Agenda and minutes
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Contact: Richard Doney. Scrutiny Officer Scrutiny Officer
Councillor Dunne sent her apologies.
Declarations of interest
No interests were declared.
The Chair welcomed everyone to the inaugural meeting of the Panel and explained that she hoped that establishing the Panel demonstrated the commitment of the Council to focus on the urgency of topics relating to climate and the environment and thanked all councillors for their support.
The Chair also explained that the agenda order would be amended and that the item on the Development of a Biodiversity Strategy for Oxford would be considered towards the close of the meeting.
All public addresses will be directed through the Chair. Public addresses will be limited to five minutes each.
Merryl Gelling had submitted a public address
which was read by Evelyn Sanderson on her behalf. Dr Gelling welcomed the creation of the new Panel
and addressed the item on the development of a Biodiversity
Strategy and Action Plan.
1. The Steering Group for the Biodiversity Strategy should include Oxford University’s Biodiversity Network & HERO project, community wildlife groups and local ecologists
2. The Steering Group should learn from best practice in other cities: eg:
3. Biodiversity implications should be given equal weight across decision making, particularly around the 2040 Local Plan, as adding immense value for the future of the city.
The Chair thanked Ms Sanderson for reading Dr Gelling’s address.
Cabinet will, at its meeting on 15 March 2023, consider a report on the Development of a Biodiversity Strategy for Oxford. Cllr Anna Railton, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice, Mish Tullar, Head of Corporate Strategy, and Mai Jarvis, Environmental Sustainability Lead, have been invited to present the report and to answer questions.
The Panel is asked to consider the report and to agree any recommendations it wishes to make to Cabinet.
The Panel welcomed the ambition to create a biodiversity strategy and had a wide-ranging discussion with officers and the Cabinet Member about how it might be developed and what might be seen in the action plan.
The Panel was pleased to note the recognition that collaboration across the City was key to the success of a Biodiversity Strategy and that the Council was committed to its success. The Panel noted that the report explained the Council expected the steering group to “include representatives from the Local Nature Partnership, health, universities, businesses, wildlife groups, planning and community groups.” The Panel considered that it would be particularly appropriate for Oxford University’s Biodiversity Network and the HERO project to be represented on the steering group. The Panel was grateful to the member of the public who addressed the Panel for drawing attention to these groups.
The Panel sought to
emphasise what it considered to be the importance of the Baseline
Exercise as being fundamental to the success of the
Strategy. The Panel considered it vital
that, in conducting the Baseline Exercise, the Council and its
partners must be aware of, and take account of, shifting baseline
syndrome and the impact that would have on individual
The Panel noted that the second bullet point in paragraph 11 referred to one potential area of focus including that of “considering the appropriateness of the use of pesticides including glyphosates.” The Panel heard that there was disagreement as to whether this was practicable in the shorter-term, or even desirable. However, the Panel considered that it would be appropriate to go further than that and argued that the Council should be seeking to stop the use of pesticides and herbicides on Council-owned land as soon as possible and discouraging their use more widely.
The Panel established that Natural England had not had the capacity to audit the eight Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the city for some years. The Panel noted that the report suggests that an audit “could be undertaken to better understand how favourable condition can be retained/achieved across these sites” and considered that it was important that this should be done as soon as possible.
The Panel regretted the absence of an explicit reference to trees in the report. The Panel considered it essential that the Council commit explicitly to preserving and protecting mature trees wherever feasible, in line with the Urban Forest Strategy.
The Panel considered it would be inappropriate for any Biodiversity Strategy drawn up not to take account of the internationally agreed Global Biodiversity Framework and considered it important that the Council commits to adhering to it. Similarly, the Panel considered that the Council should commit to, at the least, meeting the Government targets on halting the decline of species.
The Panel recognised that the Local Plan is required to take account of biodiversity. The Panel considered that the interlinkage of the Biodiversity Strategy and the needs of the Local Plan should be emphasised and highlighted in the drawing ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
The Head of Corporate Strategy has submitted a copy of the Net Zero Master Plan 2023-2025 which sets out Oxford City Council’s actions over the next two years to achieve its two carbon targets: a Net Zero Estate and Operations by 2030 and a Net Zero City by 2040.
Cllr Anna Railton, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice, Mish Tullar, Head of Corporate Strategy, and Rose Dickinson, Carbon Reduction Team Manager, have been invited to present the Master Plan and to answer questions.
The Panel is asked to note the Master Plan and to agree any recommendations it might wish to make to Cabinet.
Cllr Railton introduced the Net Zero Master Plan and explained that it outlined actions that would be taken over the next two years and provided an outline of completed actions so that the Council was able to track its progress.
Rose Dickinson added context and explained that the master plan had been compiled by the Environmental Sustainability team in response to the BDO audit and that it was to be read alongside the Road Map and the Action Plan. The purpose of the Master Plan was to better enable and track progress. It was to be updated every quarter and the document was to enable prioritization and identification of resourcing issues.
The Master Plan as well as the Road Map and Action Plan were a step towards what had been identified as needing, having recognized that there was a need to better capture information and that it had clearer deadlines with action owners.
Officers explained that they would be grateful for the views of the Panel as to where the document might be improved.
The Panel considered the Master Plan extremely comprehensive and commended officers for the work that had gone into it.
In response to questions, the Panel established that:
· Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership (ZCOP) had identified that work was needed on adaptation with regard to energy and water procurement and that the county-wide steering group was due to have its first meeting a week after the Panel’s meeting;
· The document was a living document and would grow and adapt; it was not held to contain everything that would achieve Net Zero by 2040. However, there was a suggestion from the Panel that the document could contain an indicative carbon scale and could indicate how important each particular aspect was in relation to the larger target;
· That it would be useful for alternative financial sources to be included in the Master Plan or associated documents;
· That a wider installation of EV charging points was to be expected in city car parks;
· That there was a pilot of e-cargo bikes delivering for retailers in the Covered Market which was expected to provide data and insight for an expansion of the use of e-cargo bikes which was to be discussed by ZCOP;
· The EPC ratings of Council-owned commercial buildings had been discussed but needed further exploration.
The Head of Corporate Strategy has submitted a report on the work of Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership (‘ZCOP’).
Cllr Anna Railton, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice, Mish Tullar, Head of Corporate Strategy, and Rose Dickinson, Carbon Reduction Team Manager, have been invited to present the report and to answer questions.
The Panel is asked to note the report and to consider any recommendations it might wish to make to Cabinet.
In response to questions, the Panel
· The Leader of the Council was the current chair of ZCOP but it was a partnership of equals with different groups within it and with different organisations leading on different focuses of work;
· That no hotels were currently represented on ZCOP but that retail was represented;
· Other stakeholders could be added to the steering group or to ZCOP more generally with the agreement of other steering group members and the Panel suggested that schools in the independent sector might prove a useful addition, given their transport needs;
· Updates were provided on a quarterly basis to the ZCOP steering group and, going forward, would be provided to this Panel;
· Solar panels on car parks had been discussed at Council and there was a sprint group looking at renewables where partners were discussing the use of adjacent land assets. The Panel accepted that part of the reason for ZCOP was the possibilities of scale and noted that the total solar capacity of roofs in Oxford was 30 megawatts whereas the Botley West development had a capacity of 840 megawatts;
· Some feasibility studies had already been shared and future ones could be shared with members, given that the Council was a member of ZCOP;
· Green Leases was an area where more exploratory work was necessary before officers could advise what was feasible;
The Council hosted the secretariat for ZCOP with an officer who
looked for available funding opportunities on an ongoing basis
which were applied for where relevant; funding sources include both
central government and charitable organsiations.
The Panel thanked officers for the report and resolved to note it without making any recommendations to Cabinet.
The Head of Corporate Strategy has submitted a report updating the Panel on fleet decarbonisation.
Cllr Anna Railton, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice, and Mish Tullar, Head of Corporate Strategy, have been invited to present the report and to answer questions.
The Panel is asked to note the report and to consider any recommendations it wishes to make to Cabinet.
The Panel welcomed the report but questioned why there could not be a sub-target for a section of the fleet, such as cars and vans, whilst it recognised that it might not be feasible for HGVs. It was noted that there had been many discussions about associated carbon targets and the Head of Corporate Strategy agreed to give further consideration to whether a target was practicable. The Panel also noted that there were currently some capacity issues around EV charging infrasture in the city centre.
The Panel established that the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme had been approved and that 159 electric buses were being manufactured in the UK and were expected to arrive by March 2024.
The Panel was pleased to note that electric vans and other Large Goods Vehicles are being used by Oxford Direct Services Ltd (ODS) and recognised that it would be difficult to decarbonise the whole fleet at this time. However, the Panel considered that greater attention should be given to exploring how ODS could move towards including large electric cargo bicycles in its fleet for freight.
The Panel resolved to note the report and to make the following recommendation to Cabinet:
Recommendation 1: That the Council should commit to working with ODS to explore how ODS could include electric cargo bicycles in its fleet.
The Panel is asked to identify items it wishes to place on its work plan.
The Panel agreed to the Scrutiny Officer’s recommendation that the Panel should meet informally with officers in order to identify items for its work plan for the next municipal year.
Date of next meeting
The Panel is asked to identify a suitable date for its next meeting before the close of the municipal year.
The Scrutiny Officer advised that he would circulate a proposed date for the Panel to meet informally before the close of the municipal year. [This was subsequently confirmed as Wednesday 26 April.]