South Somerset District Council environment review on World Environment Day
It’s WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY. Celebrated annually on 5 June, it’s the United Nations' principal day for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of the environment.
We’ve been reflecting on our own environmental achievements over the last year, as we progress on our journey to be carbon neutral by 2030 or sooner.
In May 2019, SSDC formally recognised a climate and ecological emergency, and publicly agreed to develop a strategy and delivery plan.
What has followed has been an intensive period of decisive action and successes achieved against the backdrop of the worst health crisis in living memory. In the last year SSDC have delivered numerous environmental initiatives and projects.
Here are just some of the highlights.
SSDC Energy Audit and Carbon footprint
SSDC have a carbon calculator used to complete annual reviews to ensure we are moving towards carbon neutrality by 2030. To achieve this, each year we need to reduce our annual carbon by 10% accumulatively. During 2019-2020, we achieved over 10% carbon reduction and now 2020-21 data being collated and due to reduced travel and use of SSDC buildings we’re confident we will beat last year’s figure significantly. Almost all SSDC staff have been enabled to successfully work from home where their role does not require them to be on location. We’re continuing that momentum of agile working which saw a 60% reduction in annual business mileage, saving 38.35 tonnes of CO2e emissions.
SSDC contracted leading energy and regeneration company Engie to conduct an energy audit on our top 10 highest use buildings and develop a net zero carbon roadmap to set out actions and goals for achieving optimum carbon savings in the most efficient ways. Off the back of this audit we made a successful Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme bid and were awarded £3,993,847 of funding to retrofit energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies across SSDC’s highest energy consuming buildings. This is underway with the aim to be completed by September 2021. The work includes installing more insulation, double glazing, LED lighting, PV, Air Source and Ground Source heat pumps, all to help us reduce carbon intensive energy
Electric Vehicle Charging network
Three rapid chargers have been installed and are being used at Wincanton, Ilchester and Ilminster. To date they’ve been used 813imes, saving 8.8 tons of CO2 which is 45,680 miles of electric driving. In addition to this, this year will see 25 SSDC car parks with EV Charging installed as part of the DELETTI EV Charging network project across Devon and South Somerset.
We’re also exploring switching our fleets to electric as older vehicles are stood down, and have switched our street cleaning vehicle to a Goupil EV.
Draft Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan for Yeovil (LCWIP)
We are working with Somerset County Council to produce a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). The work that has been carried out as part of this project is helping us to assess cycling and walking routes across Yeovil which will pass through and around the town centre creating access to retail, leisure and business opportunities in the area.
DfT E-scooter trial in partnership with Zwings
In partnership with micro-mobility operators Zwings, we’ve launched three successful Department for Transport e-scooter trials in Yeovil, Crewkerne and Chard since October 2020 with the Yeovil scheme proving to be one of the top performing in the UK. The scheme which is funded by operators Zwings, is an eco-friendly mode of transport, that reduces the use of fossil fuels, as the e-scooters are charged using a renewable energy tariff, so offer an alternative sustainable transport choice to replace short about town solo car journeys.
Successful bid for Local Authority Delivery Scheme
£803K of funding was successfully awarded to SSDC from BEIS to support communities in hard to heat homes get insulation and energy improvements installed to improve the energy efficiency of 70 Park Homes across the county. SSDC lead on this pilot project in partnership with the other district councils which will be completed by September 2021.
Investment in battery storage and renewable energy
Innovative Battery Energy Storage Site (BESS) investment project near Taunton has been expanded to 30MW to maximise the capability of the site. Through our joint venture company SSDC Opium Power Ltd, another 40MW Storage facility is being built which will be one of the most advanced in the UK.
We’re working with Somerset Waste Partnership to roll out Recycle More in South Somerset later this month, and a consultation has been started with SWP to find improved recycling solutions for all council buildings via a shared scheme across the county.
Community Renewable Energy
We’re promoting community energy with the Solar Streets community discount scheme for solar PV installations with IDDEA renewable energy systems, delivering quality lower cost solar PV installations to homes and communities across South Somerset.
Parish Environment Champions network
We launched a Parish Environment Champions network; a growing group of local residents, passionate about the environment, to share best practice and support each other to deliver local eco projects. We hold regular workshops which have moved online during the pandemic. We communicate national and local grant funding opportunities to the PECs and provide seasonal resource packs to encourage wildlife support and protection according to the time of year.
Extensive tree planting across South Somerset
We secured three urban tree challenge grants, resulting in funding for 900 trees in Martock and Chard which were planted to reduce impacts of future flooding and develop more and better connected tree canopy cover within the urban settings.
SSDC annual tree planting schemes – This season, our Countryside and Environmental Services teams have planted 670 trees across our parks, of which 570 were planted at Wyndham Hill in Yeovil.
SSDC Great Parish Tree Giveaway - We supplied 3,000 trees to local communities to plant in their parishes.
SSDC Community Grant Scheme
We’ve supported seven local environment initiatives through our Community Grant scheme and over the last year awarded £29,434 towards project costs.
Councillor Sarah Dyke, SSDC portfolio holder for Environment, said: “Looking back over this past year and reflecting on the environment projects that have been delivered, it is testament to our pledge to be part of the first generation that aims to leave the planet in a better state than we found it. It’s been a year like no other, but despite the challenges we’ve progressed our strategy with environment being a key priority in the council’s 5-point plan. We will continue to advance to meet our goal to be carbon neutral by 2030. Together with our communities, we can all make a difference by embracing a more sustainable lifestyle”