THE council's plan to tackle climate change has been criticised by activists for ‘not being up to the job’.

Cabinet members of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) Council met virtually on May 28 to approve and debate their climate draft strategy to bring to full council on June 23.

The report presented by councillor Donna Stimson (Conservative: St Mary’s), lead member for environmental services and climate change, outlines the borough’s contribution to reducing carbon emissions and environmental impact.

Plans and aims includes holding repair cafes for residents to attend, open plastic free refillable shops, reduce single use plastics, improving education on what can be recycled, promoting plant-based eating, and increasing vegetable allotments for residents.

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On the renewable side, the council plans to reduce energy demand from council sources by 10 per cent by 2023 and agree a new stretch target to 2025, move away from oil heated homes to renewable heat alternatives, work with MaidEnergy to install five new renewable systems across the borough a year and enforce minimum energy efficiency to domestic and privately rented properties.

The council wants to plant 15,000 trees by 2025 by seeking funds and to investigate the benefits of ‘greening’ infrastructure through ideas such as living lamp posts, green walls and/or ‘city trees’ by 2021.

Other plans include:

  • Launching a car share scheme to replace carpools and increase electric car charging points
  • Increasing availability of specialist recycling facilities, with Maidenhead Library to trial a mini specialist recycling centre
  • Promote food waste facilities
  • Provide biodiversity training to planning officers by 2021
  • Consider a ‘smart city concept’ trial by 2023 and help people work from home more by implementing a 5g infrastructure to reduce emissions
  • Work with developers to ensure all new town centre development provides some form of green infrastructure in a public space where additional walking and cycling plans are promoted

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Cllr Andrew Johnson (Conservative: Hurley and Walthams), leader of the council, called it a ‘landmark strategy’ for RBWM – but admitted it is an ever-evolving plan in tackling climate change.

However, the chair of Wild Maidenhead - a campaign group for biodiversity – Fiona Hewer, recognised it’s a draft paper - but criticised the plans for not going far enough where there is more room for improvement.

She said: “We six groups have jointly submitted constructive suggestions in writing for improving this draft – but only some of our requests have been adopted.

“You are left, I am very afraid to say, with a climate strategy which is not up to the job.

“The strategy needs practical actions to deliver its aims. Where are the objectives in this strategy that you could’ve taken from Wild Maidenhead’s 2018 biodiversity action plan? Wonderful ideas like a wild about garden scheme awards which is already underway and extending that to the whole borough.”

She added: “It is possible to deliver at least a proper interim strategy by 23 June, the date of your next council meeting.

“Actions to increase biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions should begin immediately – this is an emergency – and the final strategy should follow in the next few months.”

She also suggested other plans that RBWM could take ‘off the shelf’ from other climate strategies developed by other local authorities such as Stroud District Council’s implementation plan to deliver a net zero by 2030.

Paul Hinton, leader of the campaign group Plastic Free Windsor, requested for RBWM to accept the paper but work collaboratively with current stakeholders to work on immediate actions and an interim strategy for the full council meeting.

He said: “This current strategy currently doesn’t have a governance structure, a community engagement plan or a vision that the community can work with you to achieve.

“As a result, we believe a risk to stakeholder engagement is high – patience is running out.”

Councillor Stimson said: “I am sure that everyone is expecting me to be dismayed by the feedback – but that’s exactly what I was expecting.

“It’s when we’re challenged that we produce greater results.

“I knew at the start it wasn’t perfect – but for the same reason, I am not prepared to delay because delaying by a month or two months isn’t going to make it better.

“It’s a community strategy and the council are going to lead it – but we definitely need help.”

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She added: “We got quite a bit of work to do in the next month – but this is one of the most important things we’ve done as a council and we got to do it with our residents and people who know so much more than I do.”

This paper comes after the local authority declared an environmental and climate emergency last year and made a commitment to form a cross party working group, a strategy to tackle the global crisis and to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Cabinet members unanimously agreed on the proposol where it be presented at full council to approve, refuse, or amend the paper on June 23.