Homes Retrofit Measures within a Holistic Approach, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council have brought together environmental, sustainability and carbon reduction objectives together under one strategy.

The challenge

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council have brought together environmental, sustainability and carbon reduction objectives together under one strategy. The authority has agreed to a net zero target of 2032 and for the borough to achieve net zero by 2050. Domestic home decarbonisation is a key part of the wider 2050 net zero aims and assists with addressing fuel poverty whilst tackling inequalities. The council has focused on seeing this within a wider holistic approach to decarbonisation where nature-based solutions are critical in removing carbon and need to be embedded into the system. Nature-based solutions include tree planting, sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS), wetlands management and biodiversity, and not over maintaining green spaces and changing some towards more wildly managed environments. An overarching challenge is funding the progress of some large impact projects, such as fleet electrification, therefore the council needs to ensure the most efficient use of funding to deliver change locally.

The solution

Retrofit is part of the solution and has been enabled with a combination of funding, including Warm Homes Fund, LAD2, HUG and ECO4. It has been looked at across the borough with consideration of income groups and housing types-tenure to identify the most in need. Different communication channels have been key to the work, and there have been experiences where getting the word out and overcoming the ‘sounds too good to be true’ mantle for home upgrade eligible funding has been challenging. The council is conscious of the demographics of different areas and wary of digital exclusion. To overcome this and respond to a particular areas’ needs the council team focused on leafleting selected areas and found the engagement rates and registrations increased soon after in these areas. Consultation has also utilised the well-established local youth forum and Stockton-on-Tees’ community volunteer network to support uptake.

The impact

Monitoring and evaluation is recognised to be a challenge resource wise, especially to do more than what is currently required by public funding streams. The council has worked with the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) to deliver carbon literacy training to officers across services, and some strategic partners, to support the development and embedding of its strategy and action plan.

Lessons learned

  • Build awareness and inform people of the “why”: For the nature-based solutions, a key success factor was to inform and build awareness of why the council is doing these. For example, with not mowing green space, as people can be critical if they do not know what is happening. Different communication channels and existing community partners are useful here.
  • There is a challenge to overly open consultation, for example asking people what they want brings up many things and may not be deliverable. Though open engagement channels have been selected at an early stage to understand community issues and pressures to then work with the community to develop solutions.
  • There is an important role for decarbonisation work at a borough-level. The council is delivering decarbonisation and the wider environmental strategy at the borough level but with considerations and consultations flexible to the more local level. It is also helpful to try to develop a wave of interventions, rather than stop-start work, and to ultimately create a legacy for residents.