West Devon Borough Council AGM Report
A PLAN FOR WEST DEVON
WDBC has in July 2021, agreed The Plan for West Devon. This is a plan and vision for the future of the borough for the next 20 years. This plan broadly indicates the aims and visions of the council for West Devon and what we hope to achieve for our residents.
The Plan for West Devon has involved restructuring of the council. We now have 8 areas of responsibility each having a lead member, these members form the council Hub or decision-making body. The strategy areas of the plan are Communities, Economy, Communication, Housing, Natural Environment, Health and Wellbeing, Council Resources and Built Environment. Each strategy area has a core group of councillors to advise and support progress.
I am lead member for the Natural Environment theme and have worked hard to promote the cause of the Climate Emergency and climate targets. Successes so far include:
- 5 electric charging points in WD car parks – the council are in the process of tendering now, having received government grants to do this. The 5 charge points will be Tavistock, Okehampton, Hatherleigh, Chagford and Bere Alston.
- A natural Regeneration project – 8 hectares of council owned land near Tavistock to be allowed to regenerate naturally.
- The Beacon path active travel route into Okehampton from South Zeal – This route has now been included in the Southwest active travel planned route, which is a long-term project.
- Photovoltaic panels on council buildings. – The council has an aim to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by 2030.
- Training for senior management on carbon reduction, WD is now a registered carbon literate council.
- Converting the WDBC fleet to electric or alternative carbon neutral vehicles. As the vehicles come up for renewal, WD will use carbon neutral alternative to fossil fuel. This is already in place with cars and vans. The larger fleet particularly the waste vehicles will prove more challenging, and we may need to wait until hydrogen power is more readily available.
- Feasibility study for solar capacity on WD car parks. This has been carried out but will require a large capital investment it is a question of prioritising budgets and applying for government grants for development of renewables as these become available. WD are also keen to support local energy hubs and using buildings and other spaces to generate local renewable energy.
- Reduction of Waste at Source – WDBC have recently joined the Devon Strategic Waste plan. We are well ahead with what we recycle compared to other councils, but our overall aim is the reduction of waste to a minimum. We aim to reuse, repair or recycle all WD waste as close to where it is generated as possible to reduce the environmental impact to a minimum. Look out for our waste reduction campaigns this year.
- Support delivery of a mix of woodland on street habitat corridors and hedgerows through the Plymouth and South Devon Forest – there are plans for tree planting across the SW Devon area. WD will support 25 to 50 hectares of planting with funding available, finding land-owners willing to plant trees will be our next task the council does not own this type of land.
- Map of WD ecosystems, waterways, and other natural capital – It is part of a DCC plan to map the whole of Devon’s natural environment to understand what we have and to ensure regeneration and protection is promoted.
- Work with landowners and partners to promote the growth of biodiversity. – WD works with partners including DNP and Tamar Valley AONB. To ensure we work together to improve levels of biodiversity across the whole region.
- ECO museum – WD has plans to create an eco or living museum, where we promote the sites of interest as a part of a whole WD tourist experience. We are interested to hear about local heritage and biodiversity sites that can be added to the trails. This plan will include local travel hubs and active travel.
WD has recently declared a housing crisis. As many of you will know, there is a shortage of truly affordable housing to buy or rent across the borough. Many young people and essential workers cannot afford to live and work here, which has an impact on families and the local economy. Plans to alleviate this situation include the council building homes on its own land, second home ownership impact assessment, bringing empty properties back into use, lobbying government for changes in the law for longer lease rentals, and for grant funding for home building.
I am now a member of the Joint Local Plan steering group and can potentially influence housing policy. It was decided at a recent meeting that the JLP would issue guidance for builders regarding building to ensure the highest energy efficiency and lowest carbon emissions. This is ahead of government changes to building guidance to ensure the greatest energy efficiency of new builds. The issue of retrofitting older homes is still one to be tackled. The JLP is working towards allow carbon future for our area.
The council has a balanced budget for 2022/23 and will continue to manage finances safely. It has been uncertain what the government grant will be, but we have managed to continue our record of good budgeting and careful planning.
As part of the Natural Environment area of responsibility, WDBC waste collection service is part of my brief. These have been a difficult two years, with the pandemic impacting badly on staff and collection ability. There is a continuing HGV driver shortage and we do have some missed collections. Overall the service has improved and although there are some reduced collection rates, mostly things are improving.
Planning and Licensing
West Devon planning department has undergone a review by the and is in the process of improving the service. We again have staff shortages and know that there have been unacceptably long waits for the planning service to respond. The review has pinpointed those areas that need upgrading and WD are in the process of doing this.
Cllr Lynn Daniel
South Tawton Ward
West Devon Borough Council