Ealing Labour Party – which currently has the majority of council seats in the borough – sent the replies set out here to our six important environmental questions. They were written by Labour’s Deputy Leader of Ealing Council, Cllr Deirdre Costigan, who is the Cabinet Member for Climate Action. She is a councillor for Northolt Mandeville ward.
Question 1: Would you review Ealing Council’s Climate Strategy on a regular basis? (Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy – Adopted January 2021). In particular, would you provide estimates of the emissions saved so far as a result of the actions in the strategy and a projection of total emissions forward to 2030 (‘Net Zero’ year)?
Yes. The new leadership of Ealing Labour immediately made tackling the climate emergency one of our top three council priorities when we took over last year and we appointed Ealing’s first ever cabinet member for Climate Action. We have ensured Cabinet gets a report on our key targets every three months but we also want our climate emergency strategy to be a living document which is constantly updated as our understanding of the climate crisis and the potential solutions and technologies to fight it evolve.
Our manifesto includes ambitious pledges on regreening, rewilding and reuse in our borough. We have committed to creating 10 new parks, giving 800,00 sqm of land (the same as 130 football pitches) back to nature and to planting a whopping 50,000 trees, as part of our plan to increase the tree canopy to 25%. In addition, we have committed to retrofitting 750 council homes, introducing the borough’s first ultra low waste zone and our first Library of Things to kick start the circular economy and launching our Travel in Ealing charter on active travel with £10m funding attached for schemes that will increase cycling, walking and scooting.
We have agreed a comprehensive report to the June cabinet meeting which will outline what we have achieved so far and will incorporate estimates of Ealing’s carbon emissions, including from energy, transport, food, waste and consumption generally. Estimating carbon emissions is an emerging area of expertise and best practice is constantly developing, but I am determined we are able to accurately measure the impact of the great work Ealing Labour is doing.
Question 2: Ealing Council has recently revised its Biodiversity Action Plan. What do you think of it and are you happy to see it adopted in its current form by end of 2022?
Labour-run Ealing Council launched the revised Biodiversity Action Plan earlier this year. Recognising and building on the fantastic work already taking place by community groups, schools, businesses and residents across the Borough, our plan is ambitious and achievable. For instance, our plan upgrades the target for tree canopy cover, first adopted in last year’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy, from 23% to 25%. We have also pledged in our manifesto to double our annual tree planting, and to achieve this target by 2030 we will plant over 100,000 trees. We are confident we can achieve this, as we have already overdelivered on our previous pledges and planted 37,000 trees during this administration and have committed to increasing our tree planting budget.
We worked in close partnership with the Ealing Wildlife Group and other community organisations to develop the biodiversity action plan, and are delighted to have made strong progress in already reintroducing species of wildlife back into Ealing. We have already completed the reintroduction of field mice, and are now working on introducing beavers to Paradise Fields in Greenford.
We will create 10 new parks and open spaces, give 800,000 sqm back to nature (the same as 130 football pitches) through rewilding and reintroducing wildlife, and pioneer 10 new community growing spaces in our housing estates and new developments.
Our manifesto also includes our plans for the reintroduction of community sports provision at Warren Farm, which will be matched with the re-wilding not only of the large majority of the Warren Farm Sports Ground, but also of the Imperial College land to the North West of the site. Commitments have already been secured by the Labour Administration from the University, and we are in ongoing dialogue with the Earl of Jersey to try and achieve the same for the land to the South East. We have maintained open dialogue with the Warren Farm Nature Reserve Campaign, and the Brent River and Canal Society to involve them in future planning, which will take shape following the currently live community consultation which you can contribute to here https://www.ealing.gov.uk/info/201282/shaping_ealing
Question 3: Would you require developers to provide an estimate of carbon emissions – direct and ‘embedded’ – for all major planning applications in the borough?
We already do this and require developers to provide evidence of how they are working to reduce both direct and embedded carbon emissions. If developers cannot provide this, we require them to provide ‘carbon offsetting payments’ which we will then use towards offsetting carbon emissions elsewhere. We will continue to do so if elected as we work towards being carbon neutral by 2030.
We are also currently drafting ‘Shaping Ealing’, Ealing’s Local Plan, which will set out how we will achieve sustainability targets and will provide further outlines on how we will require developers to meet both biodiversity and carbon offsetting criteria. You can find the consultation and contribute to this here https://www.ealing.gov.uk/info/201282/shaping_ealing
As stated above, the London Plan requires major developments to provide a minimum on-site carbon reductions and offset the remainder via carbon offset payments, only where necessary. Through our Local Plan development process, we will consider all options for reducing the minimum on-site carbon reduction below the London Plan threshold for minor developments. This will be subject to feasibility and viability considerations, and we might consider more targeted and nuanced requirements for different type of developments.
If re-elected, Ealing Labour will push for our Local Plan to go as far as possible in reducing direct and embedded carbon, while delivering the truly affordable housing our residents need.
Whilst we remain hindered on our ability to use the planning process to ensure that developers work to reduce their carbon emissions by the Government’s inaction on reforming the planning process, the new Labour administration has also taken an innovative approach in using newly adopted Design Review and Community Review panels to provide extra scrutiny of developer plans for new buildings, with a key focus on ensuring that they meet the highest possible standards possible.
Question 4: Would you place a requirement on developers to provide net zero carbon housing units?
As described above, we ask developers to provide clear evidence of how they are working to reduce carbon emissions and ask them to provide carbon offsetting payments if they cannot do so.
We have already begun retrofitting our existing housing stock, and have pledged in our manifesto to retrofit 750 more homes during the next council term if elected, supporting residents to insulate power, heat and cool their homes sustainably whilst also reducing energy bills and harmful emissions produced by gas boilers. Some of these housing units that we will be retrofitting will be net zero carbon. We will also be supporting 20 new community-led energy projects across the borough.
Whilst carbon offsetting should only ever be a last resort, currently the National Planning Policy Framework set by the National Government does not allow us to stop developers using this option. In these cases, we will ensure any carbon offset funding received by the council is used locally, to support the retrofitting of Ealing homes, re-wilding and re-growing initiatives.
Our manifesto also contains a commitment to a retro-fit first policy on all council owned buildings, exploring the ability for us to prevent as much carbon entering the atmosphere from the destruction of buildings. We will also be campaigning for the full removal of the Government’s VAT charges from all retrofit and refurbishment projects, which alongside the legal requirements for council’s to achieve ‘best value’ within our contracting, add huge costs and can constrain our ability to deliver retrofit first.
Question 5: Would you set a target to stabilise and then reduce the amount of motor traffic on Ealing’s roads? What policies would you adopt to achieve this?
We agree that in order to achieve big reductions in carbon emissions and air pollution, we need to support people to make the transition away from cars to more active modes of travel. Promoting active and sustainable travel remains one of our key priorities, and if re-elected in May Ealing Labour have pledged to invest at least £10m to increase cycling, walking, running, and scooting and reduce polluting vehicles through active travel schemes, and to rapidly expand our popular School Streets programme to 50 of our schools where residents support this. You can read more about our plans here Climate Action – Ealing Labour.
We have pledged to launch our Active Travel Charter setting out how we will deliver active travel in the borough and invest at least £10m to increase cycling, walking, running, and scooting and reduce polluting vehicles through active travel schemes, increasing bike hangers to 150.
Whilst the transition away from combustion engines to electric vehicles will be supported by raising the number of EV charging points to 2,000 across the borough, we are all too aware that reductions to particulate matter from breaking and tyre wear can only be achieved through fewer vehicles on Ealing’s roads.
Question 6: Would you establish a plan to address air pollution such that pollution levels across the entire borough are brought within UK legal limits and WHO (World Health Organisation) Guideline Values?
We are currently developing our new Air Quality Strategy and, while the residents’ survey has now closed, you can find out more information here Help to improve air quality in Ealing – Around Ealing. I am determined that this will be ambitious and tackle all the sources of air pollution we have under our control, which will have significant co-benefits in terms of reducing road danger and supporting residents to get more active. I want air pollution to be as low as possible in Ealing, to protect the health of all our residents.
However, currently, local authorities are severely hampered in the actions we can take to tackle non-road sources of air pollution. This means that significant emissions from sources such as construction dust and wood burners are unfortunately out of our control. Ealing Labour have pledged that, if re-elected, we will lobby the Government for changes in legislation to enable local authorities to take ambitious action which matches the scale of the challenge. I hope you would support us in this aim.
As detailed in our manifesto, we will be campaigning for greater powers to regulate polluting industries, and for a Clean Air Act that gives us the tools we need to tackle poor air quality, smells and pollutants.
Whilst we support the new WHO Guideline Values, unless and until they are adopted by the Central Government, our powers to enforce bad and polluting industries remain limited.
We will also be campaigning to win the powers we need from the Government to enforce 20mph speed limits and ramp up fines for idling vehicles to the maximum.