Identify suitable sites, on council-owned, town council-owned, and private land.

• Roadside verges, roundabouts etc to be reimagined with wild flowers and other vegetation to encourage biodiversity and pollinating insects.

• Be ambitious! (Cornwall Council has set aside a 20,000-acre site for tree planting.)

Renewable energy

• Starting at home, retrofit the council offices to be a model for whole district: zero carbon, run on renewable energy.

• Accelerate plans for solar roofing on every school and extend to all council-maintained buildings.

• Swimming pools to be heated with renewable energy.

Walking and cycling

• Prioritise safe walking and cycling routes as a healthy, zero-emissions alternative to the private car.

• Link existing and proposed routes (eg the active travel route between Hermitage and Hampstead Norreys, existing footpaths, canal towpaths, etc) to provide a network for safe walking and cycling right across West Berkshire.

Councillor Steve Masters, the Green Party’s representative on the EAG, said: “This initial selection of ideas offers the council the opportunity to start acting on the wishes of the public. Never before have we seen such levels of interest and engagement from residents who want to tackle climate change. They will judge us by our actions or indeed inaction. The EAG needs to be innovative and energetic. As the Green group’s representative, I look forward to playing my part in delivering on our ambition to become carbon neutral by 2030.”

West Berkshire Green Party believes that the proceedings of EAG meetings should be publicly available, with a presumption in favour of transparency. We want to see the public involved as much as possible. We deplore the fact that the council’s ruling Conservative group, after initially agreeing that the Environment Board would have all-party membership, have now decided to restrict membership to Conservative portfolio holders only.

Green group leader Councillor Carolyne Culver said: “Members of the public have been asking us since 2 July what is happening next. If we say ‘we can’t tell you’ this risks undermining trust, and people will fear we aren’t taking the issue seriously.”

David Marsh

About David Marsh

David Marsh is a Green Party councillor for Wash Common ward on West Berkshire Council and Newbury Town Council. He is a journalist and the author of a lighthearted grammar book, For Who the Bell Tolls: The Essential and Entertaining Guide to Grammar. He and his wife, Anna, have a seven-year-old son, Freddie, and a nine-year-old dog, Lupin. David is a trustee of two local charities, Friends of Wash Common Library and Eight Bells for Mental Health, and presents a monthly music show on Kennet Radio.

5 Comments, RSS

  • Peter Norman

    says on:
    Jul 23, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    Excellent set of proposals to start with that everyone should be able to get behind. But if the Council is serious about Climate Change then it needs to not only look at decisions going forward but decisions already made that should be revisited. Here would be my 12 point plan to get things rolling>

    1) The work to re-route traffic from the A339 to Cheap Street should be reversed. We should be taking traffic away from the town centre not bringing it closer to the centre. The pollution effects on the business on Cheap Street many of which are eateries should be a high priority.

    2) The stalling of the building of High Wood School should be taken as an opportunity to abandon the project. It assumes that the vast majority of pupils will be delivered to the school by car and has a drop off zone (kiss and leave) built within the school premises. This is an act of gross irresponsibility given what we know about the effects of air pollution on children, and is at total odds with the Council’s climate protestations. it would show real commitment to the declaration if the decision to build the school was reversed and an alternative site found that could enable students to walk to school.

    3) All decisions re the current Core Strategy running to 2026 should be reviewed to see if they meet the new climate emergency guidelines. In particular the decision to allocate Sandleford as a strategic site should be reviewed against alternatives to see which offers the most sustainable solution. All applications relating to it should be put on hold whilst this review is undertaken.

    4) The Council should look at how best to deliver a revitalised southern half of the town with a mix of accommodation, retail, leisure and business. It should incorporate Market Street development (which should be put on hold whilst review carried out), the council offices and Kennet Centre which the council should purchase and put at the heart of its plans. Outside of London Street this is the most sustainable area for looking at how the town can accommodate growth. The Council Offices should move to Bayers former offices.

    5) Protected cycle routes should be provided on all the major routes in to town within a 3km radius of the town centre. These should be raised routes that vehicles cannot park on and where cyclists can cycle with confidence that they will not hit a pot hole or be swooped on by passing cars or pedestrians. There are very few cycle routes of this nature in the town currently.

    6) Town leisure facilities should be maintained and upgraded to encourage exercise. This includes providing a facility where a wide range of sports can be accommodated including football. This complex could be accommodated within the LRIE off Victoria Park.

    7) A dedicated pedestrian/cycle route should be provided off the road network., to encourage people to walk/cycle for leisure. A possibility is to provide a route that links Greenham Park and the control tower with a route that encompasses the route set out in the book Watership Down that would run from Sandleford to the Downs themselves. This would also prove to be an attractive tourist destination which would need to be managed.

    8) Membership of fitness clubs should be subsidised to encourage mental well being as well as help tackle obesity.

    9) Rather than putting a tax on recycling, there should be a tax on general rubbish on the proviso that the Council expands its recycling efforts to take anything that can be recycled.

    10) While the Council is lobbying Government to bring back its commitment to zero carbon housing it should stipulate in its award of strategic housing sites that zero carbon housing is a pre-requisite.

    11) The council should look to reduce Council Tax on energy efficient housing and extra reductions for anyone who instals thermal or solar panels on south facing roofs.

    12) The council should look to use Section 106 monies to offer grants to enable people to super insulate their homes, introduce alternative energy sources to oil and gas, and to introduce cycle storage as opposed to building new roads.

  • Stan Green

    says on:
    Jul 23, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    There seems to be a glaring omission, implicating local fast (seasonal) fashion outlets (Parkway Shopping) inculcating all its environmental wastage and travel companies promoting unsustainable air travel and tourism pollution.

  • Lizzie Shackleton

    says on:
    Jul 30, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    A good start! I would like to see something about sustainable agriculture and gardening. We need to be thinking about retaining carbon in the soil and reducing reliance on chemicals and peat based composts.

  • Margaret McGrath

    says on:
    Jul 31, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    Does the Council have a Green Infrastructure Strategy? If not this should be a priority as GI has huge benefits for climate change mitigation, biodiversity and CO2 sequestration.

    If there is already a GI Strategy then this should be reviewed to ensure it maximises opportunities to contribute to addressing the Climate Change Emergency.

    Tree planting is great as is reducing grass cutting on verges but it needs to be part of an overall GI Strategy to be most effective.

  • Paula Saunderson

    says on:
    Aug 15, 2019 at 8:17 am

    All very good points and a couple of comments

    1. I agree with Margaret McGrath, there needs to be strong policy around WBC Management of the lands under their control, especially for soil and vegetation. As well as achieving max carbon capture, all open spaces should be managed for the benefit of other species of flora & fauna, as well as for humans and their domestic pets. More vegetation means more carbon capture. It is not just about planting trees and managing verges better (although they are very important), it is about considering the whole needs of other species and biodiversity will only be achieved if ‘habitats’ are created. Eg., Many birds and butterflies need native hedging to feed and nest or lay eggs in, and you will not see certain native species without having nettles and brambles so some areas need wildness and I actually believe that some areas need to be free from human and dog footfall.

    2. When replacing vehicles and equipment there needs to be consideration for recharging smaller tools that are carried on the main vehicle or are ancillary to equipment. Something like A 2nd charging point in the back of a truck, or a portable charger. Eg., items used in road mending, mowers, strummers, grass blowers etc etc. If the council leads then their contractors will have to follow., and even give consideration for bringing back hand tools and old skills for delicate habitats.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*