Shropshire Council defends environmental record after shoe protest

Shropshire Council has defended its record on environmental matters since declaring a climate emergency exactly a year ago, as Extinction Rebellion activists accused the authority of offering "empty words".

Protesting outside Shirehall today were, from left, Kris Welch, Jamie Russell and Mike Bastow
Protesting outside Shirehall today were, from left, Kris Welch, Jamie Russell and Mike Bastow

More than 100 pairs of shoes were placed outside the council's headquarters by Extinction Rebellion Shrewsbury activists yesterday. The group said that each pair of shoes represented a resident who wanted to protest but couldn't because of the coronavirus lockdown.

Spokesman Jamie Russell said that the council's "lack of urgent response to the climate emergency" is "shameful".

In response, Shropshire Council said that all of the electricity it has used since September 2019 came from renewable sources and that it is looking at options to keep more of its staff working from home in future.

Dean Carroll, cabinet member for adult social care, public health and climate change, said: “Shropshire Council was already working to reduce its carbon footprint and direct impact on the climate prior to the declaration of a climate emergency in May 2019. For example, since 2012, our direct emissions have reduced by 26 per cent.

“Following the climate emergency declaration in May 2019, we created a Climate Change Task Force to reinforce an existing working group of key officers from across the council. To drive improvements corporately we have taken steps to make carbon reduction a normal consideration in all operations.

"Climate action appraisals are now compulsory in all key council decisions, forcing climate impact to be considered and criteria to be met. We are working across council services to develop and implement design guidance for new council buildings, and to improve the performance of existing ones. We have also provided key staff with carbon literacy training to equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to reduce carbon emissions across the council.

Solar panels

“In early 2020, we held a climate action workshop to which over 100 stakeholders from businesses and agriculture to community groups attended, as well as members of Shropshire communities. These were extremely positive and feedback and suggestions given to us are playing a pivotal role in shaping our future plans and the development of a wider climate action strategy.

"We are also working jointly with Telford & Wrekin Council on the development of a Climate Action Partnership to help provide community leadership and help stakeholders across Shropshire to tackle the challenge of climate change."

He went on: “In 2019, Government data showed that Shropshire was ranked fifth nationally for installed renewable energy capacity. Since the first installation in 2012, solar PV installed on Shropshire Council assets has generated enough to power 2,000 homes for a year. A GIS mapping feature has now been added to highlight technical details and how much financially each individual site is expected to save which you can view on our website.

“Since September 2019, all of the electricity consumed by Shropshire Council has been supplied purely from renewable sources. Sites are being assessed in both land and buildings with potential for renewable energy across Shropshire Council’s estate.

"Through grant funding, solar PV has been installed at Greenacres Farm and Shrewsbury Market Hall and we have installed energy efficiency measures including LED lighting at Theatre Severn, Shropshire Archives, Bridgnorth Library as well as an air-source-heat-pump at Severn Valley Country Park. You can view the individual cases online.

“Since 2013, the council has converted over 3,300 street lights to LED lighting. Over the next three years, we will be investing around £6.83 million to convert the remaining 16,253 street lights reducing energy consumption by 56 per cent, saving 794.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

“We also recognise that there is a crisis in the natural world, and we are looking at opportunities to both reduce climate impacts and enhance wildlife at the same time. For example, by planting trees and restoring carbon storing soils and wetlands.

“Despite the Covid situation our Warp-it (waste action re-use programme) membership has grown to 237 staff, with over 17 tonnes of CO2e saved – which is the equivalent of planting 17 trees – nearly 8 tonnes of waste has been avoided, and we are still on target for £50,000 financial savings by the end of this year.

Electric vehicles

“Given the undoubted climate benefits we have seen globally during the lockdown caused by Covid-19, we are carefully examining opportunities to permanently sustain higher levels of home working. We have also updated and refreshed our cycle to work scheme to help reduce the carbon footprint of our office accommodation and staff journeys to work.

“For a number of years we have been working to reduce the carbon impact of transport across the county including the recent successful trials with electric buses. We have drawn up several expressions of interest for funding from the Department of Transport and were recently successful in our initial bid for funding to improve part of the current public transport offer.

"We are also hoping to electrify the Shrewsbury bus fleet and to improve rural transport solutions to reduce the need for longer journeys. In addition to this, we are currently drafting a new Park & Ride Strategy for Shrewsbury which will prove a ‘Next Generation Transport System’ and complement active travel within the town.

"As well as all of these initiatives, we are also exploring opportunities to electrify our own vehicle fleet and provide greater opportunities for staff to access climate friendly vehicles for work and personal use.

“We are developing a corporate climate change strategy and an annual action plan which will set out the key areas where the council will focus its efforts and specific projects which will move us closer to our goal of net-zero performance.

“It takes time to make sure the right things are done that will have the optimal and most sustainable impact. We are working hard to become a carbon neutral council by 2030 and are confident we will achieve this goal.”

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