Public Sector Focus

09.01.20

Edwina Hannaford: Creating a carbon neutral cornwall

Edwina Hannaford, Cornwall Council Portfolio Holder for Climate Change and Neighbourhoods, Cornwall Council

As one of the country’s first local authorities to have produced a detailed action plan in response to the climate emergency, we have already started working towards our ambition to help Cornwall become carbon neutral by 2030.

We have prioritised some key projects; an 8,000-hectare carbon-absorbing Forest for Cornwall, energy efficiency improvements to existing council-owned homes and new planning policies to encourage the switch to more renewable energy generation and carbon neutral homes.

One of the first actions under our pioneering Carbon Neutral Cornwall programme is to stop providing gas as a source of energy in all our new homes - delivering on a Government pledge five years ahead of the national target and cutting not only carbon, but residents’ fuel bills.

In a bid to increase the amount of affordable housing available for our residents we have started to build new homes in Cornwall with a focus on providing a significant increase in social housing. We have already completed pilot projects in Tolvaddon and Bodmin and some residents have moved into their new homes. Plans are now in place for our next two developments in Bodmin and Liskeard where, for the first time, gas will no longer be used.

Our development company Treveth is leading the investment programme and looking at alternative ways of providing energy and heating for new properties. We are investigating electricity, air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps as energy sources and taking into account the location and geology of each site to identify the best long-term solution. The design of developments will also follow ‘Building with Nature’ standards and include connections to cycling pathways to encourage more healthy lifestyles.

Our ambitions to build highly insulated and energy efficient family homes are outlined in a pattern book of designs created by Treveth and will be applied at our next three planned sites in Newquay, Redruth and Launceston.

This innovative and sustainable approach to housebuilding will inform our new, climate change planning document to strengthen our existing policies in the Local Plan. The initiative will give set out new guidance to promote renewable energy, environmental growth and energy-efficient homes, increasing employment opportunities and generating more of our own energy.

Our commitment to reducing the impacts of the climate emergency will always be sensitive to the needs of our residents and aim to bring social as well as environmental benefits. Powering our new homes with alternative energy sources will not only save carbon but lead to lower heating bills and help reduce fuel poverty for residents on low incomes.

Another example of this dual benefit is our Government-supported whole-house retrofit pilot to fit energy efficiency improvements such as external wall insulation, solar panels and heat pumps to Cornwall Council homes.

We are proud to be the first local authority in the country to use an innovative decision-making tool based on the ‘doughnut economics’ theory pioneered by the acclaimed economist Kate Raworth.

This tool enables us to weigh up environmental factors such as greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, renewable energy with social needs such as health, education and connectivity, so we can work to ensure better outcomes for our residents and the environment.

We are now extending the use of this tool in planning all major projects across the council and other authorities are asking us to share our expertise with them in producing their climate change plans.

Source: PSE Dec 19/Jan 20 edition

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