Reading Buses, winner of the gold ‘Environment Award’ at the 2016 Bus Awards, were the good news on the night at Reading Borough Council’s recent Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport (SEPT) Committee meeting. The bus company were also named second in the overall competition and picked up a collection of other prizes. The awards ceremony was going on at the same time as the committee meeting and somehow the news penetrated the council chamber.
The committee is responsible for services and council policy on the environment, planning, highways and transport. This includes acting as shareholder of Reading Transport Ltd and being responsible for the Reading Climate Change Partnership. Katesgrove councillor Matt Rodda is vice-chair of the committee.
The performance report and action plan on Reading’s Climate Change Strategy was, at 62 pages, the longest report among the 161 pages before the committee, which also included other environmental measures and measurements.
Reading’s strategy includes about 150 actions. These actions are within the eight themes of the climate change strategy:
- energy supply,
- low carbon development,
- natural environment,
- water supply and flooding,
- purchasing, supply and consumption,
- education, community and influencing behaviour,
The action plan is a mine of information about what is, and is not, happening on climate change in Reading.
Each of the actions was given a ‘red’, ‘amber’ or ‘green’ (RAG) status according to progress, ranging from “significant issues with either delivery or resourcing” (red) to “complete or no issues and on time” (green). Some actions were ‘purple’ which meant that the actions were a good idea but not yet developed or resourced.
Of the 24 actions within the ‘transport’ theme, 20 were ‘green’ and four ‘amber’. One of the problem areas was electric vehicle charging which suffers from a lack of funding, although the report stated that chargepoints have been installed at Mereoak and Winnersh park & ride. The nearest chargepoints to the Whitley Pump are at Royal Berkshire Hospital, which is available to staff and visitors, and a public chargepoint at Holybrook car park in the town centre.
Elsewhere in the report warning bells are ringing. Low carbon development has been hit by government policy changes; the code for sustainable homes was abolished in 2015 and it also thought likely that a building regulation change to introduce zero carbon homes will not be implemented.
The ‘low carbon’ theme has 22 actions in total with an analysis on the body of the report of 7 red, 6 amber, 6 green and 3 purple. The supporting table is slightly more confusing with 8 red, 5 amber, 3 green, 3 purple, 1 ‘red?’, 1 ‘green/amber?’ and 1 ‘green??’
The ‘green??’ relates to Winter Watch where evidence of campaign success is difficult to assess. The Whitley Pump will continue to publicise this scheme and local councillors have also leafleted within Katesgrove.
The action plan is not wholly led by Reading Borough Council, and the Climate Change Partnership includes other participating organisations who are responsible for delivering some of the actions.
The ‘natural environment’ theme and the ‘community’ theme currently do not have a lead and it was consequently difficult to report progress. This, and a certain amount of confusion, was apparent from the minutes of the Reading Climate Change Partnership board meeting in July, which were noted and agreed earlier in the SEPT meeting.
The Whitley Pump would like to think that in our area there are activities happening and progress being made within these themes, but it may be difficult to document, record and co-ordinate initiatives.
A ‘purple’ action upon which there may be some progress in the future is research on green roofs and walls (action T2SP6.5). It was with great disappointment that the Whitley Pump, on walkabout a few weeks ago in the town centre, discovered this but then realised it was plastic!
- UK Bus Awards 2016
- UK Bus awards 2016 – Reading Buses Environment Award video
- Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport Committee 23 November 2016 – papers and webcast
- Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport Committee – Terms of Reference
- Reading Climate Change Strategy
- Zap-map map of charging points in the UK
- Code for sustainable homes and subsequent changes to policy from 27 March 2015
- Get help with heating this winter
- Reading Climate Change Partnership