Nottingham and the 2028 Carbon Neutral Action Plan

We spoke to Cllr Sally Longford, deputy leader and Portfolio Holder for Energy and Environment at Nottingham City Council, about the authority’s 2028 Carbon Neutral Action Plan and an increase in walking and cycling
In what ways do you hope that the City Council’s 2028 Carbon Neutral Action Plan will help Nottingham to make a green recovery from the ongoing coronavirus crisis?

The Action Plan delivery in the next 12 months will be adjusted to account for ongoing impacts from Covid-19 upon the city. Delivery of this vital and ambitious programme can spearhead the renewal of the city and provide a stimulus for the local economy following the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and avoid significant costs from climate change in the coming years. The actions we prioritise will be for regeneration, stimulus and transformation of the city – putting a green recovery at the forefront of the city’s next steps. Programmes such as the retrofit of people’s homes we know can make a massive difference to quality of life, save money for citizens and provide long-term employment for local people.

The criteria for prioritisation includes: cutting energy and waste costs, improving efficiency at home and at work; safeguarding existing and creating new jobs; improving wellbeing for citizens and productivity for organisations; supporting and stimulating supply chains and attracting investment; and being the catalyst for new markets, products and services.

We are also trying to make the most of positive behaviour changes seen in recent months, come back more sustainable in the restoration of council services and help lessen the impacts of COVID restrictions upon sustainability choices like transport.

One positive to come from the current health crisis is fewer vehicles on the road. As businesses begin to reopen and popes return to ‘normal’ work life, how important is it to maintain the recent process in the city’s air quality levels?

The 2028 Action Plan has been built around an approach of sustainable carbon neutrality – that means bringing together climate change with other sustainability issues, and making sure what we plan to do it is fair, equitable and enhances our local economy, quality of life and society. It’s a combination of avoiding unwanted negative impacts from what we are doing in other areas of work, and making sure we are maximising what are known as co-benefits.

Air Quality is one of the key co-benefits of work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is being aligned wherever possible. Likewise, the health benefits of more active, low carbon forms of travel – walking and cycling, which many residents have taken up as part of their daily exercise during lockdown. Fewer cars will not only help reduce air quality, but provide a better environment for walking and cycling. There are of course real challenges for local transport during this difficult period, with restricted capacity on public transport and some understandable anxiety from the public for sharing transport. It is important we continue to address and capitalise on carbon reduction and air quality improvements together wherever we can in a way that is practical and affordable for local citizens and organisations.

One part of the Action Plan targets increasing local food production. In what ways can you envisage this happening in Nottingham?

  • Working towards being a sustainable food city and creating a sustainable urban food strategy for the city with Nottingham Good Food Partnership and our local food, green space, community, businesses and academic partners (such as University of Nottingham’s Future Food Beacon) that links to the 2028 Carbon Neutral Action Plan.
  • Increasing range of edible fruits, flowers and vegetables in council owned parks, rooftops, and open spaces
  • Increasing local growing and food sharing through community gardens/hubs and explore the use of technology e.g. an app
  • Incorporating growing and food issues into wellbeing design guide for Design Quality Framework
  • Assessing potential for food growing and production within the city’s extensive cave systems (e.g. mushrooms)
  • Collaborating with Nottingham Trent University to look at potential for intensive sustainable urban agriculture such as vertical farming in the city and coupling to renewable energy sources
  • Examining the role the council can play as a procurer of food and supplier of catering services to help foster increased local and sustainable production of food
  • Encouraging citizens, schools and businesses to grow and share food in their available green spaces

The City Council is now offering free trials of new electric vans. As one of the leading cities in this area, do you have any advice or success stories that showcase the benefits of engaging businesses in the authority’s eco-travel plans?

We are planning to launch the Electric Van Experience, as well as an E-Cargo Bike Loan, in the autumn so it’s not available to businesses yet. It builds on our previous Ultra Low Emission Vehicle experience that we delivered over the past four years.

Our very popular Workplace Travel Grants of up to £25,000. VAT is not included and a 25 per cent contribution is requested from businesses,

Lastly, in recent months the prominence of walking and cycling in headlines seems to have increased tenfold, with the government having announced several funding streams to make both more accessible in city regions. How is Nottingham planning to encourage walking and cycling as Covid-19 restrictions are eased?

The government have made £250 million available to stimulate sustainable transport across the country. We are looking at doing the following: road space reallocation to enable more walking and cycling in a number of key areas but particularly outside schools and in the city centre where it could be used in conjunction with our Clear Zone; pop-up temporary cycle lanes on Trent Bridge and other key routes in the city; extending bus lane operation to 24 hours where appropriate; altering traffic signal timings to give pedestrians and cyclists more priority; possibly more Variable Message Signs; and pavement areas at bus stops – this initiative would create wider waiting areas at bus stops where bus laybys currently exist.

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