Agenda item

Progress Report from Exeter City Futures and the City of Exeter Greenhouse Gas Inventory

To consider the report of the Chief Executive & Growth Director.


The Chief Executive & Growth Director made a presentation (a copy of the presentation is appended to the minutes) and reported on the progress from Exeter City Futures Community Interest Company on the work being done to progress the Net Zero Exeter 2030 Plan, together with a baseline Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventory for the city. The report quantified the reductions required to achieve Net Zero by 2030 and identified more specific and timely metrics for monitoring progress towards carbon neutrality in each emissions sector along with key performance indicators as a strategic dashboard for the city. It also outlined the scale, opportunity, and pace of the challenge and step change in resources, activity and policy making both at a local and national level, required for the city to achieve a Net Zero city by 2030. Members were invited to comment on the report that would be presented to the next Executive.


In setting the context, Exeter City Futures offered a collaboration between the key public sector partners within the city (Exeter City Council, Devon County Council, the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Trust, Exeter College and the University of Exeter and Global City Futures) to deliver on Net Zero, but also to build on sustainability, resilience, innovation and productivity, well-being and an inclusive agenda in respect of the city’s communities. The delivery of a whole system change approach to Net Zero includes looking at policy, but also the physical and social environment, and whilst there was potentially life changing positive social change, there was recognition that individuals as well as the collective need would each have their own future challenges. Organisations and institutions in the city would also have to consider their own behaviour.  The Chief Executive & Growth Director referred to the vision that Exeter will be a carbon neutral city by 2030 and the aspiration that the Exeter of the future will have grasped the opportunities ahead, based on Exeter’s excellent reputation for climate science.


The Chair referred to advance questions received from a Member, (appended to the minutes along with a set of draft recommendations received for information). The Member welcomed the report and the ambitious target of 2030, which was 20 years ahead of the national target set by the public sector and commented on the Council’s report as follows -


·      concern that not all of the University of Exeter’s key monitoring targets and areas identified for change such as retrofitting were replicated in the Council’s report.

·      that a mechanism including an adequate supply chain should be encouraged to enable individuals, as well as the Council for their own housing stock, to be able to carry out retrofitting work.

·      a planning consideration to reach a level of energy independence would help meet those targets, but there was no positive indication of how that related to the current restraints of Photovoltaic (PV) on buildings to enable this to happen.

·      the University report has made reference to an 11% target and suggestions for a clean air zone and other measures such as a work place parking levy as well as looking at increasing walking and cycling rates. Such measures and targets should be referred to the Council’s Transport Working Group for action as well as consider if there any implications for the Exeter Transport Plan.

·      a lack of policy target to reach a suggested target of a rate of recycling of 70% by 2030.

·      rolling out a food waste collection service would increase the recycling rate to 50% and, if glass collection was included, that rate would go even higher. 

·      in conclusion, the Member suggested two key points for consideration should be to monitor all of the targets set out in the University’s report, and despite the drive to Net Zero by 2030 requiring collaborative action across many areas of the Council, there was no mechanism such as a standing committee to address this.


The Chief Executive & Growth Director responded to a number of the questions and stated that the Council’s report had only included the headline areas, but it was acknowledged that everything needed to be done and the cooperation of other partners and organisations would be needed. The setting and adoption of targets was possible, but adequate resources were needed to address the obstacles. Exeter City Futures have brought together organisations to consider the targets as well as working with the County’s Transport Authority to look at overcoming any obstacles. The Member reiterated the comment she made earlier relating to the University’s full list of policy areas which were not included in the Council’s report suggesting they were needed to ensure that policy would need to flow from all of the University’s measures and targets identified in order to achieve the targets.

 The Chief Executive & Growth Director responded to a Member’s enquiry stating that the Council could only work within national development guidelines and currently house builders could still deliver houses with gas boilers, which would have to be retrofitted in time. Members from both Scrutiny Committees have been scrutinising the City Development Fund, which included a land ownership model that offered more control rather than being dependent on national policy. The Director City Development added that the Exeter Plan will be a statutory document but it also offered a way to convene and meditate a contested space with developers, stakeholders, communities and the local planning authority. The whole system approach referred to in the Council’s report will present a strategic challenge for planning.  He also responded to a comment on the scope for putting Photovoltaic Panels (PV) on Listed Buildings This was governed by different legislation to protect and enhance the setting and fabric of such buildings. Any significant intervention through further legislation required a balanced approach.  The real challenge to address the rest of the city’s housing stock, remained.


Members made the following comments and the Chief Executive & Growth Director responded where appropriate and as set out in italics:-


  • delivering on Net Zero 2030 was clearly a huge challenge and should be seen as a call to action for the Council. Despite the focus on skills and having a world leading university in the city, physical barriers such as a lack of affordable housing and the availability of the right kind of jobs to help graduate retention persisted. There ought to be an opportunity for the Council to lead on progressing incentives through the Government and local businesses to offer support for improvements such as PV panels, insulation or retrofitting boilers as this was just too big a financial barrier to leave to individual households. 
  • despite the delays in the County Council’s Active Travel ambitions, which was not without some controversy, further trials for a neighbourhood street model in all of the city centre wards and beyond would be welcomed and ensuring alternative transport and affordability was included.
  • it was acknowledged that delayed supply chains were holding up the rolling out of the implementation of the collection of food waste, but there might be an opportunity to approach one or two larger local authorities such as in London or Manchester to see if there was an opportunity to pool their vehicle resources in some way to overcome this delay. The Director (DB) would be made aware of the suggestion of pooling vehicle resources with other Local Authorities and would report back to Members.
  • although biodiversity was included in the recommendation it was not referenced in the report as a target action for Exeter. The idea of creating a pricing structure had initially seemed very appealing and a tangible way to value nature, but it could also offer some justification for the destruction of habitat by replacement on another site as part of planning controls.

Bristol and Lichfield Councils have established a mechanism to enable developers to pay for ongoing management of land sequestration. Efforts would be made to find an opportunity to investigate more detail of this work and, potentially, consider a pricing mechanism for such carbon off setting that could be included in the planning system and enable Devon to come up with its own unique way. 

  • clarification on whether it was the budget of Exeter City Futures or the Council that would be exceeded was sought. It was the city’s carbon budget not the financial budget which would be exceeded by 2026 although the challenge relating to local authority finances remained.

·           as there may be a tipping point for future fuel type used for large commercial vehicles, perhaps a more generic approach for reducing carbon emissions in transport should be taken rather than setting targets due to the ever changing technology and resulting pace of change. Flexibility over the management of commercial vehicles was needed and discussions over alternative fuel sources such as with hydrogen manufacturers. The County Council would likely have views about such matters and the return in carbon terms.

  • many essential car users those in the care sector who were reliant on their cars for work, may not be able to make the move to electric cars and buses by 2030.The challenge over policy and financial issues would require work over the future years, Exeter City Futures were working with a number of companies and through these strategic partnerships for solutions such as an electrification of fleet vehicles or how to incentivise the transport network.

·           further examination of the assumption in the Council’s report of the conversion of 50,000 cars to electric, as any reduction in the number of journeys should be included in the modelling, along with the impact of congestion and air pollution. The Member also sought an explanation of the strategy to prioritise the electric charging infrastructure at such an early stage, when the overall plan would require very significant change on every street and might prevent the agility that will be needed. There was good reason to make an early investment to encourage people to purchase electric vehicles and allay any fears of not having a convenient charging point infrastructure. A number of the bus companies have also indicated they will no longer buy diesel engines and so if the charging infrastructure was put in place that could make the decision to change easier for them.

  • if there was an opportunity for Exeter City Council’s commercial waste services to expand their business, or if those leasing Council property could be encouraged to use their services. The Director (DB) has been working with a waste management company based on the Exeter Science Park to look at ways to scale up the City Council’s commercial operations. The forthcoming report to the Executive on waste in relation to the Council’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions report will include a discussion about those commercial contacts.
  • that whilst funding would be a question for respective Governments, there should be recognition that the Council has made an effort to find innovative ways of progressing ways to meet the Net Zero challenge.
  • it was essential that public transport be seen as a public service and properly funded.
  • why was the energy from the Energy to Waste plant on Marsh Barton and the new housing on the outskirts of Exeter by the Devon Motel not connected to a District Heating system. The business case made for the Energy to Waste plant was supported by Teignbridge District Council, but it had not been possible to secure the deal with the volume house builders in Teignbridge.
  •  it was suggested that as much of a visual message as possible be given to the Council’s Communication team to share with the public to be aware of the challenges ahead. The message including the challenges will be shared through Exeter City Futures.
  • the different means of individuals to be able to participate should be borne in mind in the messaging. The Member referred to some residents in her ward who were supportive but initiatives such as road changes had meant that their livelihoods had been disproportionally affected as individuals. There was a need therefore for any move to behavioural change to be communicated sensitively. The request was acknowledged and directly correlated with the intended messaging.


The Chair hoped that despite the cost of living crisis that there may be an opportunity to reinvigorate the economy through public spending to develop the green technology and the infrastructure needed. The Chief Executive & Growth Director referred to the various reincarnations of the county’s Devolution deals and the consistent message that Exeter has made a solid case to pursue green innovation. It was important to be clear locally about the direction of travel and wait for the right opportunity which he was confident that the Leader at the County Council would support.


The Chair referred to the discussion and sought Members’ support for an additional recommendation to set up a Standing Overview Group to scrutinise the all-encompassing piece of work that will be needed by both the City Council and all of our partners.  The detail and operation of the new Group would be presented to the Scrutiny Programme Board. It would include the opportunity to enable witnesses to present evidence to ensure the whole process will be properly scrutinised. The challenge of the effort to tackle climate change with limited resources was acknowledged.  Members expressed support for the additional recommendation.


The Strategic Scrutiny Committee supported the report and requested that comments made by this Scrutiny be relayed to the Executive when it considers the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory report. Strategic Scrutiny Committee supported approval by Executive of the following:-


(1)   the Exeter Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and that the pace and scale of change required to deliver on the Net Zero 2030 goal will require a step change in resources, activity and policy making both at a local and national level,

(2)   the importance of biodiversity and carbon sequestration in addressing the challenge of delivering a Net Zero Exeter and invite a presentation to a future meeting of Scrutiny Committee on practical proposals for linking the planning and development system with the climate and ecological emergency involving a mechanism to deliver net biodiversity gain on development sites and carbon offsetting within Devon, this could comprise a Natural Capital Delivery Partnership; and

(3)   a Standing Overview Group be established, with the Scrutiny Programme Board requested to consider the detail of operation to enable further scrutiny of the collaborative work needed by the Council’s partners as an ongoing and significant piece of work.



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