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Response Group Meeting Minutes, 3rd November 2023

Attendees

Meg Booth, Devon County Council (Chair)
Doug Eltham, Devon County Council (Environment Group)
John Amosford, Public Health Devon
Chris Clarke, Wales and West Utilities
Eileen Russell, Wales and West Utilities
David Edmondson, Torbay Council
David Eaton, Teignbridge District Council
Claire Reid, Exmoor National Park Authority
Victoria Hatfield, Exeter City Council
Emily Reed, Devon Climate Emergency
Keir Duffin, Devon County Council (Economy and Enterprise)
Sophie Herd, National Farmers’ Union
Ben Carwardine, Wales and West Utilities
James Cooper, Environment Agency
Jason Ball, Mid Devon District Council

1. Minutes of previous meeting

The minutes were accepted to be a true record.

No further questions asked.

2. Project Progress Report – Communications

Doug provided an update reflecting Section 1.1 of the Progress Report at Annexe 1 of these minutes. It was noted that due to the focus on resourcing at Devon County Council, the post of Climate Communications and Engagement Officer will not be filled following Charlotte’s departure later this month. This will inevitably mean that communications activity will be reduced and Emily will see how much capacity is available for priority items such as the monthly newsletter. However, Charlotte’s role also collated projects and activities being delivered by partners that help implement the Carbon Plan and Adaptation Strategy. These are used in part to prepare the progress reports and so Emily will also use the next month see how we can be sharing progress amongst each other better.

It was suggested that better use could be made of the Devon-wide communication officer’s groups. Emily said that she will be attending these when possible, as Charlotte had done, but it would be better if climate and sustainability officers could send stories direct to her.

ACTION: All are encouraged to send news releases and project updates to Emily.

3 Climate Adaptation Strategy

Emily presented the post-consultation version of the Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Climate Adaptation Strategy. Emily invited the Group to approve it and to invite partner organisations to endorse it through their formal procedures.

Emily added that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly councils will be endorsing the Strategy through formal procedures later this month. They have also used the Strategy to inform local strategies looking at adaptation in their specific areas at a more granular scale. Some organisations in Devon are considering doing this, too, and this would be welcomed to show how the Strategy is influencing adaptation activity locally.

The Group AGREED to approve the Strategy.

ACTION: All partners to consider endorsing the Strategy, including the non-local authority partners.

Emily clarified that there is no deadline for organisations to endorse it.

Victoria asked for supporting text to be circulated that could be used to inform committee reports. Emily said the communications pack that will be sent to all partners ahead of the Strategy’s launch at the end of November can be used for this purpose.

ACTION: Emily to send comm’s pack to all partners.

4 Energy Supply Actions Progress

Emily reported that all actions in each section of the Carbon Plan are now being reported on, not just the priority actions.

There are two ‘red’ actions in this section, but both are unable to progress at the moment as they need to wait for earlier stages of the energy planning work to conclude. The energy planning work has started. Chris said that on that basis, these actions should be amber. Others agreed.

ACTION: Change RAG status of red actions to amber.

Emily said that the Devon and Cornwall Planning Officers Group is helping to collate information about how many local authorities are allocating areas for renewable energy in their local plans.

The Group were satisfied that progress on the actions in this section of the Carbon Plan is currently acceptable.

5. Cross Cutting Themes Actions Progress

None of this section’s actions are red.

Meg provided an update on Team Devon’s conversation with Tim Jones and James Shorten of the Climate Task Force about the opportunities to help with resourcing issues in local planning teams. The two solutions generated by this Group were to:

  • Bring together industry representatives with senior planners to discuss the issues that need addressing to unlock investment, and
  • Establish a working group of planners to produce a template of accelerated climate policies – this template could be used by the planning authorities to update local plans, reducing duplication of effort and hence collective resource requirements, and would be flexible to reflect local requirements.

On the first point, Team Devon asked for further information about which industry representatives would be recommended.

On the second point, it was acknowledged that pooling of best practice is a good idea. Initially, Team Devon asked for a better understanding of where local authorities are in their Local Plan development cycle, as it may be that such a resource would not be useful in practice unless cycles are aligned.

A date for the item to be reconsidered was not set, however Devon County Council’s planning team is collating the status of local planning activity across the county. When this is finalised a date will be set.

Emily drew the Group’s attention to the Community Action Groups project that has been expanded and will be expanded further in 2024/25 to cover a larger geography and a broader set of sustainability priorities.

ACTION: Doug to invite CAG to present at a future meeting.

6.    Net-Zero Delivery Problems and Successes

The Group discussed the recorded risk of access to finance during the financial crisis. David reported that the cost of projects is continuing to rise but that efforts are focussed on keeping energy efficiency measures as part of building projects rather than allowing them to be cost engineered out. Victoria added that the high interest rate is making solar PV difficult to stack up, but they have seen a slight drop in prices recently. Claire said the national parks are working nationally to access finance for natural environment projects.

ACTION: Doug to put Claire in touch with DCC’s new officer, Mark Burton, working on the Innovate UK Fast Followers project about climate finance.

David reminded the Group that the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme application opening has been pushed back to the 7th November. Torbay is hoping to submit an application for Paignton Library.

7. AOB

Devon has scored 50% in the Climate Emergency UK Score Cards. Before any appeals have been considered from other authorities, this places us as the joint-second county council behind Oxfordshire (scored 53%). We are ranked 33rd out of all 317 councils. This reflects the activity ongoing across the area and the effectiveness of this partnership.

We received an exceptionally high score in the ‘Collaboration and Engagement’ section of 94% – the highest of any county and joint-first of all council types alongside Bristol City and Manchester City councils. This reflects the strong climate partnership and our use of an exemplary citizens’ assembly to design the Devon Carbon Plan.

Appendix 1: Project Progress Report

Period: October to November 2023

Status Indicator Key:  

🔴 [RED] = Significant 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. Partnership Update

1.1 General Communications

1.1.1 Updates and Metrics 🟢 [GREEN]

Social media growth remains positive. We have nearly reached 11,000 followers across all platforms.

Monthly newsletter clicks are up from around 300 to around 1000. Some of this is due to our promotion of the Energy Saving Devon scheme, which saw roughly 250 clicks indicating that  this is an issue people are particularly interested in.

Website performance has dipped. It is unclear whether there are set reasons for this, although it is in part because we have now resolved the issue with bots which were previously skewing our results. Performance will continue to be monitored to ascertain whether these results are consistent and what we can do about it.

Charlotte will be leaving DCC in mid-November. Due to restrictions on recruitment at Devon CC, the post will not be filled. Therefore, Emily will prioritise communications activity on the collation of Taking Action posts and the monthly newsletter. We will encourage the better sharing of project updates between partner organisations to minimise Emily’s time spent gathering stories for posts.

Chart showing the following across the DCE social media platforms. Total following has almost reached 11000.

Figure 1.1. DCE Social Media Following

1.1.2 Campaigns and Projects

Net Zero Visions Curriculum Material 🟢 [GREEN]

The Sustainability Bulletin that goes to all schools in Devon this month will be used to distribute these materials.

Challenge Setters with the University of Exeter 🟢 [GREEN]

As part of a University of Exeter Liberal Arts module, groups of students will be conducting research for us surrounding young people’s perception of climate impacts, what actions they can take to improve their resilience and how climate adaptation could best be communicated. Their findings will inform how the Climate Adaptation Strategy is promoted to a younger audience.

We attended a Q&A with the students and will hear the results of their research next month.

Devon Carbon Plan one year anniversary 🟢 [GREEN]

To mark the one year anniversary of the finalised Devon Carbon Plan’s publication, communications content last month highlighted some of the work that has happened in the past year aligning with the Plan.

Posts have been successful with high rates of engagement throughout October. The campaign results will be disseminated going forward.

1.2 Partners’ Notable Activity

Activity is recorded centrally on the Taking Action pages of the Devon Climate Emergency website.

  • Plymouth City Council have installed 222 new solar panels on the upper roof deck of the Theatre Royal car park, which will power the entire car park plus contribute to the Plymouth grid.
  • The Devon County Council Cabinet has agreed to advertise traffic regulation orders for a £525,000 bus lane scheme in Roundswell and a £400,000 scheme in Exeter City Centre.
  • Devon County Council have launched a public consultation on proposals to upgrade Barnstaple’s Longbridge Junction, including improvements to walking and cycling links.
  • Prosper is a new, free business support programme aimed at helping businesses and entrepreneurs to achieve their business development ambitions, including improving energy efficiency and becoming more environmentally sustainable.
  • Volunteers, Moor Trees and The Duchy Of Cornwall worked together to collect more than 5,000 acorns from Wistman’s Wood in order to bolster existing woodland.

2.    Devon Carbon Plan 🟢 [GREEN]

Partners continue to deliver the Devon Carbon Plan. In a change of process, the monthly progress reports on a section’s actions are now including all actions rather than just the priority ones.

A solution for displaying the Priority Action Progress Reports on the website was reviewed by the Tactical Group. Following some minor amendments this will be loaded onto the website this week.

The Secretariat continues to update the data for the monitoring indicators.

3.    Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Climate Adaptation Strategy 🟢 [GREEN]

The consultation report describing the findings of the public consultation on the Adaptation Strategy, is now online.

Those amendments have now been made to the final document and the Response Group endorse it at its November meeting.

Once launched, on the 28th November, individual partners will be encouraged to endorse it via their formal procedures. Emily will send all partners a comm’s pack on the 27th November for partners to help publicise the launch of the Strategy.

4.    Devolution Update

Government gives green light to finalising a Devon and Torbay Devolution Deal – News. A final decision is expected by March 2024. The deal is currently valued at £16m.

5.    Summary Comments

  • Partners continue to implement the Devon Carbon Plan. The secretariat is now recording progress at implementing all actions, not just the priority actions.
  • The adaptation strategy consultation report has been approved by the Climate Impacts Group and the final adaptation strategy is now endorsed by each climate partnership in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
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