Sustainable Development – What on Earth is it all about?
Hmmm. Sustainable Development. Not a very catchy phrase, is it? But in a nutshell, sustainable development is all about trying to live our lives in a way that doesn’t damage the Earth for generations to come. It involves not only looking at the environmental costs, but also at how to improve people’s quality of life, their health and their economic situation.
It is difficult to believe that an individual or a community can make any difference at all to some of the huge problems like global warming, peak oil, poverty and so on. But the truth is that these problems cannot be addressed without our help. The decisions we make about how we live, what we do, what we buy and so on have strong impacts on people around the world. Here in Monmouthshire the local authority has been working with local communities, groups and statutory bodies to make some of the changes that are desperately needed to safeguard the future of the planet. More people and organisations are coming together to think of new ways to tackle these problems to make Monmouthshire a better place to live, work and visit. Here are just some examples of this.
Sustainable Development – Council policies and practice
Sustainable development is an important priority for Monmouthshire County Council, and the Sustainability team works hard to try and integrate sustainable development into all that the Council does. By leading by example, providing best practice and enabling communities, the council can play a big part in helping to work towards a sustainable future. For more information, please contact the Sustainability Community Officer on 01633 644843 or 01633 644844.
Sustainable Development policy It was recognised that it is important to have a short, easy to understand policy for Sustainable Development. The policy was adopted by the Council’s Cabinet in December 2006.
The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Bill The Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill was laid before the Welsh Government on 7th July 2014, and will apply to Welsh local authorities from April 2016. In summary, the Bill will mean that:
- As a public body we will need to demonstrate that we are taking the needs of future generations into account.
- We have to do this in accordance with sustainable development principles – long term, integrated, consultative, collaborative and deploying resources.
- We will have to publish wellbeing objectives against Welsh Government’s wellbeing goals and report on these every year – prosperous, resilient, healthier, more equal Wales with cohesive communities and a thriving culture and Welsh language.
- We have to have a Public Service Board (similar to a Local Service Board) which has to publish a local wellbeing plan and report on it annually.
So potentially there will be a lot of implications for the Council on how we make decisions and how we can demonstrate that future generations and sustainability have been taken into account during decision making.
In Monmouthshire the Sustainability Team work with community groups, voluntary bodies and other agencies on different sustainable development projects. Some examples of these are listed below.
Monmouthshire Community Climate Champions Monmouthshire Community Climate Champions was established to encourage a closer relationship and joint working on climate change projects between Monmouthshire County Council and community partners. Its main aims are:
- To share ideas, experience and communication between the council and the community on climate change and energy work,
- to think about ways we could help each other,
- to plan the most effective ways we could work together to address our common goals of reducing our impact on climate change and building resilience in the face of peak oil,
- to develop some measures of progress and publicise our progress.
The group meets once a quarter, at venues around the County, often in buildings with interesting eco features. The meetings have a rotating chair, and MCC provide the secretariat. The group comprises of a mixture of a couple of MCC senior officers, one or two Councillors, one or two renewable energy companies or energy agencies and mainly reps from Transition Town and Friends of the Earth groups. Each quarter each town group and the various MCC officers produce a short update on what they have been working on, which is circulated to everyone before the meeting.
The group started in 2008 when Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) developed its Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Strategy, and recognised that community groups were already doing a lot on energy and climate. So as well as themes within the Council remit such as Our Own Estate, Transport and Housing, the Strategy included a Community theme.
The Community Climate Champions is a productive and dynamic group with mutual trust and understanding and genuine partnership working. Through the group, community members can put faces to names and know where to go for help or information. The community is better able to work constructively together with the Council and vice versa. Community Climate Champions forms a valuable and unique network for sharing information on projects, grants, opportunities, etc. and MCC are better able to spread good news stories about the good work we are doing.
Monmouthshire Eco Open Doors
An initiative developed by Monmouthshire Community Climate Champions, the Eco Open Doors event aims to encourage more people to install renewables and other sustainable features in their own homes. During the weekend homes with various eco features open to visitors who can see their systems and find out more about how they work and what they are like to live with. The Community Climate Champions recognised that people need to really see and understand renewables, etc. first hand before they are willing to invest in them themselves, so Eco Open Doors was developed to meet that need.
Community Climate Champions “recruited” willing properties to open up, while MCC put in funding and sponsorship bids. MCC and CCC jointly promoted the event. Our first Eco Open Doors weekend was held in 2012, when 28 properties opened, and 160 visitors made a total of 202 visits.
In 2013, 27 properties opened to 149 visitors who made 314 visits. The 2014 event saw 87 visitors making 101 visits to 12 properties. Feedback forms completed by visitors each year are overwhelmingly positive with everyone finding it invaluable to be able to talk to homeowners and see how their systems worked.
It is hard to gauge how many people have since gone on to install measures in their own homes, but a snapshot of feedback from 2012 and 2013 from a limited number of e-mail addresses show that the following measures have been taken as a result of their Eco Open Doors visits:
2 wood burning stoves installed
1 air source heat pump
2 double glazing installed
1 solar PV installed
1 new build Passivhaus
1 loft insulation
1 extension built to Passivhaus standards
Many more are still thinking, especially about PV, or waiting to get funding in place.
The Eco Open Doors weekend would not take place without the valued involvement of our sponsors. There were two main sponsors for the 2014 event – Gwent Energy CIC and Green Park Power and funding supporters were Greenearth Energy and Filterclean/FWT. A contribution was also received from TGV Hydro. A small grant was also received from the Green Open Homes Network who receive funding from DECC. For more information, see the website www.monecoopendoors.org.uk
Fairtrade – Monmouthshire is a Fairtrade County
Monmouthshire’s Fairtrade Town community groups are all working really hard to promote Fairtrade. Abergavenny, Chepstow, Monmouth and Usk have achieved Fairtrade town status. Monmouth Comprehensive School is a Fairtrade school and many primary schools are working towards this goal too. Together with the many faith groups, businesses, workplaces and individuals who are committed to supporting and promoting Fairtrade, the people of Monmouthshire are helping to make a real and positive difference to the lives of millions of people in developing countries.
Monmouthshire County Council passed a resolution to encourage and support the use and sale of Fairtrade products where appropriate and we became a Fairtrade County in November 2008. Our Fairtrade County Status was renewed in 2012 and has to be renewed every two years.
By promoting Fairtrade and using Fairtrade products in our own buildings, we are playing our part in helping Wales to maintain its status as the world’s first Fairtrade Nation! Fairtrade ensures that producers in developing countries earn a living wage for their work.
For further information about local Fairtrade initiatives, click on one of the towns – Chepstow, Monmouth and Abergavenny. To find out more about Fairtrade in Wales click here. If you would like to find out more about the Fairtrade Foundation, click here to enter their web site.
Monmouthshire County Council’s Community Food Growing Policy
There is a growing demand for the Council to make underutilised land in its ownership available for the community to grow food. This demand has been created through the lack of available allotment space, prevailing economic conditions and the need to develop more resilient communities.
To counteract this Monmouthshire County Council developed a policy and license that allows the use of small bits of council owned land to grow food on. We are doing this to support and promote the Incredible Edible movement. This is where groups of people get together to grow produce on easily accessible land – then the interesting bit is, the produce can be taken away freely by anyone not just those who have worked to make the produce grow.
We are the first Council in Wales to have such a policy and we want you to benefit from this. If you know a small bit of land that you wish to grow vegetables, soft fruit, herbs on let us know. If it is owned by MCC and doesn’t have anything affecting its use as a growing space then we can issue a license to you. This is already happening in Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth where groups have got together to grow food that other people can take —becoming Incredible Edibles. There are hundreds of groups doing this throughout the world.
It is widely recognised that pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our natural environment. There has
been an ongoing decline in the numbers of pollinators and therefore action is being taken by both Welsh Government and Westminster to try and halt this decline. Welsh Government published their Action Plan for Pollinators in July 2013, which sets out their strategic vision, outcomes and areas for action to improve conditions for pollinators and halt their decline. To support the WG action plan Monmouthshire County Council approved the pollinator policy to help counteract the decline in pollinator species.
Actions to help improve habitats include reducing the number of cuts on many grassed areas, introducing urban wildflower species and where safe to do so giving safety cuts only on the first cut of the year to A & B routes only. We will also work closely with Bee Friendly Monmouthshire group utilising the Bee Friendly Monmouthshire logo to raise awareness of the changes in practice and the underlying reasons.
We are working with local groups to help identify opportunities for the development of meadow areas within amenity and open spaces. To measure the results of the new policy we will continually review our grass cutting and planting practices ensuring compliance with emerging legislation and best practice. Monitoring will also ensure we can measure the effectiveness of the changing practices in supporting pollinator habitats.
Hazel Clatworthy / Alison Howard Sustainability Community Officer (job share)
Estates and Sustainability
Monmouthshire County Council
PO Box 106
Caldicot NP26 9AN
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
01633 644843 / 01633 644844