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CPRE response to Cheshire East Council carbon neutrality action plan

20th May 2024

We have responded to Cheshire East Council’s consultation on their draft borough-wide carbon neutrality action plan 2024 – 2029. For a number of reasons, we’re concerned that the aspirations the plan contains are unlikely to be realised.

This new plan follows on from the Council’s existing carbon action plan for their own emissions and operations. Public consultation on this new plan draft is open until 31 May 2024.

Key concerns

Our main overall concerns are:

  • The scale of the challenge – current levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (the borough has one of the highest levels of transport-related GHG emissions in the UK) and the slow progress in reducing emissions generally
  • The current lack of resources within the council

Key omissions within the plan are:

  • A strategy to enhance carbon storage/improve peat bogs
  • An educational element for schools
  • A commitment to stop building new roads

Full text of our response

CPRE (formerly the Campaign to Protect Rural England), Cheshire Branch, has already responded to Cheshire East Council’s (CEC’s) consultations on its Local Plan Issues Paper, which includes a section on reacting to the climate emergency, and to its Draft Air Quality Strategy.  Our comments here complement those already made.

The scale of the challenge facing CEC on climate change is evident from a number of sources. For instance, CPRE quoted in its response to the other two consultations the interactive map on the Department for Transport’s website that shows CEC to be amongst the most polluting authorities :  (Note particularly the map for 2021).  Also, we would point to Appendix 3 in CEC’s Carbon Neutrality document which identifies the enormous gap that exists in carbon removal in the Borough.  Quoting its local authority carbon budget analysis, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research explains:

  • “To keep Cheshire East aligned with the Paris Agreement, emissions should be reduced by 13.6% each year”

but it then reveals:

  • “Between 2005 and 2017, the average annual emissions reduction rate in Cheshire East was around 3%, highlighting the ambitious actions required to meet the Paris Agreement targets” (page 55).

We fear that the climate aspirations, laudable as they are, are unlikely to come to fruition, partly because of

  • the current lack of resources within the authority. The summary in chapter 5 of the action plan admits “Significant resource is required to implement the action plan” (page 51) and we would also reference the fact that CEC has already reneged on its own climate target
  • and partly because the Carbon Neutrality Action Plan itself has significant omissions.

Ref. point (a) The Plan contains dozens of proposed pro-active actions. The Council, it says, will ‘encourage’, ‘facilitate’, ‘support’, ‘promote’, ‘work/engage with’, ‘review’, ‘raise awareness’, ‘provide advice’ and ‘explore avenues for generating finance for local low carbon projects’, etc.  The cumulative amount of officer commitment is enormous.  There is a suggestion that a member of each Council team should take on carbon reduction “as an element of their key roles”.  Is this realistic?  Will job descriptions have to be re-written and agreed?  And if “avenues for generating finance for local low carbon projects” are identified, who will pursue/ write grant applications for them and, if they are successful, manage and monitor them?

Ref. point (b) The Plan does not include:

  • A strategy to enhance carbon storage/improve peat bogs. There are links in the agricultural section to two other strategies (the Green Infrastructure Plan and the Cheshire East Greenspace Strategy) but they need updating to connect in to the climate change strategy. (Note the Tyndall Centre report ‘Greenspaces for Climate Change Project’ that is aimed at local authorities: There is also a link to a Cheshire Wildlife Trust report that charts where peatlands exist, what type they are and the very poor condition they are in.  A plan is now needed to restore them.
  • An educational element for schools aimed at engendering strong environmental consciousness in the young
  • A commitment to stop building new roads which further embed the wrong culture and encourage more trips

Current constrained financial circumstances and proclivities to pursue new roads do not give confidence CEC will be able to produce/move forward quickly with the type of robust carbon neutrality plan that is urgently needed.

More information

Cheshire East borough-wide carbon reduction action plan consultation – open until 31 May 2024

CPRE response to Cheshire East Council air quality strategy consultation 

CPRE Cheshire response to Local Plan Issues Paper consultation