Cllr Graham Steady, Town Mayor: “The Council is doing well, but times & their requirements are changing. The Environment Policy & Review highlight what needs to be done”.
(Prepared by Cllr Ben Smith MSc (EnvRes) with members BTC Planning Committee; agreed at Full Council 17 Oct 2019)
Environmental Policy & Actions Review with Recommendations
7th February 2021
Prepared by Roger Tabor MSc CBiol FRSB FBNAhc FLS FCFBA following discussions with BTC Mayor, Councillors, Town Clerk, Grounds Manager Terry Hamilton & local area County Councillor & others.
I am happy to commend Brightlingsea Town Council (BTC) for producing an Environmental Policy & Action Plan, for keeping it active & updated & for requiring an annual independent review as part of public accountability as well as an evaluation.
A parish or town council Environmental Policy review is an assessment of the policy & current environmental practice with suggestions where improvements could be made in aim or action. The review during the Covid pandemic could not be made with direct meetings, so I was asked to discuss it with Councillors & key staff. I am grateful for the Mayor, Councillors & staff making themselves available by phone for discussions.
The nature of an Environmental Policy & Action Plan is that it is in effect a form of overarching document as the legislation that brings it into effect require that Environmental & Biodiversity issues are taken into account by Council in all its considerations & actions.
Consequently, my conversations as part of the Review process with members of BTC were to elicit their views on the Policy & Action Plan, & one year on what actions had been or are due to be taken by the Council, BTC departments & Councillors, especially in their portfolio or other areas of responsibility with regard to the Policy & Plan. There are areas of overlapping responsibility between ECC, TDC & BTC regarding Brightlingsea, so I also had conversation with the local ECC Councillor who makes reports to BTC. He & Brightlingsea’s Tendring Councillors keep direct contact between the 3 bodies.
There are a number of legislative Acts that require action or empower actions by parish & town councils that have a bearing on producing & acting on a local Environmental/Biodiversity Policy, and certain of these are listed in Appendix 1 with summary information. The statutory duty for a parish or town council to produce & act upon such an Environmental/Biodiversity Policy is held within The Natural Environment & Rural Communities Act 2006 supported by the Climate Change & Sustainable Energy Act 2006. There is an obligation on Town & Parish Councils to tackle climate change & improve their energy efficiency & to have a Biodiversity Duty in exercising their functions. (Appendix 1 also contains reference to other bodies)
The UK aims to be net zero in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.
I am happy to commend Brightlingsea Town Council (BTC) for producing an Environmental Policy & Action Plan, for keeping it active & updated & for requiring an annual independent review as part of public accountability as well as an evaluation.
I commend BTC on their Policy & Action Plan & agreed commitment to Specific Environmental Actions addressing issues of Water, Planning Authorities Local Plans, Climate Change & Energy Conservation, Waste, Dog Fouling, Transport, Biodiversity & Green Spaces, Sustainable Procurement, Awareness, Lobbying & Partnerships & Monitoring.
BTC have demonstrated positive on-going support for biodiversity & environmental considerations from before the Policy & Action Plan and subsequently with enhanced focus. It has demonstrated commitment to minimising environmental impact & sustaining & developing biodiversity. Across this year BTC have achieved significant steps in their actions & plans in line with their Policy enhanced by co-operative involvement of the community, & this should only increase with growing awareness.
The estuarine low-lying nature which makes Brightlingsea so attractive & so important in its wildlife that much of its marine & coastal edge is protected by layers of national & international designations, also makes it vulnerable in certain areas to seawater flooding. This is one of many areas where co-operation with other authorities is being undertaken by BTC as a pre-requirement of action. Acting on its Environmental Policy BTC is responsibly helping to shape a safer future.
Roger Tabor MSc CBiol FRSB FBNAhc FLS FCFBA
The Discussions revealed the significant application by BTC & its Councillors & staff in acting on environmental & biodiversity issues for which they deserve proper & full acknowledgement. One of the benefits of BTC having required a review after one year, is that the discussions did reveal that not all councillors or staff fully appreciated that there is an underlying statutory requirement, that environmental & biodiversity issues must be taken into account, in all considerations & actions by a council, its councillors & staff in council duties. However, that has been addressed by the process of review. I thank all who took part for their courtesy & support.
It would be appropriate to include reference to the Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) in the Policy when noting the designated protected areas, as it protects the named species the native oyster Ostrea edulis, of particular significance to Brightlingsea.
Although sections are headed in the discussions below corresponding to the Specific Actions sections of the Policy & Action Plan, nonetheless it will be appreciated that these are all interrelated topics eg addressing Biodiversity & Green Spaces by planting trees is also mitigating Climate Change; growing vegetables on an allotment or cycling are also reducing carbon miles & mitigating Climate Change which in turn reduces likelihood of increase in flooding.
Discussions & Comments on Actions relating to the Environmental Policy
Mayor Cllr Graham Steady stated that BTC is pleased to have produced its Environmental Policy, produced with particular input by Cllr Ben Smith, (who brings his experience as a landscape architect as well as a former County Councillor & former Cabinet Member for Environment for Northamptonshire) with support from Cllr Mick Barry & input from Council members. BTC Council accepted the plan a year ago, so this has been the first year with it in place. The Mayor said BTC supports its plan, & it will protect &, where possible will continue to enhance Brightlingsea’s natural environment & open spaces.
Although the 2006 Natural Environment & Rural Communities Act required an environmental policy earlier, it was not possible to proceed at that time for various reasons. BTC was not alone in not producing an early document but it was nonetheless mindful of & acted on environmental issues.
For example, in May 2008 its Lozenge Nature Area was opened with support funding from partners & help from volunteers in planting. The Lozenge has become a great asset to the Town increasing its biodiversity & helping to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2), & this has been continued with maintenance & other work by BTC Grounds department on the site. Species have been monitored with the on-going involvement of skilled volunteers of the British Naturalists’ Association, & plantings this year have been aided by the Brightlingsea Nature Network volunteers.
Community volunteer support with annual planting of flowers produces the spectacle of Brightlingsea in Bloom, which has made Brightlingsea a regular repeat winner in East Anglia in Bloom. Springmead Gardens, are supported by the same group plus the resident gardener. Brightlingsea in Bloom have given a special award to Brightlingsea Town Council Grounds Staff for their Care of the Environment.
Biodiversity & Green Spaces
In June 2019 BTC following a meeting with resident Susie Jenkins, the Council committed to an objective of linking up formal open space with green lung areas. In 2020 this was incorporated into the Biodiversity & Green Spaces Actions of the BTC Environmental Policy.
Mr Hamilton with Cllr Ben Smith & Mayor Graham Steady have devised an approach to cut grass areas less where appropriate, which will save costs, fuel, and allow more wildflower meadow plantings. This will reduce the need for as much strimming. That would for particular locations change the regime from weekly to an annual cut, others have changed from weekly to every 3rd week, with savings and benefit to biodiversity & the environment.
BTC has also encouraged the community involvement of the Brightlingsea Nature Network whose volunteers have planted two hedges in March & November 2020. The planting in November was organised in accord with Covid restrictions to limit site access on a strict rota so that at any one time only those of individual family bubbles could plant. Eastern Waste Disposal (now the Dunmow Group) have been supportive of the planting scheme. BTC actively supports tree planting.
For the Lozenge Nature Area cutting is managed to support biodiversity. The planned paths & open areas are cut, plus manual maintenance work undertaken to control bramble to keep it in balance for the site & other species requirements. Works have been undertaken with advice from the British Naturalists’ Association (BNA) who have also undertaken species monitoring since the opening of the site. For example, BNA identified the presence of the nationally important dittander Lepidium latifolium, which Terry’s management has allowed to increase. Further works will be undertaken to restore the pond in the Lozenge with suggestions from the BNA.
Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic has not allowed the Grounds staff to undertake as much planting as envisaged for this year. There has been hedgerow planting by Brightlingsea Nature Network volunteers when Covid restrictions allowed, bringing environmental & biodiversity gains for years to come.
Green cut materials, grass, are removed to a BTC site & composted. Chipped shrub/tree material & grass clippings are mixed with soil to stimulate compost formation. [I have advised addition of nitrogenous animal waste to the mix at 10:1 ratio C:N, which will reduce a significant release of CO2 & retain a larger volume of finished compost. Mr Hamilton advises he will incorporate that]. This composted material will be ideal for soil amelioration, & only non-peat compost material in the BTC Estate in accord with the Action Plan. (In addition to the biodiversity damage to significant wetland habitats, the use of peat in gardens removes it from its historic locked state releasing CO2 as it oxidises).
(Not all public area grass is managed by BTC, some is by TDC & ECC).
Mulch is used in planted areas by Grounds staff, & will increasingly be used to smother weeds enabling the reducing of weedkiller usage in accord with the Action Plan. Mulch around plants & organic incorporation at planting are ways of reducing loss of plants & controlling watering in the summer in dry or drought condition. This is of particular importance in Brightlingsea, as it with its neighbour St Osyth are in the driest part of Britain, & global warming will continue to exacerbate this. Defra UK Climate Projections for the East of England anticipates decreasing soil moisture across the next 30 years. The grouping of the hottest summers on record are over the last few years. Nonetheless watering has been able to be minimally undertaken by Grounds staff, mainly restricted to potted plants.
Chipping is undertaken using an old petrol fuelled tractor, but its CO2 output is minimised by it being used two times per year, sustainably not purchasing a new tractor with high CO2 production cost for a minimally used vehicle. However, there are two diesel Ramson mowers in the Grounds’ machinery stock.
Much of the footpath area on the seawall/former railway line & the lower path & foldings & borrow ditch between Batemans Tower & the Alresford Creek Ford is within the legally designated protected areas. Some of the most significant marshland habitat for invertebrates & specific flowers are held in the foldings between the seawall & the borrow dyke. This has benefitted from some grazing north of the gate below Moverons Farm. It can be seen on the authoritative geographic interactive mapping for conservation designations at www.magic.defra.gov.uk where the saltmarsh/seawall/foldings & borrow dyke comes under the SSSI/SPA/SAC/Ramsar Site/MCZ designations.
On the north side of Freelands there are a group of ponds. The ponds have good biodiversity & landscape value, & whilst they keep water they retain locked CO2 within the silts. Cllr Steady is in dialog concerning the ponds.
The historic Green Lane beyond Freelands, that was a main waggon road to a fleet in the saltmarsh for barge loading has been being opened up to be more accessible.
I discussed supporting the saltmarsh plant populations on the Bateman’s Tower promontory with Cllr Howard & Mr Hamilton.
Mr Hamilton observed there have been survival issues with some plantings in the Millennium Gardens on Promenade Way relating to sea-water flooding, I suggested more salt tolerant plants could be considered. The plantings currently are naturalistic, so utilising tamarisk in key places would fit in. Sea Buckthorn could feature, but would probably require suitable soil preparation with gravel, it is of great value to thrush family wintering migrant birds. Some other native flowering coastal plants such as Sea Holly & Saltwort could bring colour & be of value to pollinating insects.
Protection of remaining common land is in consideration.
Waste & Recycling
Cllr Barry has examined the annual costs of recycling at Tendring. He noted that the introduction of wheelie bins has increased the overall quantity of recycled materials collected. Initially the system accepted all plastics, then only Pet 1 & 2 bottles, now all plastic bottles. Cost in recycling is an issue, but there has become a pressure, recognised by TDC for recycling all or nearly all plastic in response to demand. Environmental costs should be considered. BTC is working with TDC & others to facilitate additional recycling locations as noted in the Policy document. A need is visible when glass & other public recycling containers are full & materials are regularly left overflowing on the ground.
At BTC offices the Town Clerk, Mrs Pulford, carefully & appropriately manages recycling & black bag rubbish. The Parish Hall has minimal food waste. For meetings & events at the Parish Hall china crockery is used & no disposable single use cups. Environmentally friendly cleaning materials should be used.
Encourage vendors near the seashore to avoid retailing in single use plastics. Encourage litter collections especially near or on the shore.
Brightlingsea Lido, built in 1932, by 2017 it was in disrepair & its future was at risk. By taking over the facility from Tendring DC it was able to be reopened in 2018 after extensive work by community volunteers with support from grants & fundraising. However recent flooding from the sea caused has caused issues.
Plans are in development for the Town Hard waterfront to become a contemporary feature of benefit for the town as a heritage quay. Portfolio holders have agreed during the discussions that sourcing materials & planned works will incorporate environmental & biodiversity requirements, & be mindful of the adjacent SSSI/SPA/SAC/Ramsar site/MCZ designated area. Infill for the proposed structure would be recycled material, there is an intent to re-use greenheart oak posts pulled out from the north quay. Full planning application has been submitted to TDC. The scheme was in part triggered by SUFUSE Sustainable Futures for Seaside Economies.
There are moves to further revitalise old oyster beds that flank the Promenade. Where this can encourage the increase of native oysters Ostrea edulis with appropriate co-operation it will be supporting one of the main qualifying features of the Marine Conservation Zone MCZ that includes all of Brightlingsea’s surrounding marine water & saltmarsh.
With the increasing frequency of winter storms with climate change & the greater risks of flooding & even possible loss of life in extreme situations, there is a need for sea-gates, one at the top of the Hard & another by the Heritage Smack Dock leading to the BTC owned boatyard. There is a significant amount of seawall protection plus saltmarsh around much of Brightlingsea, with significant seawall in front of the Colne Yacht Club made pointless by the unprotected openings leaving the lower town liable to flooding. Although when the walls were put in a bund had been proposed across the opening, that would be impractical as trailers with yachts are driven through that point to access the sea. There are a flood-gates used to protect the caravan park at times of notified impending floods & surges. The Hard gates would normally be hinged back against the concrete walkway & would only be closed at times of impending flood or surge (not just for a normal spring high tide). Cllr Chasney suggests it may be appropriate to incorporate the new gates within the proposed Town Hard Waterfront scheme.
Defra UK Climate Projections anticipate there could be an 18cm increase in sea levels over current heights in this area over the next 30 years which needs to be taken into account in plans.
The Western Promenade has been significantly flooded twice in the last 7 years, with beach huts lifted from their platforms by the sea surge & moved significant distances. It may be advisable for a leaflet or letter to be sent to beach hut owners advising tethering the huts. It is noteworthy despite the disruption of the first event, many were not tethered & so caused more disruption in this last year 10th February 2020 flooding. The area has an overlap of responsibilities between BTC & TDC. The flooding has 2 distinct aspects, the initial ingress of seawater, but that is followed by a protracted retention of the water weeks after the sea-levels have abated. That also requires input and co-operation between BTC & TDC. The ineffectual existing sea valve that should service the grass parking area & should release trapped seawater requires repair or replacement. Cllr Steady advised that TDC will be undertaking works on the ill-functioning sea valve. Due to the volumes retained & the protracted nature of the flooding it may be thought advisable to have a further sea valve servicing that area.
The drain pipework that has taken flood water to the borrow dyke behind the seawall has collapsed & its replacement is being considered. (The borrow dyke acts as a drainage ditch, & also is technically a stream in that freshwater from the Roman Spring channels into this course, however during the summer that component no longer reaches even as far as the Lozenge). The coastal grazing marsh NNR has a salinity gradient across it from the higher ground where freshwater feeds into it, becoming more brackish as seawater seeps in at the lower end. Resetting the pipework would allow more effective control for optimal conditions to be restored to the coastal grazing marsh NNR & the borrow dyke, which should be favourably accepted by Natural England, the statutory body responsible for management of the site. (I would advise that contact with them goes either via myself, or incorporates agreed wording by myself. I have confirmed with Dr Chris Gibson FBNA, a former senior scientist at Natural England, that he also believes this would be favourably met by Natural England, but that the submission should be appropriately worded). It will be seen on the authoritative geographic interactive mapping for conservation designations at www.magic.defra.gov.uk that the borrow dyke comes under the SSSI & other designations.
Mr Hamilton, the Grounds Manager favoured the functional repair/replacement of sea valve & the collapsed pipe. He also observed that the sea water flooding did not formerly remain for prolonged periods & flooding did not occur in the same way as the drains used to clear. The grassed area of the Promenade mainly have soakaways, which when the ground is saturated do not function. He plans to put in a system of herringbone drains to feed to the drainage pipes.
Mr Hamilton noted that a part of the Lower Park grass recreational area also retains standing rainwater for long periods, and would also benefit with improved drainage using a herringbone system.
Seawater flood damage also happened to the children’s play area on the Promenade.
The newly refurbished Lido also suffered in the flooding of 10th February 2020. Cllr Barry has instigated resilience measures including higher positioned electric points & chemical storage. He has had on site meetings with TDC, as increasing likelihood of further damaging surges/storms the site will need to be made more surge resilient. Cllr Steady suggested one way would be to have seawalls around the site (plus gate in times of risk). Cllr Barry said the aim is to proceed to heating the pool water by a couple of degrees using solar & air source green technology.
To demonstrate BTC commitment to reducing CO2 from local travel within the town following the required policy of leading by example, I advised the positioning of a bicycle rack on the BTC Council offices exterior so that Councillors wishing to avail themselves of it for meetings can do so as well as for public use. In the town centre there is currently an ornamental rack on the traffic island near Boots the Chemist & another at the north end of the long traffic island in Victoria Place. The position of the suggested one promotes the example of bicycle use rather than car use. Cllr Steady & all spoken to on this supported the suggestion. Residents commonly bicycle to the seafront before going swimming or setting off to walk along the seawall path from Batemans towards Moverons, but while there is plenty of car parking provided there is no bike rack facility. This is also so at Oyster Tank Road/Fieldgate Dock where the Promenade by the beach huts begins. That there are no bicycle rack facilities in any of the public car parks in Brightlingsea is sending a message that bicycles are not welcome but cars are. This does not support the statutory obligations on all local authorities to reduce their carbon footprint. Both TDC & ECC stress bicycle routes in their promotion of cycling publications, but little on secure parking of bicycles. (ECC has made a commitment to facilitating secure cycle storage in existing housing developments)
There is clear support in BTC for the need for appropriate & informative signage to keep dogs on leads in areas footpaths beside SSSI/SPA/SAC/Ramsar Site/MCZ saltmarsh, to avoid damaging the survival of overwintering waders by causing them to lift repeatedly. Natural England note that repeated disturbance to foraging or resting birds during winter or on passage may lead to reduced fitness & reduction in population &/or contraction in the distribution of qualifying features within a site.
BTC had been in discussion over the local sections of the England Coast Path, & Cllr Steady will be in further contact with its planners over a section of the route to minimise wintering wader disturbance in the SSSI/SPA/SAC/Ramsar Site. In Assessment of Coastal Access proposals under regulation 63 of the Habitats Regulations 2017 (as amended) October 2020, Natural England consider whether there may be possible risks to relevant qualifying features by realignment for PROWs on the west side of Flag Creek. They propose using signs to ask users to walk in the folding to reduce disturbance if they see flocks of birds ahead of them close to the sea-bank.
I discussed with the Mayor Cllr Steady the positive role of the Harbour Commissioners have taken in re-use of dredged material to restore the eroded saltmarsh southern edge of Cyndry Island, Brightlingsea Creek. BTC are the owners of the island. I outlined the great biodiversity advantages, in saltmarsh plants & wader protection from adverse weather during high tide provided by the oyster pits, their industrial heritage value to Brightlingsea, plus the long-term stored CO2 in saltmarsh. The Brightlingsea Creek/St Osyth Creek estuary saltmarsh system has been dated to 4,000 years old, which has locked up & added to its store of contained CO2 for all of that time.
I discussed with Cllr Steady the possibility of considering potential coastal realignment to regain saltmarsh in an area beyond Flag Creek.
The Council’s Planning Committee has demonstrated this year acting in accord with its Environmental Policy Action Plan policy when in response to environmental & biodiversity concerns raised by two residents at the meeting of 11th June 2020 it changed its policy of support for the development of the Robinson Road Leisure Park (Lower Farm Park) to a neutral position on a vote. BTC requested liaising with the owners for ‘going against apparent good practice with regard to energy use’.
Phase 1 which is built & Phase 2 which is progress, of the housing development on the west side of Robinson Road, went through the planning system before BTC adopted its Environment Policy with its commitment to considering sustainability, environmental impact & biodiversity when commenting on planning applications in Brightlingsea. The published planning documents refer to the buildings as sustainable & yet the buildings do not have solar panels. Under the BTC’s Environmental Policy, planning committee member Cllr Judson said he will ensure future planning applications meetings raise such matters. Sustainably constructed buildings include not only considerations of sourcing materials & minimising waste, & keeping a low C footprint in the build but also how the building will function, including reducing consumption of non-renewable resources as well as meeting insulation standards. (It is significantly cheaper to fit during new build than to retrofit).
BTC should support planning applications for small scale renewable energy generation where possible.
BTC’s new Local Plan can promote better environmental & biodiversity action in Brightlingsea.
Cllr Barry who also is on BTC planning committee, feels that new builds such as the 8, 3 storey homes, built recently at Jaywick that were constructed to be flood resilient & energy efficient with triple insulation, shows lessons that can be learnt. He noted that TDC & ECC have the capacity to purchase green energy cheaper for householders. Emerging from Covid he believes there will be more pressure for a greener future.
The significant value of the SSSI/SPA/SAC/Ramsar Site/MCZ estuary & associated system around & on Brightlingsea is noted in the Environmental Policy document. Consequently, the buffer role of a Coastal Protection Belt is significant. BTC should endeavour to ensure it is safeguarded as much as possible.
I discussed with Mr Hamilton the need to map significant historic trees of biodiversity & environmental value in Brightlingsea. I mentioned as an example the only native black poplar (alt. old name Water Poplar) Populus nigra betulifolia in Brightlingsea. (This species is described by the Forestry Commission as ‘the most endangered native timber tree in Britain’). Mr Hamilton wants to establish a map for information for councillors considering planning issues.
Brightlingsea has a significant population of the Eucalyptus Cider Gum Tree (Eucalyptus gunnii), a Tasmanian native which was introduced to Britain, John Bateman received seed in 1887. Described as the ‘most remarkable plantation in Britain’, & have survived & self-propagated for 134 years.
Brightlingsea is fortunate in having ancient woodlands such as those on Lodge Farm which have significant biodiversity & CO2 storage capacity, & have been long managed as coppice with standards, & still maintained. There is line of a few significant historic oak pollards at the top of the Long Plantation.
Climate Change & Energy Conservation
The Town Clerk Mrs Pulford ensures BTC office is on a managed Green Tariff with smart meter. Mr Hamilton noted that the BTC offices gas boiler is 6 years old, recently serviced with a good report, however it could be greener. It will function for a further 2 years with another service, but it is planned to then be superseded by a more environmentally friendly system. He is investigating ground sourced heating which would have a lower C footprint, but does require a well-insulated building. BTC offices are a single storey building with a flat roof. Mr Hamilton said he believed the 1974 extension although having a double skin brick wall, had no insulation between them. The roof as designed in 1974 may have no or minimal insulation. The building does have double gazed windows, they could be replaced by triple glazed or glass of higher thermal protection. The insulation standard of the building should be examined to proceed towards producing a lower carbon footprint. Alternatively, as noted by Cllr Chapman, Deputy Mayor, the present building could be replaced by one with higher environmental standards.
Restoration work on the clock housing on the Shelter near the Hard is scheduled to be sustainably carried out with reclaimed hardwood, to not increase the CO2 footprint. The building will be generally restored. At Gravel Field the Ground Staff are constructing seating perches out of reclaimed wood & member of the Ground’s Staff is carving wooden signs.
Mr Hamilton is investigating moving to electric vehicles where possible for BTC Grounds Department work. He had been advised the Grounds’ van could only be taken out of service at scrap value, but instead was able to be sold at a third of its original purchase price, making a saving for BTC & allowing sustainable re-use elsewhere.
The positioning of an electric charge point will be made for BTC Grounds’ vehicles. Consideration of having public electric charging points in Brightlingsea is currently under discussion in BTC. Cllr Barry feels there are issues about preparing & looking at the town as a whole regarding future energy resources, he anticipates that in 5 years fossil fuel availability will become an increasing issue. He noted that gas boilers may be phased out. He recognises the reality of the climate crisis & believes BTC should not “drag its feet”.
I suggested the concept which is in use in a number of councils of ‘No-meat Mondays’ for BTC councillors & staff as a way of highlighting & promoting in Brightlingsea a reduced meat intake as beneficial not just for health but also for the environment reducing energy consumption & greenhouse gas production. Cllr Steady & some other councillors & staff expressed support for the idea.
Cllr Chapman advised in her portfolio of welfare & the elderly that leaflets on energy saving are given out at the Autumn Centre. This is in accord with section 20 of the Climate & Sustainable Energy Act 2006. Defra’s UK Climate Projections for the Eastern Region anticipate increasing summer heat waves with the rise of temperatures, which can be stressful for at risk elderly people.
I discussed the concept of Environment Policy champions with Cllr Steady & other BTC members for different parts of the Council. This is a concept that has worked well in a number of local authorities enabling an on-going means of keeping the BTC Environment Policy to be referred to in decision making in all areas of BTC. I am pleased that Terry Hamilton was keen to take on the suggested Environment Champion role with regard to his area of responsibility & action for BTC controlling the practical works of the Council. In his own life as well as his role for the BTC he has shown a particular commitment to the reduction of the environmental footprint, CO2 emissions & enhancing biodiversity.
Mr Hamilton advised that Brightlingsea’s allotments are well used with over 80% tended regularly & in demand. At the time of our conversation there was a waiting list of 5. This is a contrast to 20 years ago when less interest led to the removal of an area of 60x60m which was changed into public open space. The current provision is of standard 10 rods (250 sq m), then half size at 5 rods (125 sq m) & quarter size plots at 2 & a half rods (63 sq m). While a 10 rod plot can feed a large family with vegetables across a year, the quarter size has proved to be a good introductory size or for those unable to cope with a large size. There is support by the Allotment Society lending a hand on the allotment for anyone unwell for a period. The allotments as noted positively in the Environmental Actions of the Plan are a source of local food saving the CO2 emissions of longer food miles.
I suggested to Mr Hamilton & Cllr Steady the environmental advantage of utilising some of BTC tree stock by coppicing or pollarding management where appropriate, & cropping poles from appropriate trees for use in BTC Estate for fence posts etc. This self-sourcing reduces the CO2 footprint by minimising transport, & CO2 remains locket in the timber, plus the tree not only continues its life transforming CO2 into biomass, but the rate of production of new poles in a coppice/pollard cycle on existing rootstock is greater than most felled sources that use maiden trees. They both appreciated it would help to reduce the carbon footprint of BTC.
ECC Cllr Goggin commented that both ECC & TDC have made a strong commitment to Environmental & Biodiversity requirements with Climate Commissions.
Cllr Chasney will be in collaboration to make an information board by the Rope Walk, oyster pits & salt-marsh on the heritage, biodiversity & carbon capture of the location to raise awareness of its significance.
Particular achievements by BTC or within Brightlingsea towards increasing environmental & biodiversity gain should be promoted.
The Environmental Policy is available to residents on the BTC website.
At first sight this seems like the odd one out, a cleaning up issue. However, it is fully integrated in environmental considerations. The Environment Policy Actions refer to being “bagged up & disposed of in an appropriate way”. Whilst the Policy refers properly to not clearing up as an issue, but then what? If plastic bags are used & just one dog requires use of 3 bags/day, that is over 1,000 single use plastic bags containing organic waste going to landfill per year. Then multiply that by the number of dogs in Brightlingsea or worse the number in TDC area & the size of the issue is realised. At landfill the organic waste releases methane.
BTC can promote starch based biodegradable bags to avoid single use plastics (not all bags sold as biodegradable are equally so). But there is still the problem of is the destination landfill with methane release. Some wc flushable bags made of PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) will dissolve down in the sewers, but not all sewage systems & water companies can cope with this material. Some people do compost the faeces in their garden heaps, but due to infecting agents in the material that can be a problem in the soil if such agents are not killed by a small garden heap if it does not reach a sufficient temperature. Municipal composting systems reach higher safer temperatures. If the operating body allow this it may be a route, but it would need appropriate investigating. The current best regarded system is a dog waste digester & perhaps that route could be considered by both BTC & TDC as being a better environmental outcome than existing.
LEGAL REQUIREMENTS (relating to Environmental Policy)
Key pieces of relevant legislation are:
The Water Act 2003. This Act places a duty on all public bodies to take into account,
where relevant, the desirability of conserving water supplied or to be supplied to
The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. Biodiversity duty: From 1 October 2006, every public authority (including a parish council) must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as it is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity. (Identify ways to conserve & integrate biodiversity in policies, strategies & implementation, in managing planning system, when managing land & buildings, woodlands, nature reserves, gardens, parks & public open space, community amenities (sports grounds, cemeteries etc) waste, pollution, energy, water, wood & plant products; also in developing infrastructure, roads, buildings, flood defences, procurement decisions, in the implementation of economic, environmental & social programmes. Conserving biodiversity can include restoring or enhancing a population or habitat. They must have due & proper regard for wildlife protection designated areas & their designations & actions that may affect those areas including SSSI, SPA, SAC, Ramsar Sites, NNR, & others.).
Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006. This Act gives specific powers to
town and parish councils to tackle climate change. The Act places an obligation on
town and parish councils to improve their energy efficiency. The Act under section 20 outlines for Parish Councils powers in relation to local energy saving measures whereby a parish council may encourage or promote those measures.
Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. This Act extended the statutory
offence of dropping litter and enables town and parish councils to authorise officers
to serve fixed penalty notices for the litter offence under section 88 of the 1990
Environmental Protection Act; giving town and parish councils the power to issue
fixed penalty notices for graffiti and fly-posting offences; and allowing town and parish
councils to create offences relating to the control of dogs and replaces the Dogs
(Fouling of Land) Act 1996.
Duty of Care (Waste). The Duty of Care covers any business that produces or
disposes of waste and requires the business to ensure that any waste produced is
handled safely and in accordance with the law.
Water Framework Directive. The purpose of the Water Framework Directive (WFD)
is to establish a framework for the protection of inland surface waters, estuaries,
coastal waters and groundwater.
Legislation affording protection to designated wildlife areas includes the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (amended) which covers Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). It is an offence for a public body to fail to minimise damage done to an SSSI. Schedule 9 of the Act lists non-native species that pose conservation threat to native biodiversity & habitats.
150 countries, including the UK, endorsed Agenda 21 at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development. Chapter 28 of Agenda 21 calls for local authorities to initiate Local Agenda 21 processes. Local Agenda 21 calls for taking a partnership approach to develop an action plan for sustainable development at a local level. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity 2011 is an overarching framework for biodiversity protection.
It should also be noted that the Essex Biodiversity Action Plan covers Brightlingsea. The aim of the Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) is to conserve and enhance the county’s wildlife habitats and associated species as a contribution to conserving the diversity of life on earth.
Tendring District Council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019. TDC produced ‘Climate Change Strategy 2010-2016 Reducing Tendring’s Impact on the Environment” & subsequently “Tendring’s Climate Emergency Action Plan 2020-2023”. They have specified the plan of being net C zero by 2030. As local council actions & ownership is divided in particular functions between Brightlingsea TC & Tendring DC in Brightlingsea this has particular relevance.
Tendring District Council’s Local Plan 2013-2033 properly states: It is necessary to apply the ‘precautionary principle’ to new development as a matter of law, and asses new projects or plans for any impacts upon any of SSSI, SPA, SAC, Ramsar sites (requiring conservation & wise use of wetlands) under Habitats Directive, as to whether proposals would adversely affect the integrity of a site with regard to conservation objectives. Tendring Council will only grant planning permission where no adverse effects on biodiversity (including any mitigation), unless over-riding public interest.
As Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners have expressed a desire to link with Brightlingsea Town Council’s Environmental Policy, which is to be commended, therefore the Harbours Act 1964 becomes relevant to this document which gives the duty to have regard for nature conservation & other environmental considerations in exercising their functions. Harbour Authorities also have a duty to biodiversity under the Natural Environment & Rural Communities Act 2006. Further Harbour Authorities have a duty to have regard for & conserve statutory nature conservation sites when undertaking activities within their jurisdiction. BHC’s restoration project of saltmarsh around Cyndry Island in Brightlingsea Creek is a positive gain for local carbon capture & biodiversity
Map of Designated Areas Brightlingsea & SSSI Impact Risk Zones: https://magic.defra.gov.uk