The Board received a report summarising the work undertaken on the forthcoming Oldham Green New Deal Strategy that followed from the resolution of the Council at the meeting held on 10th July 2019 for Oldham to become the first Council in the UK to become a “Green New Deal Council” and which included a target for the Council and the Borough to be carbon neutral by 2025 and 2030 respectively. The Council had committed to develop a new “Oldham Green New Deal” strategy and delivery plan setting out how these carbon neutrality targets will be met, as well as initiatives aimed at maximising the economic benefit for Oldham residents and businesses.
The Council had further declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ at the meeting held on 11th September 2019, pledging to engage staff, residents, partners and elected members in the creation of a new strategy to replace the Council’s current Climate Change Strategy which ends in 2020. As a climate change strategy should sit alongside a wider ‘green new deal’ approach, it had been proposed to develop a single strategy encompassing a range of green issues and developments under the umbrella of the Oldham Green New Deal Strategy.
The submitted report presented a headline vision of “Making Oldham a greener, smarter, more enterprising place to be” and several objectives and pledges that could form the basis for the scope and content of the Green New Deal Strategy. It was noted that while the Council could lead, a co-operative effort between the Council, strategic partners, residents, schools and businesses was needed if maximum benefit for Oldham was to be achieved. The Council was therefore committed to hold a Citizens’ Assembly and develop a strategic programme of communications to ensure the maximum engagement with all stakeholders across the Borough.
The Board further received a presentation in support of the report which considered the implications of rising energy costs for the Council, households and the Borough as a whole, the value of the Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services sector in Oldham and Greater Manchester, and a number of projects and programmes including building a Local Energy Market, building solar farms, supporting community energy and utilising coal mine heat. The presentation concluded that “taking back control” of energy supply and environmental quality meant the developing of strong, confident and prosperous communities in charge of their own destiny and, mindful of the budget challenge, that investment in the green economy could reduce costs and pay dividends.
Members noted that while housing policies would be an important issue, for example keeping green spaces and having high eco-standards for buildings, there was no specific reference to housing development in the pledges. In response it was acknowledged that housing was subject to basic standards in building regulations but noted that work was being undertaken on projects such as developing new heating systems and that the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework was proposing all new developments should be carbon neutral by 2028. It would be difficult to enforce requirements on private developers, but the Council could be clear as to what it would welcome and lead by example by setting conditions on developments on Council owned land.
The Board was advised that a Citizens’ Panel had taken place in summer 2019, with several theme groups being supported by specialist advisers to support residents in developing a local action plan thereby enabling citizens to create and develop their own solutions. Responding to a query as to extending the use of Citizens’ Panels, the Board was advised that Engagement Officers were writing to residents inviting their involvement in a generic Citizens’ Panel.
A Member queried the deliverability of what were big pledges, noting that some of the identified problems appeared to be insurmountable. Acknowledging these issues needed to be addressed, it was important to manage expectations, for example what might be achieved for people who were renting their homes. The Chair noted the breadth of the pledges, suggesting that some might be considered in further detail, noting for example that an item related to air quality was to be considered at the following meeting which might be connected to a related pledge. Further pledges would be considered at workshop sessions and be incorporated into future Board Work Programmes.
RESOLVED that the breadth and ambition of the Oldham Green New Deal approach, and the commitment of the Council to this ground-breaking approach be noted.