North Kesteven District Council                            MPZ0010

Written evidence submitted by North Kesteven District Council

1.1.           North Kesteven is one of seven districts in Lincolnshire. The District is characterised by small settlements and large areas of farmland. More than 64% of the population live in rural settlements. The population of the District is 116,915 (Office for National Statistics mid-year population estimate 2019). Within the District, nearly a third of the population live in the area immediately surrounding Lincoln City. Full Council declared a climate emergency in 2019, and committed to net zero council and district emissions by 2030 target. It is on the basis of our commitment to taking the urgent action needed to tackle climate change and informing central policy that we are submitting evidence.

2.     Executive Summary

2.2. North Kesteven District Council believes that local authorities have a crucial role to play in delivering the urgent and unprecedented action needed to limit climate change. In summary our evidence sets out that;

3.     What should local authorities’ role and responsibilities in reaching net zero by 2050 be? How clear are the expectations about the role of local authorities?

3.1.           Local authorities have two very clear roles to play which have elements of overlap. Firstly, authorities should demonstrate the improvements they are making towards meeting nationally set emissions targets. This includes reducing both direct and indirect emissions particularly through procurement and contracting processes. Secondly, as a leader of place local authorities should take responsibility for supporting and encouraging local communities, workplaces and stakeholder organisations to make necessary changes to achieve these targets. Local authorities have the ability to pull communities together, to engage, to promote and to communicate. They are uniquely placed to raise the profile of climate change, the challenges that lie ahead and to lead communities on implementing the required changes which will achieve net zero.

 

3.2.           Local government’s role could be clarified. This is especially true in relation to emissions targets as the 2050 end date for achieving net zero is misleading. According to the Committee for Climate Change’s latest report to parliament ‘Global emissions must be cut rapidly to Net Zero, integrated with actions to adapt to the climate risks and impacts.At the time of preparing this response the IPCC report has just been released which presents some stark and alarming facts on the rate of climate change and the devastating impacts it is having on the planet which only seek to drive this urgency more forcefully.

 

3.3.           The simple adoption of the 2050 target will not achieve the rapid change required to avoid the very worse implications of climate change and this is the reason that many local authorities (including North Kesteven District Council) have adopted a climate change emergency which seeks net zero carbon emissions by 2030. However, approximately 60% of authorities are yet to make a similar pledge and there is a fragmented response on the level of expectation placed upon them.

 

3.4.           The sixth carbon budget requires a reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. Local government should be mandated to achieve the targets set through this process which provides a more accurate focus on the emergency we are facing. Without central direction local authorities are currently determining differing approaches to tackling climate change and set their emissions reduction targets, leading to an inconsistent and fragmented approach. Their role should be delivering the contributions their area can make according to a clear science based coherent approach. 

 

4.     What are the priorities for change or clarification to align the national planning framework with net zero?

 

4.1.           The Council is working with Central Lincolnshire local authority partners to produce an updated Central Lincolnshire Local Plan. In response to declaring a climate emergency all partners wished to deliver a net zero carbon local plan.

 

4.2.           It is clear there are a number of policy challenges to achieving net zero not least recognising the limitations of the policy reach of local plans, with a primary focus on new development and limited scope to support retrofitting of existing building stock.

 

4.3.           The cornerstones of planning policy for supporting the delivery of  a net zero carbon future are requirements for :-

 

 

4.4.           The draft Local Plan has just completed the Regulation 18 consultation stage and detailed consultation comments are to be assessed, however we expect concerns to be raised about development viability and the increased cost of achieving carbon neutral development, alongside concerns that the Local Plan is requiring development to be built to standards in excess of current regulation and concerns about the potential delivery of onshore wind turbines.

 

4.5.           Delivery is therefore not without challenges. Any strengthening of the legislative framework and NPPF to require carbon neutral development beyond current and the Future Homes Standard will support net zero delivery, help to mainstream the necessary technology and ultimately drive costs down. Equally a more robust position supporting renewable energy generation would assist delivery.

 

4.6.           Central Lincolnshire partners are also very aware that in attempting to produce a local plan beyond current legislative requirements of the heightened risk of an unsound local plan. This is due to the uncertainty of how the Planning Inspectorate will assess local plans that take this position at Examination in Public. Greater clarity and support on this would also create confidence for Local Authorities seeking to further net zero in planning policy.

 

4.7.           The Council also acknowledge the limited ability local plans have to require the retrofitting of the existing housing stock but would support any strengthening of this in planning policy.

 

5.     What will need to be in place to ensure that the UK infrastructure bank loans to local authorities for net zero are as effective as possible?

 

5.1.           One of the key issues to understand is how loans could be used effectively. Currently there is a great deal of work taking place within a number of councils to understand how carbon budgets work and priority actions for reducing carbon usage. However, there is little clarity on the most appropriate steps that local authorities should take with authorities taking different approaches on investment and policy formulation. There should be a nationally developed clear set of plans for local authorities which set out the ways that local authorities can drive the most significant changes. To date the existing guidance is piecemeal and without this clarity we are likely to see an ongoing fragmentation of initiatives and widely varying investment approaches.

 

6.     What funding and resources are available for local authority work on net zero, and what are the priorities for improving local authority funding?

 

6.1.           There is a variety of funding available which is mainly in the form of grants for thermal and energy efficiency improvements to housing. These include;

Housing:

Other:

 

6.2.           Internal resources are limited due to competing priorities and limited finances. External resources in the form of support and expertise are available at a cost from organisations such as the Energy Saving Trust and consultants. The local Energy Hubs provide support, but this is generally linked to available funding which they are administering.

 

6.3.           As far as the Council is concerned, improvements to decarbonise domestic energy are likely to be the most significant area of expenditure. By way of example, we have estimated the requirement for investment of £100-120m to achieve zero carbon status for approximately 3,800 properties. This is unaffordable. The current National Social Housing Decarbonisation Budget stands at £150m, and whilst there is every expectation that this will be increased in future years, the scale of investment required will be massive and existing controls and requirements on ongoing council house income and expenditure are likely to delay the implementation of effective measure in the stock. This problem is amplified massively when the private sector stock is taken into account and a clear priority for government should be a costed plan for ensuring the national stock can reach zero carbon status in time to meet our existing commitments. This is multiplied yet further when factoring in how businesses make the transition towards net zero and it is likely that many smaller businesses in particular will require additional support to make the necessary changes.

 

7.     What should government’s analysis of net zero funding to local authorities focus on in the next Spending Review?

 

7.1.           It is clear that it should focus on investment in improving housing stock whether directly for stock owning authorities or through funding for the private sector which will enable people with limited financial options to achieve net zero status in their homes.

 

7.2.           In addition, many authorities have limited capacity to drive the necessary changes within their local authority areas particularly given the ongoing restrictions on local government finances. Government should consider how financial pressures can be improved to allow authorities to fund local climate change activity such as promoting changes locally and engaging with the community and businesses. 

 

7.3.           Transport emissions have remained static whilst other sectors have fallen. The Spending Review should consider the allocation of funding to on road transport and ensure improving alternatives means of travel are prioritised, particularly in rural areas.

 

8.     How is central government co-ordinating its engagement with local government on net zero?

 

8.1.           Engagement could be improved. Establishing a clear role for local government through consultation, and working together on a joint delivery strategy would be the preferred way forward.

 

9.     What role can local community groups play in helping local authorities achieve their net zero ambitions?

 

9.1.           This council is of the view that local forums are essential. We are looking to establish local assemblies covering representatives of the community and another group representing the business sector. Simply telling people to make changes is probably unlikely to be successful and an approach based on engagement through forums to allow communities to demonstrate leadership is widely seen as the most effective way forward.

 

9.2.           Within North Kesteven there are a series of groups working hard on climate change measures, each taking a particular interest and seeking local change whether its promotion of activity or involvement in environmental improvements. Encouraging this approach is likely to be key to making long lasting change.

 

This evidence was submitted on behalf of the authority by Tamara Walters, Sustainability Policy and Programme Manager.

 

August 2021