Sunday 13 January 2013

Progress on Green Charter but much more needs to be done

Heat loss = money wasted=global warming
 The Green Charter Monitoring Report  LINK that goes before the Brent Executive on Monday reports good progress but admits 'There is, however room for improvement over the next year'. Cllr James Powney, lead member for the Environment on a recent posting on his blog says that 'it is important that as a major employer in Brent we (Brent Council)  show the way if we are to have any credibility in getting others to follow'. LINK.

Although a lot of work has gone into energy savings in Brent buildings and Report emphasises the Civic Centre's green credential, I think the council could have done far more in terms of the existing  housing stock.  They seem to have  gained little from the funds available through the Community Energy Saving Programme aimed at areas of deprivation which ended in December 2012 or the Green Deal.  A successful bid was made to the 'Warm Homes for Healthy People Fund' which gained £150,000 to reduce fuel poverty which can be used to provide advice and pay for new boilers, insulated and other energy saving equipment.

In Brent during 2011-12 the report states:
  • 54 homes with single glazed windows received new double glaxed windows
  • 45 homes benefitted from additional loft or flat roof insulation
  • 116 homes had cavity wall insulation installed
  • 232 homes were fitted with a new, efficient condensing buildings
Although welcome these figures seem small beer compared with the number of houses and flats in the borough. By contrast this has just been issued by Energise Barnet as social enterprise in the London Borough of Barnet:
LONDON UK. 27 November 2012. Energise Barnet CIC, a social enterprise, has submitted a plan to Barnet Council to create £200 million of social, economic and environmental benefit through the installation of energy saving measures and renewables in 40,000 homes and buildings.

Under the plan, the CIC proposes that it provides the operational hub, generating leads for Green Deal Providers and other delivery partners through it's referral network of community organisations, businesses and tradespeople.

Nigel Farren, local resident and the CIC's founder, said "most of the 140,000 homes and buildings in Barnet are uninsulated and hardly anyone generates their own energy. As a result, owners and tenants spend more on gas and electricity than they need do. Barnet also has the highest carbon emissions of any London borough, some of the UK's highest energy consumption areas and there could be 50,000 residents in fuel poverty with associated health problems that adversely impact NHS costs."

He continued: "Through the Big Society Innovation Bank, the Council asked us to develop an effective approach to solve these issues and draw up a plan for delivery of the Green Deal which will enable people to improve their homes with no upfront cost and save money in the process.

Our plan will help the Council and delivery partners minimise cost and risk. It is the first of it's kind drawn up by a social enterprise and by asking us to draw up the plan, the Council has demonstrated that it wants to encourage local leadership in delivering community services in accordance with it's (sic) motto of "Putting the Community First".
 Brent Council needs to work with the Brent Housing Partnership and local housing associations to maximise their take up of the available grant schemes as well as pressurise private landlords to take action to insulate their properties. Muhammed Butt's intention to find ways of reducing fuel bills by a community procurement is obviously worthwhile but it needs to be accompanied by a large scale and systematic programme of retrofitting housing stock with double glazing and insulation.  Otherwise money will still be disappearing through roofs, thin walls and draughty windows.
Solar panels on the Brentfield Estate
Solar panels as a way of reducing fuel bills alongside such measures should also be considered and BHP has a model available in their work on the Brentfield Estate LINK

The Report covers the work on ensuring that new developments are sustainable and work that is being done in schools to reduce energy costs but I would like to see more on using the vast expanses of school roofs for solar panels for micro-generation. The extension of recycling to cover plastics and collection from flats is welcome but more needs to be done on persuading  commercial premises and industry to play their part. I have seen for myself the positive impact on children of cycling projects in schools.

Some of the entries on the RAG report raise a wry smile. The Coucil has handed out 100 free bags to encourage owners to scoop their dogs' poop and has given award packs to 4 owners who were seen cleaning up their dog's mess! 'Presence detectors' for the Civic Centre urinals sound like they could be fun...

Getting the message about Climate Change across to residents is clearly a challenge and there is mich scepticism to overcome. The Climate Change Pledge ( I confess I couldn't remember if I had signed, so I did again whilst writing this) has been signed by only 400 residents and 50 businesses. Minuscule compared with the population of the borough. The Pledge can be signed online HERE

Brent Council, Brent Campaign Against Climate Change and the College of North West London are jointly holding a Brent Students Conference on Climate Change on March 20th and there is an accompaying Competition for young people aged 11-12. Details HERE

One of the areas the Conference will look at is career opportunities in the green economy.  Given the massive regeneration project around Wembley Stadium I do feel that the Council could look forward both in terms of its climate  employment strategies, and consider setting up a Green Enterprise Zone in the area, backed up by training opportunities at the CNWL.


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