How can we look after our environment and encourage others to do the same?
Litter and fly-tipping is environmental vandalism – it’s unpleasant, unnecessary and unacceptable. Not only does fly-tipping create an eyesore for residents, it is also a serious public health risk, creating pollution and attracting rats and other vermin.
On 20 April 2023 the Local Government Association (LGA) held a virtual event along with the Planning Advisory Services (PAS) on biodiversity and nature recovery.
The LGA has produced an e-learning module on biodiversity aimed at council officers and members. This module provides an introduction to the subject, as well as tips and guidance on how councils can take action to protect their natural habitats.
The LGA webinar, 'place-based leadership for biodiversity', was organised as part of the LGA’s green webinar series. It covered how councils and farmers can work together, how councils can put together a Local Nature Recovery Plan, how the use of greenspace data can help inform a biodiversity action plan and lastly, and how councils can undertake biodiversity net gain.
The LGA webinar, 'seeing the wood for the trees', was organised as part of the LGA’s green webinar series. It examined the case for planting trees in terms of finance and carbon, the challenges this presents for local authorities and the benefits of urban tree planting.
Local residents take a keen interest in what happens to their bins. We support high recycling rates for householders and businesses and are working hard to make sure councils are able to reduce landfill and tackle climate change through increasing recycling.
There are approximately 23 million dwellings in England most of which require a weekly or fortnightly refuse and recycling collection. Councils spend £852m per year on waste collection, and given that many contracts were negotiated several years ago and are ready for renewal, even a small efficiency saving of say 5 per cent would equate to a £42.6m reduction in spend in this area.
In 2015 we supported council across England to run projects intended to bring about efficiencies and savings to council's waste and recycling budget. You can find some of the learning beneath:
- The potential of food waste disposal units to reduce costs
- The impact of household food waste disposers: results of the field trials in Shropshire Guidance for introducing food waste disposers to domestic households
- Staffordshire Waste Partnership: lessons learned presentation
- Resource Futures: Kerbside and household waste and recycling centre bulky waste options and plan for councils in Cumbria
- Resource Futures: Regional communications plan for re-use in Cumbria
- Slough Borough Council: Refuse Collection Vehicles options appraisal
Kent County Council is working on a project in Margate to reduce the risk of flooding and the impact of increasing summer temperatures. Over 30 new trees have been planted across two urban residential streets, some of which are planted within specialist sustainable drainage tree pit systems.
The ‘Love Essex Not Plastic’ campaign aimed to change the mindset of how plastic is used, reduced and recycled in Essex, by encouraging residents to sign the Essex Plastic Pledge,
In Hazlemere, the council and residents are determined to stop the decline of pollinators and help their wonderful natural friends. Bees are vital to both pollinate the food we need to survive and pollinate many of the trees and flowers that provide habitats for wildlife.
Cumbria was named as one of five pilot areas to receive a share of a £1 million fund from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in August 2020 to develop a draft Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) pilot.
The Salisbury River Park project is a collaborative project between Wiltshire Council and the Environment Agency, with support from both the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) and Salisbury City Council to deliver essential flood alleviation and major environmental improvements through the central riverside spine of the historic city of Salisbury.
The Wiltshire Community Environmental Toolkit has been developed by Wiltshire Council in partnership with Natural England to allow communities to take the lead in defining and restoring biodiversity in their community.
North Devon's Biosphere Reserve is jointly funded by Devon County Council, North Devon Council and Torridge District Council. The Biosphere is launching an ambitious new Nature Recovery Plan as our contribution to tackling the ecological emergency here in northern Devon.
City of York Council is creating an extensive community woodland on 78 hectares of land to the West of York with the ambition to plant 50,000 trees by 2023 as a nature based solution to climate change mitigation.
The Cambridge Canopy Project – part of the Interreg 2 Seas ‘Nature Smart Cities’ project – seeks to grow Cambridge’s urban forest, increasing tree canopy cover from 17% to 19% by the 2050s. The project uses trees as a form of green infrastructure to make the city more climate-resilient for the future, helping to combat the urban heat island effect and lowering the risk of flooding. By utilising a nature-based solution like this, the Cambridge Canopy Project is helping the city adapt to, and mitigate against, the likely impacts that will be brought about under future climate change scenarios.
SLDC, along with the University of Manchester, ran competition for pupils of primary and secondary schools to design a poster about the climate emergency for bin lorries, to motivate communities to take action on climate change.
City of York Council took action to improve air quality across the city through a Clean Air Zone, aiming to significantly reduce emissions from buses and ensure all those operating frequently in the city centre were low emission.
The Berrylands Nature Reserve (otherwise known as the Raeburn Open Space local nature reserve), was once a forgotten and neglected space. Few local residents were aware of the site's existence and it was in a poor condition. However, working with a local conservation charity; ‘The Environment Trust’, we engaged in a project to restore the nature reserve and inspire the local community (funded by Thames Water).
The project involved significant river restoration removing hundreds of tonnes of concrete, established a new wildlife pond and carried out conservation work across the site. The project also established a local friends group. The site is now a haven for wildlife and the Friends Group is thriving, enabling the community to contribute to the ongoing management of the area.
This project had to overcome a number of challenges:
To secure the funds to carry out the works Restore an ecologically impoverished area, which included the rectification of a highly canalized and concreted river system Engage and inspire a community who were unaware of the site's existence. And address anti social behaviours such as chronic littering, arson and drug dealing which were evident prior to the start of the works Ensure the site had a sustainable exit strategy, to secure the long term legacy of the works.
Elliot Newton - [email protected]
Links to relevant documents:
Restoring a local nature reserve can bring huge environmental and social benefits. This can contribute to the health of the community and foster a greater sense of social cohesion and respect for the environment. The community needs to be at the heart of projects inception and delivery of the project to increase the likelihood that it is locally accepted. A Friends Group which is supported by the local authority can ensure the legacy of the site, and positively contribute to the running of the site.
The empowerment and mobilisation of local residents to support conservation work has enabled conservation work to continue at minimal cost. And with the capital investment being made by Thames Water there were no financial demands placed on the local authority. The running of a Forest School on site is also generating some level of income for the council.
This film demonstrates the success of the project:
How is the new approach being sustained?
The Friends Group are continuing to lead conservation work and there is a significant level of community support and involvement. Id Verde are also supporting this process to ensure they have the guidance and tools they need to deliver conservation activities.
Each of the challenges raised above required a tailored approach to overcome the issue, they are addressed in turn below:
To raise the funds we investigated a number of funding opportunities some of which were unsuccessful. However as active members of the Hogsmill Catchment Partnership, we became aware of the Thames Water Community Investment Fund. Having already been engaged with local community conservation initiatives, the Environment Trust (endorsed by RBK) were able submit a strong application which was successful, securing £168,000.
With a collaborative approach engaging with technical specialists where appropriate, we were able to create a comprehensive conservation plan to deliver evidence based conservation action to enhance the sites ecology. This was assisted with the mobilisation and empowerment of local residents who engaged in regular conservation sessions.
We ran multiple local community meetings before and during the restoration works. This enabled us to secure the community's buy-in from the very beginning of the project, enabling their input to influence decision making. To address potentially criminal behaviours we worked alongside the local police who supported the works. We constructed a new bridge and circular nature trail, this encouraged local people to explore the area, furthermore our regular conservation sessions and the establishment of a Forest School discouraged anti social behaviours.
To secure the legacy of the site we established a Friends Group. The group is continuing to grow and attract new members, this will ensure conservation work continues to the far reaching future. These are supported by Id Verde, the RBK grounds maintenance contractors. The impact (including cost savings/income generated if applicable): This project has delivered a significant and positive ecological and social impact. Biodiversity levels have increased within the nature reserve with increased sightings of kingfisher, little egret and a range of dragonfly species. Also more local people are visiting the area, benefiting both their mental and physical well being. During the summer lockdown many local residents praised the site stating it was a really important part of the copying mechanism providing them with a space to engage with nature and combat stress.
The Local Partnerships Adaptation Toolkit is a five-step process to help councils prepare for the impacts current and future climate could have on their authority, residents and services they provide. This toolkit has been structured to guide council's through each stage of developing a strategy and action plan for adaptation, as a facilitation tool that seeks to bridge the technical guidance and the practicalities of local government.
Hampshire County Council Tree Strategy sets out Hampshire County Council’s approach to increasing and connecting woodland areas, green’ corridors and networks across the county. It will supplement and connect existing sites through group tree planting, to create a county-wide ‘Hampshire Community Forest’.
Trees, woods and forests play a key role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Placing woodland creation at the heart of any response will result in efficient and effective carbon capture, as well as a range of other benefits.
The ‘Responding to the climate emergency with new trees and woodlands’ leaflet has been produced to help local authorities and landowning businesses achieve net zero. It includes:
- tips on creating and managing woodland
- tips on reducing the use of non-renewable resources through wood and timber products
- sources of further information on grant funding
Here are links to the support that the Trust offers to communities and councils for tree planting:
The strategy sets out how we will preserve our stock of material resources by minimising waste, promoting resource efficiency and moving towards a circular economy. At the same time we will minimise the damage caused to our natural environment by reducing and managing waste safely and carefully, and by tackling waste crime. It combines actions we will take now with firm commitments for the coming years and gives a clear longer-term policy direction in line with our 25 Year Environment Plan. This is our blueprint for eliminating avoidable plastic waste over the lifetime of the 25 Year Plan, doubling resource productivity, and eliminating avoidable waste of all kinds by 2050.
The National Infrastructure Scheme mechanism creates a market for environmental improvements which funds sustainable practices. In the case studied in this report, we look at the potential to use the scheme to improve soil and water quality in the Anglian river basin.
Our example assesses how the approach could work to complement regulation and reduce concentrations of nitrates in groundwater, while improving the soil. In this case study, land management services are purchased from a consortium of participating farmers by a group of buyers, which include the local water company and businesses from the food and drink sector.
This report shows that our NIS concept creates benefits to the farmers, who receive higher incomes, and buyers who are provided cleaner water and more sustainable farming methods.
In Closing the loop: four steps towards 100 per cent aluminium packaging recycling we shift the spotlight away from plastic to examine how reform can work for another widely used material: aluminium. We recommend a four step approach in order to achieve a near 100 per cent recycling rate.
- Create an 'all-in' deposit return scheme (DRS)
- Improve kerbside services
- Ensure best practice at sorting plants
- Recover the remainder from incinerator bottom ash
This short explainer is an introduction to the Natural Infrastructure Scheme (NIS), a market concept developed by Green Alliance and the National Trust that would make it possible for farmers and landowners to profit from carrying out activities that improve the environment, and other organisations, like local authorities, utilities and food companies, able to purchase benefits, like flood prevention and soil improvements.
It explains how a NIS would work, why it is needed and what government support is needed to kick-start a NIS.
Climate change resources
Alongside the majority of councils, the LGA has declared a climate emergency. We offer a wide range of resources to help councils address environmental sustainability.
A local path to net zero
Councils want to work as partners with government, industry and communities to tackle climate change. They are intrinsic to transitioning our places and empowering our communities and businesses to net zero future.