Minutes and meeting report. Online Zoom meeting.
15 people attended the meeting including the chair and group officers. Apologies were received from 3 group members
Sustainable Harwell project overviews – these points were also discussed at the Breakout Room discussions
Lobbying for new homes to be more sustainable
- The government has responded to the Future Homes Standard consultation which the project team took time to respond to on behalf of Sustainable Harwell in Feb 2020.
- The Future Homes Standard will be implemented in 2025. From this date newly built homes will be required to emit 80% less carbon than current building standards, with higher insulation levels and the use of heat-pumps etc for heating rather than gas boilers. It is claimed they will be zero-carbon ready for when the electricity grid decarbonises.
- It is our understanding that the government will also empower local authorities to require even higher standards should they choose to.
- There will be a transitory arrangement which will apply to any houses built before 2025 which effectively mean they will have up to a 31% reduction compared to current building standards.
- This has an implication for the Valley Park development at Harwell as it is estimated that this will start in 2022/23. The question is whether the initial houses built in the years before 2025 will be built to a lesser standard than that required in 2025 and will then need to be retrofitted at additional expense to make them zero-carbon ready in the future.
- We are considering how to respond to this situation, and it was suggested that we should respond as a group in future rather than individuals.
- The New Homes survey held by Sustainable Harwell last year demonstrated that residents and future buyers want new homes built in the Harwell area i.e. Valley Park to have very high levels of energy efficiency including solar panels.
- The results of the survey have been sent to the Vale, the Parish Council and the MP for Wantage. We are considering how to follow this up.
Tree-planting (Tree Group)
- Next project is planting at Baggs Tree Field parallel with the Winnaway – whips due to be delivered in March
- Seek advice from a hedge expert on best way to maintain the hedgerows – e.g. when to remove the plastic protective sheaths, when to prune. Ask the Woodland Trust. The Watlington video is inspiring. A lot of our hedgerows are flayed(?) rather than laid so they are very top heavy and bare at the base.
- Investigate learning how to lay hedges – good community activity
- Go ahead with the hedge survey – no need for a drone – Martin R has a map – need someone to organise this
- Very brief mention of the proposed Community Orchard at the Rec and the fact that there is one at Little Pippins. Is it available to everyone?
- It was noted that a lot of the trees planted along the Link Road have died – should we contact the Council to see what can be done about them?
- Interesting link on how to lay a hedge
Cycling and Footpaths
- A lot of people have lobbied to improve the proposed expanded roundabout on the Didcot road/link road junction and insist on a smaller, more pedestrian and cyclist friendly roundabout, although Oxfordshire Highway department have ignored this.
- A lot of the Science Vale Cycling Network is opening, although none of it in Harwell Village at the moment.
- ‘Stepped’ cycle lanes are being installed on part of the Wantage Road in Didcot. This type of path helps pedestrians, cyclist and car drivers and is our preferred type of cycle path.
- A consultation on permanently closing the Chilton Road from Upton to Hagbourne Hill to motor vehicle through traffic. The Sustainable Harwell website has details and encourages members to support this closure as it will improve facilities for cyclists and pedestrians while making little difference to car drivers.
- Actions on facilities in the village were asked for in our Cycle survey last year but have not progressed as yet.
- Seek 20 mph speed limit throughout Harwell Village (this is apparently being prepared for consultation by Oxfordshire County Council)
- Press councillors at the Vale of the White Horse to ignore the Oxfordshire County Council Highway Department approval of the expanded roundabout on the Didcot road/link road junction and insist on a smaller, more pedestrian and cyclist friendly roundabout.
- Pursue Highways Agency to make an off-road cycling and pedestrian link between Bury Down and the Harwell Innovation Campus.
Possible New Projects?
- The group briefly considered whether any of original ideas put forward by members two years ago could added to the projects we are already running.
- If you would like to have a look these ideas they are published on the Sustainable Harwell website here.
- We encourage members to contact the group if there are particular ideas they would like to see taken forward by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- We are limited by our resources so if you are able to help get a project started please let us know.
Sustainable Harwell to work with the Parish Council
- The Group recently presented ideas to the Parish Council follow up on it’s declaration of a Climate Emergency in the parish.
- In the presentation we put forward ideas to help the Parish Council to begin to reduce its emissions to Net Zero. This is in line with the government commitment for the UK to become net zero carbon society by 2050. The presentation can be viewed on the website here.
- Reaching this commitment will involve many changes to society including transport, energy, buildings, food production, etc. It will be highly transformational.
- Following the presentation the PC has proposed that a new environmental advisory committee is formed with Parish Councillors and members of Sustainable Harwell sitting on it. This committee will report directly to the Parish Council with their recommendations.
- This proposal was discussed at the meeting and it was agreed that this would be a good thing.
- Four people volunteered to sit on the committee on behalf of Sustainable Harwell and we thank them for this.
- It is planned that the new committee will be approved at the February Parish Council meeting and that the first meeting of the committee will take place shortly after that.
The main group split into breakout rooms for two 10 minute sessions to discuss specific projects. These were Lobbying for new homes to be more sustainable. Tree planting and cycling and foot paths. Points covered are bulleted above.
Comments received in the chat box:
Patrick: Vale corporate plan
Around 230 councils in England have declared a climate emergency in which they have committed to substantially reduce carbon emissions. To help local authorities plan the delivery of these targets, the Local Government Association (LGA) commissioned researchers within my programme to write a series of 4-page guidance notes on transport decarbonisation.
The notes offered practical guidance to councils developing strategies to address the climate emergency. There are seven topics: setting the right carbon ambition, buses, electric vehicles, parking policies, land-use/localisation/accessibility, online opportunities; and cycling. [link]
Event series: Together for a Fair Climate Future. Sustainability First is a charity and think tank that promotes practical, sustainable solutions and is running an event series: Together for a Fair Climate Future. These online discussion events will look at how action for the climate crisis and social justice can come together as we recover from the pandemic in a way that’s fair, innovative, and positive for the environment. We will hear from artists, activists, academics, policymakers, companies, community organisations, and others. #FairClimateFuture. The first event is Voices for the Future, 9th February 1.00-2.15pm.
On the topic of climate emergency, Oxfordshire Friends of the Earth has a Councils and Climate Change Working Group and has just sent out a questionnaire to city, county and district councils to ask how they plan to enact their emergencies.