This month, Southampton City Council is recognising goals reached as part of its Green City Plan, launched in March 2020. The plan sets out actions and activities the council aims to achieve to create a cleaner, greener, healthier and more sustainable city.
The council has confirmed an investment of over £22 million to tackle climate change and to address the ecological decline. The first-year actions all sit under the five key themes in the Green City Plan, including delivering clean air, carbon reduction and sustainable travel.
Achievements include the launch of the Clean Growth Fund to reduce carbon emissions produced by council buildings across the city. With support from Salix Finance Ltd, £20million has been committed to the fund over the next five years. The Fund will be matched 50/50 by the council and Salix Finance limited. The first phase of works is delivering energy efficiency and renewable projects at three of the council’s priority buildings. This investment supports the commitment to become a carbon neutral council by 2030 and was recently boosted by an extra £1.68m secured from the government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.
Encouraging, promoting and incentivising sustainable travel not only improves air quality but also resident’s quality of life. As Southampton continues to grow, increased road use has an impact on other services in the city from reducing the reliability of bus services through to delaying deliveries. Encouraging more journeys to be made by bike or walking will free up valuable road space for those needing to use a vehicle to travel. Making cycling safer and easier has been the focus over the last year. The recent funding for the ambitious Transforming Cities programme will seek to deliver 11.6 miles of new cycle routes along with four new Active Travel Zones.
From 40 new council fleet electric vehicle through to additional school street schemes, the council has reviewed and prioritised its approach to ensure that actions are improving the environment, resident’s health while supporting economic growth. The council has acknowledged that working with residents, businesses, visitors and key stakeholders is essential to making positive changes for present and future generations. The recent partnership with Southern Water to improve water efficiency highlights that support for the Green City commitments is shared by organisations across the city. With increased awareness of environmental issues, the need to change is the responsibility of individuals, councils, businesses and residents. Southampton benefits from numerous stakeholders who are actively supporting the council’s Green City ambitions.
Internal changes are also being implemented, the council recently reviewed its procurement process, and last year introduced its Social Value and Green Procurement Policy. This aims to deliver value for money but also, wherever possible, ensure suppliers match the council’s social and environmental ambitions to provide a measurable green benefit to the city.
The council has recognised that some actions due for completion within the first year are still being progressed. Despite the barriers presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the council has been able to bring some year two actions forward and recognise the need to be agile as well as ambitious. The Green City Plan and addressing the climate agenda is a long-term endeavour with a need for urgency.
Councillor Steve Leggett, Cabinet Member for Green City and Place, said: “The achievements we are recognising today are just a small selection of successes since March 2020. From simple changes that we can all make through to city-wide initiatives, our Green City commitments are not just at the heart of our decision making, these are now being considered by stakeholders across the city. We are striving to not only complete our second year actions in the next 12 months but to continue to review other areas where improvements can be made to combat the climate emergency.”