The Hertfordshire Leaders Group, attended by all council leaders, agreed to establish the Hertfordshire Climate Change and Sustainability Partnership (HCCSP) in January 2020. HCCSP’s aim is to share information, coordinate and influence solutions, and bring forward proposals for key interventions around climate change and sustainability across Hertfordshire.
HCCSP has a strategic remit and its mission is to be the lead partnership organisation for Hertfordshire’s local authorities and the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (Herts LEP) to collaborate and develop joint work programmes on environmental, climate change and wider sustainability issues.
Working in a two-tier local authority area involves respecting individual council strategies and plans, whilst striving to collaborate as widely as possible. A significant challenge is managing expectations, identifying relevant issues for partners and matching proposals to available resources for schemes to be implemented across individual local authority boundaries where applicable.
The solution was to form a partnership across Hertfordshire, with membership from the County Council, all 10 districts and the Herts LEP. This proposal received unanimous support and resulted in the establishment of the HCCSP, with representation at leader or executive member level.
HCCSP takes a collaborative approach to tackling wider issues which are beyond the scope or direct control of individual authorities, to meet targets related to climate change including meaningful carbon reduction. Four initial priorities and joint Strategic Action Plans have been drafted to tackle specific countywide issues:
The Strategic Water Action Plan was prepared with engagement from water companies, the Environment Agency and lead local flood authority. The plan was approved by HCCSP in January, subject to consultation with strategic planning groups across the county.
- optimise use of building regulations
- improve consultation and engagement with water companies and the Environment Agency on local plans
- improve consistency on planning policy
- behavioural change campaigns
HCCSP agreed to a countywide biodiversity baseline to enable identification of opportunities for biodiversity improvement and to develop an evidence base for biodiversity net-gains. The draft Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan was presented to the Partnership in March and received agreement in principle.
- countywide approach to biodiversity net gain
- countywide map of opportunities
- influencing policy at local level
- education and awareness raising
This plan is in development and focuses on securing a consistent approach to monitoring and reporting carbon emissions, improved training for local authority staff and members, identifying opportunities to reduce local authority emissions, and emissions more broadly.
This plan is in the development stages and will align with the delivery of current policies and policy change options in areas including electric vehicles, taxi licensing and co-ordinated long-term behaviour change campaigns.
The Partnership has made considerable impact in a short space of time, increasing the collaboration of partners and enabling a greater sharing of opportunities through joint work. Officers have established a network of peers, which has proved invaluable, and the workstreams have fostered stronger relationships with colleagues in other service areas to work on realising the ambitions. Virtual HCCSP meetings have enabled cost savings, increased participation and reduced carbon emissions.
How is the new approach being sustained?
HCCSP was set up with agreed terms of reference and a Hertfordshire Sustainability Officers Group (HSOG) was established to support action planning and implementation. The key themes have specific action plans attached to them that were developed by officer subgroups, with a local authority officer as lead and who is responsible for setting up meetings and ensuring buy-in and ownership of the plans.
The Partnership and HSOG meet every six weeks. Both groups have good attendance from all partners and the subgroup leads also meet six-weekly. HCCSP is jointly funded by all members, with significant joint expenditure reviewed case by case, and it has employed a dedicated coordinator to facilitate its work.
Community engagement events are planned for this year, including a Hertfordshire COP26 event and there is ongoing focus on identifying funding opportunities and sharing best practice.
The key lesson has been managing expectations. All partners are keen to deliver plans and implement actions within them. However resources need to be proportionate to the level of action desired. Many officers are supporting the Partnership in addition to undertaking their substantive roles – as with all things climate change and sustainability related, we need to move to a position whereby this becomes part of the day job.
Through HCCSP, all partners must look more widely at a strategic level where opportunities and learning for the whole county can be achieved. Annual review meetings with each member and lead officer have been undertaken and recommendations from a resulting report have been agreed by members.