The first of our new, regular updates about Herefordshire Council environmental issues from Councillor Ellie Chowns, cabinet member for environment, economy and skills:

I’m delighted that the 2020 Climate Challenge project has kicked off properly now, with the first set of meetings held for both council and county groups. The 2020 County Team is up and running and have had two meetings. There’s already a really good group dynamic and great range of backgrounds, experience, ages. Sub-groups/areas of interest are already forming around communications/social media, youth and education and buildings. The group are busy sharing ideas, articles, information on projects elsewhere. The 2020 Council Team have met and are recording their personal carbon footprints using an online calculator. They’re meeting again on 4th August to start looking at the Council’s carbon footprint.

We held a very informative all-councillor briefing on environmental building standards on 21st July – following up on this is a high priority for me, and it was great to see how much enthusiasm there was for this from members across the whole council. I believe we need an SPD on environmental building standards, and I would also like to see us adopt a policy on our own buildings.

A revised governance report format has now been put in place, meaning that every decision report now has to explicitly consider the climate and ecological impacts of the decision. This will help ensure that all our decision-making takes into account the need to tackle the climate and ecological emergency.

I have asked officers from all my three portfolio areas (environment economy and skills) to work together to develop an ambitious energy efficiency retrofit programme to improve the quality of the housing stock, reduce emissions, and reduce fuel poverty.

Work has also started on developing a biodiversity strategy for the council (including a Tree Strategy, as per the decision of Council last week).  I’m really pleased that there is such strong support for measures to plant and protect trees and increase biodiversity more generally.

There’s been lots of work going on regarding phosphate levels in the Lugg and Wye Catchment .  I’d particularly like to pay tribute to Elissa Swinglehurst’s determined work on this topic with the Nutrient Management Board. A decision report is due to come forward very soon containing measures that we hope will unlock the moratorium, including construction of integrated wetlands and commissioning of a phosphate calculator for ‘offsetting’.  Ultimately though it is becoming increasingly clear that unsustainable agricultural practices are a central part of this problem, and this is something that needs concerted action from regulatory agencies, as well as improved policy from national government. I hope we will be able to hold an all-members briefing on this topic soon.

Councillor Ellie Chowns ellie.chowns@herefordshire.gov.uk