Climate change action provides solid foundation for the future

Climate change action will be one of the main legacies of South Lakeland District Council and a solid foundation for the new Westmorland and Furness Council to build on.

SLDC declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 and since then the authority has been using its Climate Change Action Plan to work towards its targets of:

  • a carbon neutral council by 2030
  • a carbon neutral South Lakeland district by 2037.

Through work to reduce its emissions, capital projects and work in the community, progress has been made towards both targets.

For example, greenhouse gas emissions from South Lakeland District Council as an organisation have more than halved from 5,259 tonnes in 2010 to 2,476 tonnes in 2019/20 and a further decrease of 15 per cent was seen in 2020/21 to 2,097 tonnes.

As vesting day of the new Westmorland and Furness Council approaches, SLDC’s climate action team has taken stock of what has been achieved and opportunities for the future.

Councillor Jonathan Brook, Leader of South Lakeland District Council and the new Westmorland and Furness Council, which will replace Cumbria County Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Barrow Borough Council on April 1, said: “I am in the privileged position of leading not just South Lakeland District Council but also Westmorland and Furness Council and the tremendous work and knowledge of officers and members in South Lakeland will be taken into the new authority. There will be a great deal of continuity as we move into an organisation with wider opportunities to make a difference.

“We will be an ambitious and environmentally aware council, looking to provide leadership on the drive towards net zero.

“Collaboration with partners has been identified as a key strength and contributor to success.

“This is a great legacy and also a foundation to build on for the future with all the opportunities the new Westmorland and Furness Council will bring to meeting these challenges, with greater scope to continue to deliver this good work.”

Councillor Dyan Jones, Portfolio Holder for Climate Action and Biodiversity, said: “South Lakeland District Council pledged early on to show leadership in tackling the climate crisis and was one of the first local authorities to declare a climate emergency in 2019.

“We created a Climate Change Action Plan for ourselves as an organisation but, crucially, for the area as a whole with a whole-hearted commitment to taking a lead and working with and supporting communities, groups, businesses and organisations large and small to do more together and make a difference. To think globally and act locally to find ways to reduce the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss, which are likely to be the biggest challenges of our lifetime

“Our commitment to the importance of mitigation and adaptation, as well as taking a joined-up, strategic approach, has grown and continues and will be carried into the new Westmorland and Furness Council.”

Work towards meeting the council’s 2030 target included replacing the boiler at South Lakeland House and improved building management practices, including by SLDC’s leisure partner GLL on the leisure centres. Specialist monitoring has led to a projected 30 per cent reduction in emissions from our buildings’ energy use.

The council is committed to reducing emissions from transport, with the procurement of our first electric operational vehicle and an emissions reduction in the past year which equates to 20,000 litres of diesel.

Recent success has included a successful bid to Innovate UK’s Net Zero Living programme. The partnership project aims to help move South Lakeland towards net zero and was backed to the tune of nearly £75,000, with the potential to draw down millions more.

The collaboration between South Lakeland District Council, Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS) and the University of Cumbria received £74,625 to work with nine local businesses to establish how “non-technical barriers” to decarbonisation in rural areas, such as high transport costs and inefficient housing stock, can be reduced or removed.

Working with Charge My Street, 24 EV charging points have been installed in SLDC car parks, while the One Public Estate (OPE) Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Partnership, of which SLDC is a member, has secured £1.9m from the Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (LEVI) pilot fund with an aim of installing up to 900 EV charging points throughout Cumbria.

Other successes include:

Buildings

Buildings and energy represent a large proportion of the emissions across the district and SLDC’s own operations. The council’s progress in reducing emissions has come from its work to reduce emissions in its buildings:

  • Recent development of South Lakeland House, which has reduced emissions through using modern building fabrics and has a green roof.
  • Delivered a series of energy-efficiency measures in council buildings such as insulation, LED lighting and draught proofing.
  • Invested in PV arrays on three of its buildings; South Lakeland House (10 per cent of energy usage), Mintworks (eight per cent of energy usage) and Town View Fields Hostel (three per cent of energy usage).
  • Developed a decarbonisation plan for the council’s corporate estate.

Community

Working with partners in the community is a key aspect of SLDC’s climate change and biodiversity action as an organisation. Two examples were:

  • Launching the Climate Community Fund. This £20,000 fund was launched in autumn 2020 and sought South Lakeland projects that addressed climate change through measures to reduce carbon, enhance biodiversity to support carbon offsetting measures, addressed community behaviour change and consumption habits or promoted community/domestic energy efficiency. The fund was oversubscribed with some excellent local projects such as Friends of Noble’s Rest, Light Up Lives and Gill Banks Community Group receiving a share of the fund.
  • Funded and managed the Greening Campaign, a toolkit designed to take parish or town councils through steps to help households reduce their carbon footprint. Most have now finished and have received their estimated carbon saving for the community. Carrying out phase 1 of the campaign has led to another local green group being set up in one area (Duddon), and PEAT in Grange are building upon the campaign with their own projects.

Green Economy

The role of business and the economy in the district is pivotal and enabling a transition to a green economy was at the forefront of SLDC’s climate action. The council has:

  • Focused on support for businesses to become low carbon, training for businesses and business owners and supporting organisations in reducing their carbon intensity from their energy.
  • Launched a partnership with consultancy Green Small Business. This gives local businesses the chance to get subsidised environmental advice and 12 months of Green Small Business certification. SLDC is aiming for 20 new businesses to sign up in 2022/23.
  • Subsidised the Purposeful Business Start-up Programme: Future Fixers. The programme gives people the skills and knowledge to run a green, ethical enterprise. The council’s backing means the usual £495 fee is cut to £60 for South Lakeland residents. Thirty-eight businesses have graduated from Future Fixers’ Purposeful Business Start-up Programme.
  • Through a funding agreement with CAfS offered advice to more than 22 communities in energy-efficiency projects, delivered a range of workshops, advice and training to businesses, started a Carbon Footprint Calculator for businesses and held a green business support day in Ambleside.
  • The 2022/23 funding agreement with CAfS was focused on green business support with one-to-one support on offer for small or medium-sized businesses.

Biodiversity

South Lakeland District Council committed to a review of how its activities could protect and enhance local and global biodiversity while at the same time delivering services, housing and climate change protection to the residents of the district and working with local authorities and other strategic partners in Cumbria and elsewhere to jointly address this issue.

Action SLDC has taken to protect and enhance biodiversity includes:

  • Being an active member on Cumbria Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) pilot. The purpose of the LNRS is to restore and link up habitats so that species can thrive, and agree the best places to help nature recover, plant trees and woodland, restore peatland, mitigate flood and fire risk, and create green spaces for local people to enjoy.
  • Protecting local biodiversity through the council’s land and woodland management. In 2018 SLDC commissioned Cumbria Woodlands to compile Woodland Management Plans for its main wooded sites in the Grange, Kendal and Windermere areas to enable works to improve the structure of the woodlands.
  • The council has also been facilitating the work of nine “Friends of” groups at its various parks, highlighting how vital community partnerships are for protecting and enhancing biodiversity across the district. Groups such as the Friends of Noble’s Rest, Friends of Lightburn Park, Friends of Fletcher Park, Ambleside Action for a Future and Kendal Conservation Volunteers have carried out vital work to protect and enhance biodiversity such as planting bulbs, wildflower meadows, trees and bog areas in SLDC parks.
  • Launched a Biodiversity Community Toolkit to enable and encourage more community biodiversity action and give best practice advice on how work on council land can be the most beneficial to the natural environment and wildlife.

 

Notes

Westmorland and Furness Council’s Council Plan pledges that the authority will provide leadership in the drive to become carbon net zero and sustainable, including supporting and promoting environmentally friendly forms of travel such as making it easier and safer to walk and cycle, and fixes a target of achieving net zero by 2037.

Council Plan priorities include:

  • addressing biodiversity loss by encouraging better land management, habitat creation, tree planting and net biodiversity gain in new housing developments.
  • leading the way to help reduce the loss of species, improve green spaces, and support a more sustainable local food system.

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