Climate Change SPD

Ended on the 4 October 2023
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Chapter 3: Colchester context

Colchester Borough Council's Climate Emergency

Colchester Borough Council declared a climate emergency on 17 July 2019.

The Council noted the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) warning that we have 12 years to make the necessary changes to limit a rise in global temperatures to 1.5oC. Failure to act will see a marked increase in sea levels and flooding, extreme and abrupt changes to weather patterns, crop failures, extinctions of plant, insect and animal species, and global economic disruption and crisis. Total populations of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles have declined globally by 60% since 1970, and all of the 20 warmest years on record, have occurred in the past 22 years. Failure to take immediate and decisive action on this will detrimentally impact on the wellbeing of the people of Colchester and billions of people around the world. 

At the Global Climate Talks in Poland in December 2018 the UK along with over 200 nations agreed action on climate change with a much greater role strongly implied for local and regional authorities, like Colchester, in assisting governments to achieve their carbon emission savings.

It is everyone's duty to do what they can to stop this existential threat to our planet. Through declaring a climate emergency, it has become a priority of Colchester City Council to spur urgent action to reduce our carbon footprint and promote sustainable urban environments and economies.

In passing and following through on the climate emergency declaration, Colchester City Council intends to take a radical step forward in tackling climate change and conservation as a local authority.

The first Colchester Climate Emergency Action Plan was reported to Cabinet in January 2020. The Action Plan is a 10 year journey for the Council to become net carbon zero by 2030. The most recent iteration of the Climate Emergency Action Plan published in January 2023 has nine themes and one of these themes is Sustainable Planning.

The Council initially set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2020 relative to 2008/09 levels. This was achieved by 2020 with 2020/21 emissions totalling 5406.4 tonnes of CO2e, a 46.7% reduction on 2008 levels (10,150 tonnes of CO2e). The most recent emissions report for the Council showed the emissions to be 5887.2 tonnes of CO2e in 2021/2022. The Council's baseline greenhouse gas emissions for measuring progress have been measured at 6549.3 tonnes of CO2e and this is the level from which the Council will aim to meet its target of becoming carbon neutral in its operations and services. The emissions included in this target refer to those from fuels used in Council fleet operations, gas used to heat Council owned buildings and offices, emissions associated with the generation of electricity that the Council uses in its owned buildings and other service operations e.g. car parks, street lighting, disposal and treatment of waste produced from Council services, supply and treatment of water consumed in Council operations, business travel conducted by Council employees and employee commuting.

Colchester's Local Plan

The most relevant policies to this SPD are Policies CC1 (Climate Change) and DM25 (Renewable Energy, Water, Waste and Recycling) of Colchester's Section 2 Local Plan (July 2022). These policies are set out below.

'Policy CC1: Climate Change

Colchester Borough Council made a Climate Emergency declaration in 2019. A Climate Challenge and Sustainability Strategy and a Carbon Management Plan will support the Climate Emergency Action Plan and will set out detailed specific carbon reduction projects. In addressing the move to a low carbon future for Colchester, the Local Planning Authority will plan for new development in locations and ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adopt the principles set out in the energy hierarchy and provide resilience to the impacts of a changing climate.

A low carbon future for Colchester will be achieved by:

(i) Encouraging and supporting the provision of renewable and low carbon technologies.

(ii) Encouraging new development to provide a proportion of the energy demand through renewable or low carbon sources.

(iii) Encouraging design and construction techniques which contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation by using landform, layout, building orientation, massing, tree planting and landscaping to minimise energy consumption and provide resilience to a changing climate.

(iv) A Canopy Cover Assessment will be required for all major applications. Development proposals should seek where appropriate to increase the level of canopy cover on site by a minimum of 10%. In circumstances, where this is not possible or desirable, compensatory provision should be identified and secured through a legal obligation.

(v) Requiring both innovative design and technologies that reduce the impacts of climate change within the garden community.

(vi) Supporting opportunities to deliver decentralised energy systems, particularly those which are powered by a renewable or low carbon source. Supporting connection to an existing decentralised energy supply system where there is capacity to supply the proposed development, or design for future connection where there are proposals for such a system.

(vii) Requiring development in the Northern Gateway to connect to or be capable of connecting to the district heating scheme where there is capacity to supply the proposed development and where it is appropriate and viable to do so.

(viii) Supporting energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings in the Borough where appropriate.

(ix) Minimising waste and improving reuse and recycling rates.

(x) Development will be directed to locations with the least impact on flooding or water resources. All development should consider the impact of and promotion of design responses to flood risk for the lifetime of the development and the availability of water and wastewater infrastructure for the lifetime of the development.

(xi) Green infrastructure should be used to manage and enhance existing habitats. Opportunities should be taken to create new habitats and assist with species migration. Consideration should be given to the use of green infrastructure to provide shade during higher temperatures and for flood mitigation. The potential role of green infrastructure as 'productive landscapes' should also be considered.'

'Policy DM25: Renewable Energy, Water, Waste and Recycling

The Local Planning Authority's commitment to carbon reduction includes the promotion of efficient use of energy and resources, alongside waste minimisation and recycling.

The Local Planning Authority will support residential developments that help reduce carbon emissions in accordance with national Building Regulations. The use of the Home Quality Mark will be supported. Non-residential developments will be encouraged to achieve a minimum BREEAM rating of 'Very Good'.

The Local Planning Authority will encourage the use of sustainable construction techniques in tandem with high quality design and materials to reduce energy demand, waste and the use of natural resources, including the sustainable management of the Borough's water resources.

To achieve greater water efficiencies new residential developments will be required to meet the Building Regulation optional higher water efficiency standard of 110 litres per person per day, as set out in Building Regulations part G2.

To help meet waste reduction and recycling targets, the Local Planning Authority will support proposals for sustainable waste management facilities identified in the Waste Management Plan which minimise impacts on the communities living close to the sites (noise, pollution, traffic) and on the local environment and landscape. New developments will be expected to support this objective by employing best practice technology to optimise the opportunities for recycling and minimising waste and by providing better recycling facilities.

The Local Planning Authority will support proposals for renewable energy projects including micro-generation, offshore wind farms (plus land based ancillary infrastructure) solar farms, solar panels on buildings, wind farms, District Heating Networks and community led renewable energy initiatives at appropriate locations in the Borough, which will need to be subject to a Habitats Regulations Assessment and if necessary an Appropriate Assessment, to help reduce Colchester's carbon footprint.

Renewable energy schemes with potential for adverse effects on internationally or nationally designated nature conservation sites, sites or nationally designated landscapes (Dedham Vale AONB) and heritage assets, will only be supported in exceptional circumstances, where it can be demonstrated that the designation objectives for the area will not be compromised, that adverse impacts can be adequately mitigated or where it can be demonstrated that any adverse impacts are clearly outweighed by the social and economic benefits provided by the energy proposal.

All applications for renewable energy proposals should be located and designed in such a way to minimise increases in ambient noise levels. Landscape and visual impacts should be mitigated through good design, careful siting and layout and landscaping measures. Transport Assessments covering the construction, operation and decommissioning of any wind farm or solar farm proposal will be required and should be produced at the pre-application stage so acceptability can be determined and mitigation measures identified. A condition will be attached to planning consents for wind turbines and solar farm proposals to ensure that the site is restored when the turbines or panels are taken out of service.'

This SPD provides guidance on the implementation of these policies. It is structured around five key objectives that relate to Policies CC1 and DM25:

  • Improving Layout and Building Design
  • Renewable and low carbon energy
  • Net zero carbon buildings (the LETI approach)
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Water efficiency measures

The SPD also includes a section relevant to householder applications.

Climate Change SPD

This SPD is part of the Council's response to the climate emergency. It expands on the adopted Local Plan and Climate Emergency Action Plan and outlines how these policies and ambitions can be met.

This SPD is ambitious – it recommends that development proposals go further than adopted policies. The adopted policies were written before the plan was submitted in 2017. Since then, the Council has declared a climate emergency and this SPD includes measures to address the climate emergency. Whilst the Council cannot set new policies through this SPD, the SPD sets out what the Council would support from development proposals and how applicants can successfully integrate a best-practice approach towards the climate emergency in their development proposals. Climate change affects us all and we should all play our part in mitigating and adapting to climate change and creating communities and buildings that are resilient.

The most effective way to build a development which successfully addresses the climate emergency and is resilient to a changing climate is to design for it from the outset. This reduces the complexity of the build, the associated costs and gives clear direction to all involved in the development process on what the objectives are.

Applicants should refer to the Net Zero Carbon Toolkit developed by Levitt Bernstein, Elementa, Passivhaus Trust and Etude commissioned by West Oxfordshire, Cotswold and Forest of Dean District Councils, funded by the LGA Housing Advisers Programme. This resource was prepared by leading technical experts from Etude, the Passivhaus Trust, Levitt Bernstein and Elementa Consulting. It contains the very latest design approach and good practice within the field of Net Zero buildings. The Council encourages applicants to follow this good practice. The Net Zero Carbon Toolkit is aimed at everyone: small or medium -size house builders, architects, self -builders, consultants, etc. The Toolkit helps explains how net zero carbon can be delivered through construction. Elements of this toolkit have been included in this SPD.

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