Is Central Beds Council doing enough to tackle climate change? Chair of Beds Rail Access Network voices concerns

The Chair of Bedfordshire Rail Access Network is questioning whether Central Bedfordshire Council is fighting hard enough to combat the climate crisis.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 1:46 pm

Langford resident and chairman of Beds Rail Access Network (BRAN) Julian Vaughan has published a blog to hold Central Beds Council (CBC) to account over a number of its future plans, including its September 2020 Sustainability Plan and initiatives for cycling, buses and electric vehicles.

However, CBC has argued that it has set out "a clear road map" for supporting Central Bedfordshire to be net zero carbon by 2030, one which details "clear actions" and "areas of work".

Voicing his concerns about the Sustainability Plan, Mr Vaughan claimed: "Following on from their baseline review completed in April 2020, CBC put together a Sustainability Plan which was published in September.

Central Bedfordshire Council headquarters, Chicksands.

"Firstly, there does seem to be a change in emphasis between the baseline review, which pledges the council to support both the council and area in becoming carbon neutral by 2030 (stated in the Executive Summary of the Baseline review) and the Sustainability Plan, published only five months later, which appears to aspire to just a 40 per cent reduction in the area’s emissions by 2030.

"I’m not suggesting that the council ever committed to achieving carbon neutrality across the area by 2030, but it will be actions not words that take us away from the brink of climate disaster."

He added: "A number of items from their Sustainability Plan stand out. While their aim to plant one million trees in the area by 2030 should be applauded, it should be noted that they only planted 31,268 trees between 2014 and 2019. Residential buildings account for 27 per cent of CO2 emissions across Central Bedfordshire, second only to emissions created by road transport (39 per cent)."

Mr Vaughan noted that it seems the council will "only mandate a small reduction" of 10 per cent in carbon emissions from developers of new homes until the Future Homes Standard comes into force in 2025, committing to a 75 per cent reduction in carbon emissions for new homes.

He alleged: "This lack of ambition has been highlighted in the base review, so it seems odd that this target has not been raised."

Meanwhile, the BRAN campaigner detailed the council's future plans for transport.

His blog noted that CBC has an "ambitious plan" to increase commuting by cycling to 10 per cent by 2023 and 26 per cent by 2030. However, Mr Vaughan claimed that the council would have to "invest very quickly in this area", because the current level of commuting by bike is at two per cent.

On plans for bus services, he claimed: "In short, there is no plan. Look for CBC’s Public Transport Strategy online and you’ll see it’s ‘currently under development’ and has been for a considerable time. In perhaps the most glaring omission from the Sustainability Plan, buses and public transport are almost non-existent in the council’s 10-year plan to reduce carbon emissions."

Finally, Mr Vaughan explains that CBC is aiming to install 100-150 electric vehicle charging points across Central Bedfordshire over the next 10 years, arguing that the target "seems extremely unambitious" and "unlikely to promote the switchover to EVs or satisfy the demand for charging points by 2030".

He concluded: "It is clear that a great deal of work has gone into the Sustainability Plan and it provides a template as to how Central Bedfordshire will achieve carbon neutrality. However, the evidence suggests that even if we achieve current planned reductions we will miss the 2° C target and we must strive to achieve even more at a faster rate."

A spokesman for Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “Our Sustainability Plan, adopted in 2020, sets out a clear a ‘road map’ to work towards supporting the Central Bedfordshire area to be net zero carbon by 2030. The plan sets out clear actions and areas of work which will contribute to this. It also sets out the initial aspirational targets, which will be reviewed to ensure they are appropriate and help maintain momentum to deliver the Council’s sustainability ambitions.

"Over the last year the world has changed significantly eg. the way people use public and private transport, which has had an impact on our Sustainability Plan. We are continuously working to monitor, evaluate and respond to these changes, and will incorporate these into future projects in the context of changing government policy and guidance. The Sustainability Plan has been designed with this in mind, and we will continue to adapt and build on the plan to drive and promote sustainability throughout Central Bedfordshire.”