West Suffolk: Moves to make region climate-change resilient

Solar power panels

Solar power panels - Credit: Robin Mews

A STRATEGY for dealing with climate change and increasing demands on land, food, energy and water is being developed by west Suffolk councils.

The initiative, due to be discussed by St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Sustainable Development Working Party, will see both St Eds and Forest Heath attempt to foster an economy and services that are climate resilient, while enhancing green spaces, increasing recycling and cutting fuel poverty.

Council bosses behind the strategy have also revealed that nearly £600,000 has already been invested in solar panels, which have been installed on council offices and leisure centres.

Peter Stevens, environment and waste management portfolio holder, said: “We want to take advantage, where practical, of renewable energy. But we must take a hard business-like look at which direction we go for our renewables. We’ve been quite keen to put solar panels on the roofs of our buildings, which I think has been a success. We’re also encouraging our householders to be as energy efficient as possible to save them money.”

The documents, which state the council hopes to generate income through investment in renewable energy, state that it cost £570,496 to install panels on sites across St Edmundsbury - including West Suffolk House, Bury and Haverhill Leisure Centres. It is expected that the income from the solar power will have paid for themselves in nine years time.

Mr Stevens said the sustainability strategy was an “overarching policy” that gathered together previous commitments.

But Green councillor Julia Wakelam said plans to dramatically cut CO2 by 2025 and assist vulnerable households to improve energy efficiency were well meaning but lacking in detail. She added: “They talk about prosperous and environmentally responsible communities, they acknowledge fuel poverty, why aren’t they promoting community energy schemes like some councils are? They talk about the climate change partnership but when you drill down the detail, what have they done? They’ve given £27,000 as grant. It’s not enough.” Ms Wakelam said: “It seems to me that they talk the talk but they don’t walk it enough,”

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The plans, which will be discussed on May 14, also include developing green tourism.

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