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Response Group Meeting Minutes, 8th January 2024


Meg Booth, Devon County Council (Chair)

Emily Reed, Devon Climate Emergency

Doug Eltham, Devon County Council (Environment Group)

John Amosford, Public Health Devon

Mark Burton, Devon County Council (Economy and Enterprise)

Nick Bruce-White, Devon Wildlife Trust

Gary Stenning, Exeter City Council

David Edmondson, Torbay Council

Chris Clarke, Wales and West Utilities

David Eaton, Teignbridge District Council

Eileen Russell, Wales and West Utilities

Claire Gibson, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership

Ben Carwardine, Wales and West Utilities

David Bartram, Exeter City Council

Adam Williams, South Hams and West Devon Councils

Isobel Fardon, Dartmoor National Park Authority

Matthew Blythe, East Devon District Council

Sally Basker, Exeter Science Park

Victoria Hatfield, Exeter City Council


Polly Frost, Devon County Council (Economy and Enterprise)

Donna Sibley, North Devon and Torridge District Councils

Jason Ball, Mid Devon District Council

Matt O’Dowd, National Grid DSO

Mark Kentell, North Devon Council

John Green, Plymouth City Council

Lewis Garvey, Wales and West Utilities

Penny Tranter, Met Office

Drew Powell, South Hams and West Devon District Councils

Stephen Walford, Mid Devon District Council

David Rose, South West Water

Claire Reid, Exmoor National Park Authority

Sophie Herd, National Farmers’ Union

1. Minutes of previous meeting

The minutes were accepted to be a true record.

No further questions asked.

2. Exeter’s experience of low-carbon social housing

Gary Stenning explained that 142 properties have been delivered since 2010 all on social or affordable rents. One-hundred and twelve are on site now. A further 300 – 500 units are planned.

The objective is to provide low energy, climate resilient and healthy buildings.

The standard used is Passivhaus. It is straightforward for compliance and is independently monitored which is helpful for contract monitoring.

Passivhaus does cost more upfront but the investment is worth it on a whole-life-cost basis. The door and window materials needed to meet the standard mean they last 40 years rather than 20 years. And the running costs of the properties are lower meaning that tenants are less likely to default on council tax payments.

Viability is currently difficult because the Public Works Loan Board rates are now about 4% rather than the 1.5% they had been. Material costs have also increased, and skills shortages are being experienced. The schemes do benefit from the Homes and Communities Agency grants.

David Edmondson ask how users get on with the new technology. Gary said the tenants receive a short training session and an A5 booklet. Generally they understand that ventilation systems shouldn’t be switched off and don’t cost much to run.

David further asked whether demonstrating to private providers that high energy performance is viable has encouraged them to do the same. Gary said it hasn’t – legislation would be required to mandate new minimum standards.

Sally said that it can be helpful not to be prescriptive about technology to allow flexibility of approach. Gary said it could be, but in his experience having consistency across ventilation and renewable energy technologies is useful for knowledge and skills across maintenance teams.

3 Project Progress Report

3.1 Communications

Doug provided an update reflecting Section 1.1 of the Progress Report at Annexe 1 of these minutes.

No questions asked.

3.2  Carbon Plan

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

No questions asked.

3.3  Climate Adaptation Strategy

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

ACTION: All to send additional notes on additional activity that needs adding to the monitoring of the Climate Adaptation Action Plan actions.

4 Partnership Funding Proposal

Meg outlined a proposal to secure about £25k from partners to cover the costs of reinstating the partnership-wide communications and engagement intern role. This would sit alongside ongoing annual costs of running the partnership of £115k that Devon County Council will continue to fund. Anticipating that some partners will not be in a position to help, this would require about £2k from willing organisations.

Sally suggested that enabling partners to commit later in this financial year would be helpful as some organisations won’t have finalised budgets until the middle of March. Doug said that would be fine to delay confirming until later in the financial year.

Exeter, Torbay, East Devon, Teignbridge and North Devon councils said they are hopeful they can offer £2k each. Each will confirm to Doug separately.

ACTION: All partners to confirm with Doug whether they are able to contribute.

5.    Net-Zero Issues and Successes

Meg advised that the North Devon Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan and Devon Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy are being considered by Devon County Council’s Cabinet this month.

David Edmondson said the Greener Way for Our Bay consultation from the Torbay Climate Partnership is live. They are searching for a new chair for the Partnership.

Matthew reported that climate change will be prominent in the East Devon District Council Plan for the next four years. Their climate plan is being reviewed with the University of Exeter. A new scheme offering grants to businesses for green measures is now live.

Victoria said that following the closure of Exeter City Futures, Exeter City Council will be taking on the citywide net-zero coordination role.

Appendix 1: Project Progress Report

Period: December 2023 to January 2024

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 🟠 [AMBER]

Whilst social media growth remains positive, just 26 new followers recorded during December 2023 is the lowest monthly increase recorded. This is also the first month recording no new newsletter subscribers.

This is likely to be symptomatic of fewer social media posts, comment responses and posts on the website following Charlotte’s departure.

Figure 1.1. DCE Social Media Following

1.1.2 Campaigns and Projects

Challenge Setters with the University of Exeter

As part of a University of Exeter Liberal Arts module, groups of students have conducted research for us about 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 were presented to the secretariat in December and will inform how the Climate Adaptation Strategy is promoted to a younger audience. One of the headline findings, for example, is that whilst student properties flooded in September 2023, few have signed up to receive flood warnings.

Christmas Campaign

The CAG Devon Christmas campaign was repeated on the DCE social media channels, encouraging people to consider food waste and generally reusing and recycling unwanted items at this time of year.

1.2 Partners’ Notable Activity

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

  • The Environment Agency has approved plans for a new coastal defence scheme for Sidmouth. 
  • Devon County Councillors have approved proposals to construct the latest section of the Tarka Trail between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe.
  • A green energy scheme developed by Plymouth City Council has received awards at the world’s largest climate conference for a green energy scheme. 
  • Two orphaned beavers are settling into their new home at Poole Farm, Plymouth, after being spared from culling in Scotland. 

2.    Oversight of the Devon Carbon Plan 🟠 [AMBER]

The Priority Action Progress Reports are on the website.

The Secretariat continues to prepare data for the monitoring indicators which has seen progress but is yet in a state to be shared. It was hoped to share this month. We hope to share next month.

The reduced resource for communications has meant that less time has been available for collating partners’ activity.

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

In early January the Climate Impacts Group undertook a review of five risks and progress on three actions. Over the course of each year all the risks and near-term actions will be reviewed.

The first presentation to the Response Group of the collation of progress against the near-term actions will occur at its January meeting.

4.    Devolution Update

No update this month.

5.    Summary Comments

  • Communications activity and collation of partners’ activity against actions in the Carbon Plan has reduced due to resourcing of the secretariat.
  • The first collation of progress against the near-term actions in the Adaptation Strategy has been prepared  for consideration by the Response Group.
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