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Devon Climate Emergency Response Group Meeting 23rd July

Devon Climate Emergency Response Group Minutes 23rd July.  Download a PDF of the minutes here.


Phil Norrey | Devon County Council (Chair)
Doug Eltham | Devon County Council
Andrew Butler | National Farmers’ Union
Ellie Rowlands | Devon Climate Emergency
Melanie Sealey | Devon County Council
Dan Ulanowsky | Pennon Group
David Edmondson | Torbay Council
Richard Merrifield | Devon Public Health
James Cooper | Environment Agency
Emily Reed | Devon Climate Emergency
Alex Gandy | Dartmoor National Park Authority
David Eaton | Teignbridge District Council
Rebecca Sandover | University of Exeter
Michael Titchford | North Devon District Council


Jodie Wyatt | Devon Clinical Commissioning Group
Janet Williams | Torridge District Council
Emma Page | University of Exeter
Harry Barton | Devon Wildlife Trust
Helen Dobby | Environment Agency
Clare Reid | Exmoor National Park Authority
Neil Hamlyn | Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Resilience Forum
Emily Bullock | South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

1. Minutes of the Previous Meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting were AGREED as a true record of the discussion.

2. Project Progress Report

2.1. Project Management Update

Ellie Rowlands and Doug Eltham provided an update reflecting Section 1 of the Progress Report at Annexe 1 of these minutes.

A conversation was had regarding the planning inspectors’ report of the appeal regarding the gas-powered peaking-plant in East Devon and the implications of this for the use of the existing planning system to address the climate emergency. This conversation will be continued at the next Devon Planning Officers Group meeting with James Shorten of the Net Zero Task Force.

2.2. Update from the Net-Zero Task Force

Emily Reed provided an update reflecting Section 2 of the Progress Report at Annexe 1 these minutes.

Since May, DCE partners have been working closely to provide feedback to the Net-Zero Task Force on the actions that are earmarked for inclusion in the Interim Devon Carbon Plan and troubleshooting any potential issues with future delivery. This is a critical stage of the Plan’s development as the partners have to feel they can support the contents of the Plan in order to be part of its implementation. These meetings with partners need to be concluded by the end of July.

Understandably, this process has taken longer than originally planned as many partner organisations have been involved in the response to COVID-19. This is a risk we have been monitoring since March that is now an issue.  Synthesising the feedback, subsequently amending the actions and discussing these with the Task Force is also taking longer than originally anticipated. This delay carries through to the next stage of being able to arrive at an agreed list of actions in order to indicate their priority and timing and to present them within a coherent Plan.   

The Tactical Group and the Net-Zero Task Force are supportive of a three-month delay to the current timetable. This would result in a draft Plan being available to partners by the week commencing 5th October and the public consultation starting 2 months later on the 7th December, running for 10 weeks to the 16th February. Emily Reed tabled this proposal to the Group.

The Group endorsed this proposal and reiterated that climate change continues to be a priority for partners, as demonstrated by the continued momentum of this Group during the COVID pandemic.

ACTION: Emily Reed to prepare a short document, including a truncated Gantt chart, for partners to share with councillors explaining the extension.

The Group would like to thank the volunteers on the Net-Zero Task Force for agreeing to continue to be part of the project, and for their dedication to the project over the past 10 months.

ACTION: Emily Reed to prepare a letter of thanks to be signed by the DCERG partners.   

2.3. Update on the Climate Impacts Group

Emily Reed provided an update reflecting Section 3 of the Progress Report at Annexe 1 of these minutes.

Phil Norrey asked for a timescale to be obtained from Nick Young regarding the health impacts narrative.

ACTION: Richard Merrifield will follow up Nick Young to establish an indicated time scale for completing the health impacts narrative.

Dan Ulanowsky asked for South West Water to get involved in the Climate Impacts Group.

ACTION: Doug Eltham to extend the invitation to South West Water

3. Influencing a Green Covid-19 Reset

Phil Norrey introduced this section of the meeting with a report that Devon has done well to keep the infection rate low but that the economy is recognised nationally as being one of the most heavily affected due to the prominence of the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Mel Sealey provided an update on the economic recovery planning process that was introduced to the Response Group at its last meeting. The Team Devon COVID-19 Economy and Business Recovery prospectus has been published. The accompanying implementation plan is still being collated.

Doug Eltham introduced a recent approach from a research organisation that is looking to submit an Innovate UK bid to explore opportunities to develop the carbon offsetting market and is looking for public sector partners. The Group agreed that it would be appropriate for the Devon Climate Emergency partnership to indicate its willingness to be involved.

ACTION: Doug Eltham to indicate the DCE’s willingness to be involved to the researchers.

The Department for Transport is currently consulting on the Creation of a Plan to Decarbonise Transport. Devon County Council will be submitting a response as the highways authority.

4. Local Updates  

David Edmondson reported that Torbay Council is exploring two solar farm developments and that the climate emergency will be the focus of an Overview and Scrutiny meeting in September.

5. Next Meeting

Next meeting is the 19th August 13:00 – 14:00.

Appendix 1 – Project Progress Report

Period: Jun – Jul 2020

Status Indicator key:

Red = Serious issue that requires Response Group intervention;

Amber = Minor issue that will initially be managed by the secretariat, but the Response Group should be aware;

Green = No issue.

1. Project Management Update

1.1. Activity Over the Past Month

Project Communications   Working with the new website contractor to develop the new website, including how the Carbon Plan will be presented in an interactive and engaging style. Photo competition has been launched and closed, asking people to submit photos of what a net-zero Devon looks like to them – the winning photos will be used on the new website.   In the meantime, the existing website has been enhanced.   Social media following continues to grow as does subscribers to the newsletter – now approx. 1300.Green
Using the Climate Emergency as a Material Planning Consideration   Awaiting Cornwall Council to publish its consultation findings on their draft Climate Change Development Plan Document. This will provide an opportunity for Devon authorities to learn from Cornwall’s approach.   Devon Planning Officers’ Group met with James Shorten, the planning lead on the Net-Zero Task Force, on the 15th July and will meet again in August.    The gas peaking-plant proposed near Exmouth that was refused planning permission by East Devon District Council was allowed at its recent appeal. The inspector’s report highlights the following: The local climate declarations cannot be used in an ‘emergency’ fashion to override adopted planning policy. The NPPF advocates “sustainable development” in the way it’s traditionally been thought about and taught – the “Three Pillars” definition and the Venn diagram of economy, society and environment given equal weight in decisions to achieve sustainability. Therefore this is the approach the inspector had to take, but there is a growing consensus that this is outdated. Instead, the doughnut economics model is more current but not widely implemented – this puts planetary boundaries as the ceiling of economic activity, which must provide for social needs. The East Devon Local Plan Strategy 3 does advocate the need to “minimise fossil fuel use”, but linked to point 2 above, the inspector considered this within the planning balance to deliver the “Three Pillars” model of sustainable development, rather than prioritising climate concerns over others. So irrespective of how strong local planning policy is on climate objectives, decisions will always be taken in-line with the approach in the NPPF.   Substantial weight was given by the inspector to the national policy statements that currently advocate the use of fossil fuel in the transition to net-zero – so these have not kept pace with the sector and the technology now available, as it’s clear from within the energy industry that we don’t need fossil fuel peaking plant.  Green
Covid Reset Partners collaborated on a letter to the Prime Minister and his relevant Cabinet ministers supporting the investment priorities identified by the Committee on Climate Change. This has been sent and an acknowledgement received from Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.   Councils have implemented and consulted on temporary highways measures to encourage active travel and enable social distancing in various settlements across the county.   The Team Devon COVID-19 Economy and Business Recovery Prospectus has been published. A full report to accompany it is due shortly. This reflects key actions in the Interim Devon Carbon Plan alongside other economic and social imperatives.  Green

1.2.Activity Expected Next Month

Project Communications

  • Development of ‘Website Phase 2’ will continue.
  • Photos for the new website will be selected and publicly highlighted
  • Further social media content around the upcoming Interim Devon Carbon Plan will be developed and shared
  • Social media content to be developed surrounding what work is already happening – eg Solar Together and work of the partner organisations.

Using the Climate Emergency as a Material Planning Consideration

  • Await the consultation responses from Cornwall Council on their Climate Change DPD. 
  • James Shorten, member of the Net Zero Task Force, will be meeting with the Devon Planning Officers’ Group again to get further feedback on the issues for spatial planning. 

Covid Reset

  • A full report on the Economy and Business Recovery will be published.

2. Net-Zero Task Force Update

Role from its Terms of Reference: To use its specialist knowledge and experience to produce an evidence-led Devon Carbon Plan, including consideration of the earliest credible date that should be set for net-zero emissions.

2.1. Activity Over the Past Month

Citizens’ Assembly The University of Exeter offered to research the effectiveness of online deliberations to understand whether the Devon Climate Assembly could move online given the continued uncertainty over mass gatherings. This work will complete in September.  Amber
Developing the Carbon Plan   The Task Force continues to synthesise the key actions for the Version 1 Carbon Plan and its structure is taking shape.   The Centre for Energy and Environment at the University of Exeter has completed an initial assessment of the potential carbon impact and ease-of-implementation of each action. This has involved quantification where possible but a scale of 1 – 3 has been used in most cases. The University has also prepared a draft pathway diagram for the Built Environment section to show when actions need to occur to meet the timetable of the Committee on Climate Change scenario. This has been successful and other sections will be drawn-up in due course. The Task Force is now reviewing these outputs with the University.   In-depth meetings with each of the project partners and the secretariat are continuing to get feedback on the draft actions and to identify issues for implementation. Thank you to all of the partners for their time so far.   ISSUE: The draft Interim Carbon Plan will not be ready by the end of July. See additional paper for proposed resolution.  Red

2.2. Activity Expected Next Month

Citizens’ Assembly

  • The university’s research on the effectiveness of online deliberation will begin.  

Developing the Carbon Plan

  • Finalise the assessment of the carbon saving potential of the actions with the Task Force. Once complete, use this analysis to help prioritise actions further.
  • The secretariat will complete the meetings with project partners to discuss the actions.  
  • Drafting of the Carbon Plan text will continue.

3.Climate Impacts Group Update

Role from its Terms of Reference: To work collaboratively with the Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly climate emergency projects operating in each of the three localities to use its expertise to help:

  • prepare communities for the necessary adaptations to infrastructure, services and behaviours that will be required to respond to a warmer world.
  • improve the resilience of the natural environment against the effects of climate change

3.1. Activity Over the Past Month

Narratives of the Effects of Climate Change   Narratives on: Flood and coastal risk (led by the Environment Agency) is drafted and has been shared with the Group for input. The natural environment (led by the Local Nature Partnership with the Westcountry Rivers Trust) has been drafted and shared with the Group for input. Health (led by Public Health England) is awaited.   The partners’ involved in COVID response has contributed to the slight delay.   Subsequently, the social and economic commentary will be added by the University of Exeter potentially by the middle of August.Amber

3.2. Activity Expected Next Month

Narratives of the Effects of Climate Change

The narratives will be finalised and the University of Exeter will begin its commentary on wider social and economic issues.

4. Summary Comments

The Devon Carbon Plan is now in a phase of assembling and writing the Plan. Vital feedback from the partners that will be implementing much of the Plan will be ongoing through to the end of July. Whilst the recommended delay to the timetable is frustrating, the discussions now will make the adoption and implementation of the Plan easier.

The Climate Impacts Group continues to complete the impact narratives.

The project is continuing to make progress despite the Covid-19 resource restrictions.

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