Minutes of the Decarbonisation and Environment Committee Meeting held via Zoom, on Tuesday 22 September 2020 at 6.30 pm
Councillor J Herron
Councillor J Craigie (Chairman)
Councillor Mrs R Craigie
Councillor Mrs L Hellyer
Councillor R Wootton
Councillor P Christie (Mayor)
Councillor C Hawkins
Mr R Coombes (Deputy Town Clerk)
Mr B Garman
58. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
No apologies were received.
59. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST ON ITEMS ON THE AGENDA
There were no Declarations of Interest.
60. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PERIOD
There was no member participation.
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 25 August 2020 were approved and signed as a correct record.
(Vote – For: 4, Against: 0)
62. WORKING GROUPS
a. Energy and Heat.
The Chairman spoke about the Hub, the training of volunteers to engage in conversations with people about their energy use, decarbonisation towards net zero state.
He would like Petroc Environment Students to become involved with providing questions and support for the Decarbonisation Action Plan.
Councillor Herron asked whether the Tidal Grant application had been finally submitted. The Chairman indicated that two more quotations were required. Councillor Herron indicated that he would obtain the quotations or at least contact two interested parties reiterating that it was Tidal Range Energy that isn’t “a barrage.”
Councillor Wootton spoke about Salter’s duck, a device that converts wave power into electricity that was operated by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.
Councillor Christie had attended an Energy and Heat Meeting where he had met someone with a keen interest in passive houses leading to surplus energy going to the hub. Referring to TDC land at East-the-Water being sold to Evans developers, for the building of ordinary houses, he felt an approach could be made to provide for a fantastic showcase opportunity. He speculated on small scale hydro energy in Devon; he would look to arrange for the individual to speak to the District and Town Councils.
i. Electric Bike Charging Points. Following discussions with the North Devon Cycle Campaign the Chairman had approached two companies discovering that there is no (industry) standard (agreed) method for charging points. Given the use of the domestic three pin socket to allow for charging at home the necessity for the process to be “dry” made for difficulties.
A large, covered storage area with a lid (unlocked by smart ‘phone technology) could provide for secure, dry bike charging. A “box” with a capacity for six bikes at each of the four suggested locations costs in the region of fifteen thousand pounds with a further installation cost.
He questioned whether it was worth continuing to explore, believing it to be priced “out of our range,” and ability to influence.
Councillor Herron believed that there was a noticeable increase in people cycling.
(Councillor Mrs Hellyer joined the Meeting.)
Councillor Mrs Hellyer confirmed that she had contacted DCC who confirmed there was not a standardised system and that they would wait for industry / a standard to be introduced.
• Pannier Market parking area – Highways, DCC.
• Tarka the Otter pavement area, by the Long Bridge, was not appropriate.
• Car Parks, including Manor and Kingsley Statue were TDC responsibility.
She questioned the Charging Point Bike secure covered area dimensions. (The Chairman indicated six feet by four feet.) DCC would not be rolling charging points out. Permission could be obtained but investment would have to be secured.
• On the cost of the bikes and the need for security and the willingness to leave them unattended.
• Whether there was a demand or need; Exeter provides for the hire of E Bikes to navigate the City.
• Encouraging “cycling tourism,” to provide for more visitors to the Town, without cars.
Members unanimously agreed to continue investigating the siting or and practicalities of siting electric bike charging points.
ii. Cycle Bridge.
Councillor Mrs Hellyer confirmed that a new cycle bridge would have to be in the Local Plan. It would be very difficult and very expensive, up to £3m. She found it totally incongruous in a medieval town with the listed Long Bridge to consider a surreal bridge to span the river.
Councillor Herron agreed that a cycle bridge should be included in the Local Plan believing there to be a demand.
Councillor Mrs Hellyer had noted the steady stream of bicycles (either ridden or pushed) crossing the Long Bridge during a twenty-minute period. DCC had observed that the siting of a bridge below the Police Station could see cyclists by-passing the Town.
Councillor Christie spoke about the damage to the Long Bridge in 1968 and the time it took to open the new Torridge Bridge. Apart from the enormous timescale he indicated that there was no spare money.
He speculated that a pavement could be removed on the Long Bridge to allow a lane for cyclists. Again, the pavement could also be removed from the Torridge Bridge for a cycle track which would provide a fantastic draw. He did not believe a new cycle bridge was a possibility.
Both Councillors Herron and Mrs Hellyer felt that a new cycle bridge should be included in the Neighbourhood / Local Plan.
Councillor Mrs Hellyer stated that cyclists cross the Torridge Bridge at their own risk. The high winds are an issue. The limited pavement is decorative, it does not link up and does not encourage walkers.
She spoke about the financial priorities (children’s services – including special needs, adult services – including special needs) and the constraints that put people before “place.” Counties and Unitary authorities are in deficit; Government funding is committed to COVID-19. A bridge is simply aspirational; the Kenwith Valley is the only practical opportunity.
Discussion followed reiterating the aspirational desire for a cycle bridge, the once “bridge to nowhere” built to enable planning permission for the Brynsworthy Environment Centre that would provide people with the opportunity to cycle and walk to work.
Councillor Hawkins wondered whether a condition could be incorporated to provide a bridge, for the land development behind Jewson; without any initiative he believed that Torrington Street would become gridlocked.
Further discussion included the need for investment in an effective public transport as an alternative to (the reliance on) cars. Currently many busses run empty.
It was proposed by Councillor J Craigie, seconded and
RECOMMENDED: That the Neighbourhood Plan and Local Plan include provision for a new cycle bridge opposite Torrington Lane / Street intersection on the east bank, below the Police station on the western bank.
(Vote: For: 5, Against: 0)
c. Carbon sinks and biodiversity (CSB).
i. A Tree Strategy. The Chairman advised that many cities, London boroughs and districts have tree strategies that manages the tree population to best serve the community. He indicated that the urban environment was complicated but very important.
Councillor Mrs Hellyer gave an example of planting overseas as an option to offset Bideford’s carbon footprint.
Councillor Herron felt uncomfortable with planting outside the community in an effort to lower the carbon footprint, advocating growing locally.
The Chairman indicated planting trees, represented only a partial solution as over a 1,000 per person would be needed to offset current emissions. He noted also that where there is tree coverage, offering shade from the sun and wind, more people walked and cycled.
Councillor Mrs Craigie noted that TDC do not have a tree strategy. She recommended protecting the trees that we do have, noting that the larger trees absorb more carbon dioxide. In advocating a tree survey, she spoke of working with Westward Housing with a view to planting new trees, on their land. They would look good and absorb more carbon dioxide.
Councillor Mrs Hellyer spoke in favour of more trees, noting that they were good for mental health although the Council were stymied, without land to plant.
The Chairman believed that a strategy would include working with the Community and housing associations. He spoke of providing draft recommendations for a TDC supplementary plan.
Councillor Christie stated that houses emit carbon dioxide; TDC planning guidelines enhance biodiversity. The Neighbourhood Plan should demand that developers plant two trees for every house built.
It was proposed by Councillor Herron, seconded and
RECOMMENDED: That the Council commission a tree strategy for Bideford.
(Vote: For: 5, Against: 0)
ii. Open-air classrooms.
The Chairman advised that he and Councillor Herron had met with Lucy Willan from the Apple Tree Initiative (a collaborative project between Appledore Primary School, Mudtastic and the local community).
Councillor Herron believed it to be a modern way of teaching and indicated that the idea could be replicated in Ford Woodland, benefiting Bideford Schools.
The Chairman felt the space could be used in a creative way; experiential learning involving an element of play.
Discussion followed on how formal classroom learning did not suit every child. Councillor Mrs Hellyer indicated support for the idea, citing Muddy Boots, pre-school, Northam as a positive example.
Councillor Mrs Craigie suggested that activities for children should be held in the Woodland, even outside school hours to encourage forms of learning outside of schools.
Councillor Mrs Hellyer spoke of a special needs school that paid for a small group of children to have afternoon sessions that included, forest bathing, walking in the woods, experiencing the calm nurturing nature that benefited mental health.
Councillor Christie advised that the Bridge Trust had provided Business Start-up grants for two forest schools. He did say that funding / costs did present problems; privately run establishment could be exclusive. He suggested that the Council might pay for a tutor to run a forest school. While popular at weekends, he said that they were good during the week; by teaching children the value (of woodland / wildlife / nature) they would not vandalise in later life.
Councillor Hawkins noting that West Croft School could make their way straight to the Woodland, wondered if there was car parking provision and whether the (Council) funds earmarked for play areas could not be used for the Woods.
Councillor Christie replied that the funding for the play equipment was necessary but felt that monies could be allocated from the new budget. He believed that it was an excellent idea that would take children outside (during COVID-19).
Councillor Herron declared that there were no car parking facilities but speculated that other schools could park at West Croft School. He supported learning through play.
Councillor Mrs Hellyer noted the cost in money and time implications of transport. West Croft School could walk to the Woodland. Noting tight budgets, she felt the initiative would mostly benefit West Croft School.
Councillor Christie stated that the Bridge Trust pay £30,000.00 for swimming lessons and transport; they might be open to an approach for funding.
It was proposed by Councillor J Craigie, seconded and
RECOMMENDED: That the Council supports contact with the local primary schools and providing assistance for the provision of open-air classrooms within Ford Woodland.
(Vote: For: 5, Against: 0)
63. THREAT TO BIDEFORD FROM RISING SEA LEVELS AND EROSION OF THE HISTORIC LAND FILL ON NORTHAM BURROWS
The Chairman explained that he had conducted research on the Northam Burrows Land Fill Site noting that TDC had lost a report on the toxic waste leakage into the coastal waters.
He had invited a range of Academia to consider the topic including Queen Mary University of London who had studied 1,250 landfill sites along the coasts of England.
He noted that DEFRA had only included the Land Fill area used during the period 1984 – 1995 on their map of historic landfill sites; there are no records prior to this period, and spoke on the Taw Torridge Coastal Management Study commissioned by the Environment Agency and Torridge District Council, dated 2013, that had not been acted upon.
It is not known what toxins are in the Land Fill, nor what have entered the coastal waters.
Councillor Mrs Hellyer felt that TDC’s inactivity was appalling. There would be costs to the public and “the (Pebble) Ridge.” She believed that it would cost more to repair damage sustained as a result of (the cost of) inaction. She stated that the issue needs to be publicised; every resident needs to know about the threat. The impact on tourism, marine conservation, people’s livelihoods - she believed this to be the Council’s most important issue.
The Chairman indicated that an environmental impact on the parish need to be established in order for it to legitimately fall to the Committee's responsibility. The indirect impacts from the Northam Burrows erosion while worrying might lead to the council of being accused of interfering beyond its competence.
Councillor Christie indicated that TDC had not lost a report and that DCC had found that here was no toxic material there. He referred to two scientific papers noting that the landfill end of the Pebble Ridge was not under threat but Westward Ho! end is, which could lead to dwellings being flooded at high tide!
He showed a map that indicated the impact of rising sea levels on Northam Burrows, Barnstaple, Fremington, Chivenor but not so much on Bideford.
Councillor Christie supported the idea of calling people together including the Environment Agency, TDC, DCC and the Golf Club. He indicated that the beach is under threat, houses too.
Barnstaple is built at sea level there should be joint working between TDC and North Devon Council (NDC).
The Chairman deliberated over an invitation to the Royal North Devon Golf Club whilst considering the mandate of the Committee to consider the Environmental impacts upon Bideford, limiting the scope to the Town.
Coastal erosion was not an immediate threat as a consequence of rising sea levels. A storm surge and high tide would impact the Land Fill, flooding Victoria Park and Morrisons, depositing contaminates around the area including the Kenwith Valley.
Councillor Christie understood that Northam Town Council have an interest and should be invited to the Meeting. He felt the Council’s Emergency Committee should be in attendance with a view to establishing what the threat is and how to counter with flood defences, shielding Victoria Park, and intercept at source.
The Chairman spoke about the Environment Agency’s use of out of date models that were well behind the science, which might lead to a false sense of security.
Councillor Christie intimated that twelve years ago the Environment Agency had stated that the Quay defence would withstand flooding for one hundred years; all (coastal erosion) maps have since been redrawn along with the Agency’s statement.
Councillor Mrs Craigie believed that TDC had not embarked on any works from the commissioned strategy. The recommendation of extending the northern edge of the Ridge by sixty metres cost more to implement than had been budgeted.
Councillor Christie indicated that a big problem was the Natural England directive of “managed retreat;” apart from an emergency TDC remained compliant.
The Chairman stated that Natural England have no powers, were simply an advisory body. He state that while Natural England had a national perspective it may be the case that local perspectives differed on how it values the Burrows and the peddle ridge.
Councillor Christie reaffirmed that Natural England are managed by DEFRA; the directive was always quoted.
The Chairman advocated seeking advice over the differing economic and social value impact of the current polices.
It was highlighted that differing policies exist for the Pebble Ridge / shoreline and land fill sites.
Councillor Mrs Hellyer referred to former executive / leaders of TDC who did not have the will to address the threat because of cost; she believed it to be a mistake.
The Chairman reiterated the direction to be set to find solutions, whether to simply pursue protecting Bideford from an emergency or provide wider support to TDC in addressing the concerns.
Discussion followed on a possible meeting with TDC, and the MPs for North Devon and Torridge; weather systems, change in the flow of pebbles from Hartland, rising sea levels and the real prospect of a storm surge (1607, people drowned in Barnstaple as a result of one). Again, Councillor Christie intimated that the Land Fill was not the real problem so much as Westward Ho!
The Chairman indicated that one element of possible concern with the Ridge was not the reduction in height but the length, along the southern flank of the landfill site. If the pebble ridge not only lost height, it would also lose its length exposing more of the dune system to erosion. He spoke again about science models, including the Met Office, sea levels and Antarctica melting.
Councillor Mrs Hellyer believed that the threat to Bideford and the Taw / Torridge coastal sites had been underestimated. The cost (of repair) will be enormous. It will be a mistake not to look at the problems. It will be a cost if nothing is done.
She stated that people visit us by the sea, including Westward Ho! It is important for TDC to be on board.
Councillor Christie observed that five years ago TDC were presented with a budget that reduced coastal spending to zero.
Councillor Mrs Craigie indicated that the Golf Club should be invited to the Zoom Meeting to be held on 13 October 2020. Councillor Christie suggested that Councillor Bushby, might represent them.
The Chairman thanked the Members for their attendance and support. He concluded the Meeting at 8.24 pm.