Proposals for a greener,more sustainable Shropshire, May 2019.
The Shropshire Green New Deal 1.0 document can also be downloaded here (7.3Mb).
The UK has achieved some significant falls in CO2 emissions but this has been achieved overwhelmingly in energy production, by moving away from coal and gas towards renewable energy, especially off-shore wind.
This was the easy bit. The hard work still needs to be done if we are to achieve any of the targets widely agreed to be necessary. And the earlier we do things the less extreme these measures will need to be, as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate dangerously whilst we plan for action "sometime in the future".
Shropshire must play its part
Shropshire could provide up to 20% of the energy needed by the West Midlands. Yet the Local Plan has not yet identified any sites for this and the Economic Growth Strategy does not identify this as a potential area for employment and skills development.
We know of farmers who want to diversify into renewables. But to get wind power sites agreed they need to be identified in the Local Plan. So a call for sites for renewable energy production including solar farms, wind turbines and biomass (including from waste) should be made immediately, to be included in the new Local Plan.
Private rented homes often have the worst energy efficiency and the highest bills. Shropshire should introduce licensing and use the fees to support insulation programmes (this has been pioneered by Newham Council). This will also tackle "fuel poverty".
Shirehall is in need of refurbishment. This must be done to the highest standards (aiming for DEC B rating) and include eco-heating. A plan for "retrofitting" other council buildings should be put in place. Schools and colleges are particularaly bad and other public buildings need work too, such as NHS premises.
Shropshire Council should lead a partnership to develop investment opportunities for retrofitting and district heating across the public sector. Private sector retrofitting should be encouraged by promoting the best firms to do this work.
Farming produces 10% of the UK's greenhouse gases. The president of the National Farmers Union has called for net zero emissions by 2040 in farming. This will mean huge changes in farming practices and in what is produced. In particular it will require a move away from cattle farming and towards practices that keep CO2 "trapped" in soil and woodland.
The policies to drive this need to come from central government, but Shropshire Council can play its part by using planning policy and its economic growth unit to support diversification and best practice. Shropshire Council should sponsor a Climate Change and Farming Summit and invite organisations like the Nature Friendly Farming Network.
Transport is the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases in the country.
The Local Transport Plan should include carbon reduction targets. Electric vehicles are part of the solution: Shropshire Council must get infrastructure in place even in rural areas, like they have with broadband. Schemes to support hotels and restaurants to install EV charging must be promoted.
But we also know vehicle miles have to come down so the Transport Plan should target a minimum 20% reduction in car journey miles. Shropshire should demand that Midlands Connect also has targets - set higher for urban areas.
And of course, cuts to bus subsidies must be reversed.
By declaring a climate emergency - as many other councils have now done - Shropshire will be signalling to residents, businesses and partners, that we all need to act urgently. The National Climate Change Committee say we must reach "carbon zero" by 2050. Many campaigners call for much earlier dates. Government must lead the way; local goverment targets should be earlier than those for other sectors. Early progress means fewer, less drastic changes later. We need interim targets, such as every five years. By the end of 2019 we need both a target and a road map of how we will get there.
Then we need six-monthly reports on progress, with detail for experts to examine but also clear summaries so the public can see if we are succeeding. Council staff need to be encouraged to help, with incentives for great ideas and opportunities to whistle-blow poor practice.
People need affordable homes. But often new houses are unaffordable, spoil our countryside, increase traffic congestion and damage our climate. Existing homes also need upgrading to make them more energy efficient and planning policy needs to address this too.
This year there is a chance to do better: Shropshire Council is going through a "Local Plan Review". This will shape housing development in the county for many years to come.
Shropshire Greens have worked on some detailed proposals that can give us the homes we need in a way that doesn't do harm. We know national government makes it harder but these policies can and should be put in place locally by the end of 2019.
At present Shropshire expects 20% of new homes to be "affordable". Many councils require 30%. Shropshire should insist on 30% affordability as a minimum.
The target should be higher in areas of most need such as southwest Shropshire - it is mostly in an "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" which can have different planning policies.
We can now build homes with tiny energy needs and with locally generated energy through solar panels or "heat exchange" systems. The Chancellor recently said new homes will have to be built without mains gas from 2025.
There are several schemes for certifying energy efficiency (Passivhaus; BREEAM "Excellent"; AECG Building Standard). Local planning rules should aim for net zero carbon design, ensuring that buildings don't need fossil fuels and guaranteeing low energy bills. Developments are likely to need on-site energy generation using solar panels or other sources.
Refurbishment of estates and multi-residential units (such as retirement blocks) should require certification by one of the schemes listed above. Planning decisions for domestic extensions should also consider energy efficiency.
New homes must reduce, not increase congestion, with:
Open space and buildings must be used to help wildlife and site decisions must protect biodiversity and wildlife corridors effectively. Site plans should include:
Transport needs to shift away from cars and lorries to rail, buses, cycling and walking. Yet Shropshire Council is still pushing for a new bypass northwest of Shrewsbury.
This would be hugely expensive, taking at least £17m from Shropshire Council's reserves. Money would be better spent on improvements to public transport and cycling/walking schemes.
It wouldn't work, with any "relief" being temporary at best. Congestion would soon return and the increased traffic generated would further increase carbon emissions and air pollution.
It would damage an important and unique landscape and its wildlife, cutting through important wildlife habitat.
The road would cause huge environmental damage to the beautiful Severn Valley and the important wildlife habitat there.
The noise from the road will be carried downwind across the town, spoiling the lives of many who currently enjoy a good deal of peace and quiet.
The view below shows some of the countryside along the proposed route of the road.
It would be extremely expensive, taking at least £17m from Shropshire Council's budget plus 100% of any overspend on the project. All this at a time of very tight budgetary constraint.
The scheme is a massive financial risk. It will use up a big chunk of Shropshire's reserves. Highways England has a history of underestimating costs so it is extremely likely that Shropshire Council will have to pay more than is being stated at present. This means the whole of Shropshire will pick up the bill for a dubious scheme designed to divert some traffic in one part of the county town. This is not good value for money.
Experience of other schemes strongly suggests this one would lead to more car journeys and increased CO2 emissions and air pollution.
To reach our carbon targets the UK needs to reduce total miles travelled as well as electrify vehicles.
The road promises reduced town centre traffic, but we know from elsewhere that traffic soon builds up again.
No plans have yet been published that show how the hoped-for traffic reductions can be maintained. This can best be done by making walking, cycling and public transport much more attractive. But this could and should be done without the extra road!
Previous promises that there will be less traffic in villages north of Shrewsbury have been quietly dropped from the "business case".
The Local Plan Review is looking to build new estates near the proposed route. These sites chosen did not do well when measured against criteria set by the council.
We fear that such sites are being pushed to help fund the road: not the way to plan for housing need.
Have your say
We want your input
The Shropshire Green New Deal is a working document and will be updated. We are inviting comments. If you have any feedback, or knowledge about a certain topic that would be useful to feed into the GND, please get in touch with Julian Dean using these contact details:
Phone: 07939 121607
"We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis... If solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then we should change the system itself."
- Greta Thunberg, 2018
"Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now."
- Barack Obama, 2015
"We are ... the last generation that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Future generations will judge us harshly if we fail to uphold our moral and historical responsibilities."
- Ban Ki-Moon, 2015
"How could I look my grandchildren in the eye and say I knew about this - and I did nothing?"
- Sir David Attenborough
"We need more money made available for looking after pedestrians and cyclists, and more priority given to this by the Council."
- Julian Dean, Shropshire Green Party Councillor, 2018
"Make sustainable development so desirable it becomes normal."
"Sustainable development is that which meets the needs of the present without compromising on the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
- Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway
"This ghastly new netting practice has to stop. It's the antithesis of everything conservation stands for."
- Chris Packham on anti-bird netting on trees and hedges, 2019
"Shropshire Council unanimously passed a motion in December 2018 agreeing on the seriousness of the global climate crisis and committing itself to take action locally. The NWRR is an outdated, expensive and damaging project that goes against the Council's own environmental commitments."
- Julian Dean, Shropshire Green Party Councillor
"Around 3,000 deaths per year in the West Midlands are attributable to air pollution. More roads inevitably mean more traffic."
- Hilary Wendt, Coordinator of South Shropshire Green Party
"Why would anyone want to spend so much money on a scheme with dubious economic benefits and guaranteed enormous environmental costs?"
- Shropshire Wildlife Trust