SLDC joins Countryside Climate Network

24 June 2020

South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) is one of 21 authorities joining forces nationally to help each other achieve carbon zero goals and promote the voice of the countryside in the climate change debate.

The Countryside Climate Network (CCN) aims to bring together ambitious councils to ensure that the voice of rural knowledge and experience on climate action is listened to in Westminster.

In a letter published today (24 June), the CCN, a cross-party group of 21 councils from every region in England, warns that “rural communities are at the frontline of feeling the effects of climate change” and that “the countryside offers far more than a place to plant millions of trees to offset carbon emissions.”

The group aims “to ensure that the voice of rural knowledge and experience on climate action is listened to in Westminster” and its new chairman, the leader of Cambridgeshire warns that rural areas face “unfair barriers to decarbonise” including lower budgets and funding rules which favour urban concentrations but may have less overall carbon reduction. The group wants the Government’s delayed £100bn infrastructure fund “to support the ambitions of rural areas and the opportunities our countryside and green infrastructure can provide”.

The new network has been established by UK100, a network of local leaders that campaigns on climate change. The 21 councils represent 14.3 million people in total, a quarter of the population (25 per cent) and two fifths (41 per cent) of England by area. The letter says that “the countryside offers more than a place to plant millions of trees to combat climate change. Rural communities have always been a great source of national progress and innovation.”

The group is chaired by the Conservative leader of Cambridgeshire Council, Cllr Steve Count, who writes in an article also published today: “From Cornwall to County Durham we have decided to take a stand. We’re frustrated that climate solutions and green recovery packages haven’t found the right balance, largely missing the rural voice.

“It can be hard to meet our sustainable ambitions when urban areas have no need to fund essential bus services to remote communities or invest in broadband because the market doesn’t reach isolated areas. These examples of typical rural disadvantages add up, combined with a funding gap in rural areas twice that of our urban counterparts, means our stretched resources are diminished making the challenge of funding sustainable solutions even harder.

“[We need] a green recovery that works for the two thirds that live outside the most urban cities and towns.

“However, rural communities face unfair barriers in trying to decarbonise – it is harder to attract funding for projects which don’t fit traditional cost benefit analyses, which favour urban concentrations yet may have less overall carbon reduction impact.”

The network will also help authorities who want to do more, share ideas and best practice, find solutions and achieve carbon reduction goals.

Councillor Dyan Jones, SLDC's portfolio holder for climate emergency and localism, said: "During this climate emergency, our rural communities can offer so much more than places to plant trees. We know first-hand how climate change impacts our land, food crop productivity, rainfall run off, biodiversity and rhythm of nature – South Lakeland District Council has long been at the forefront of action to combat climate change, including declaring a climate emergency and formulating our Climate Change Action Plan.

"We are delighted to be part of the Countryside Climate Network and are excited to be able to share our experiences, best practice and ideas with other authorities. We look forward to collaborating with network partners to improve further all work influencing and informing; to address the impact of climate change and promote biodiversity within our districts and across the UK."

Polly Billington, Director of UK100, said: “Climate change affects every area and every person, and rural towns and villages can be more vulnerable to the impacts, such as extreme weather. Countryside councils are well placed to tackle climate change and meet the needs and ambitions of their communities for economic recovery and better health and well being, with innovative solutions along with the democratic legitimacy to deliver lasting change.”

The group points out that rural areas can be more vulnerable to extreme weather events such as the devastating floods last winter. The number of extreme weather events has doubled since 1980.

Facts and Figures: Rural Challenges 

  • Harder for people to switch to more sustainable transport:
    • 43 per cent of people living in rural England live more than one hour away from a hospital by public transport, compared to just seven per cent of people in urban areas
    • 47 per cent of people living in rural England live more than 30 minutes away from a town centre by public transport, compared to just five per cent of people in urban areas
    • In 2017/18 people living in the most rural areas travelled almost twice as far per year than those in the most urban areas
  • Need to switch to renewable heating
    • Around one million households in Great Britain use oil fired central heating. Around a quarter of households that use oil fired central heating suffer from fuel poverty, the costs of heating a house with oil are around 50 per cent higher than for grid gas


Countryside Climate Network members
Location Authority Type Political Lead Area (sq miles) Population
Cambridgeshire (Chair) County Council Con 820 852,520
Adur District Council Con 16.14 61,300
Canterbury District Council Con 119.3 149,000
Central Bedfordshire Unitary Authority Con 276.3 283,600
Cornwall Unitary Authority NOC 1,369 568,210
Durham Unitary Authority Lab 859 924,000
Cotswold District Council Lib Dem [part of Gloucestershire] [part of Gloucestershire]
Derbyshire County Council Con 1,029 1,053,320
Essex County Council Con 1,542 1,832,50
Gloucestershire County Council Con 1,225 916,200
Hampshire County Council Con 1,622 1,844,250
Herefordshire Unitary Authority NOC 840 192,107
Leicestershire County Council Con 804 1,053,486
North Yorkshire County Council Con 3,341 1,101,660
Shropshire Unitary Authority Con 1,346 498,073
Somerset County Council Con 1,640 965,420
South Gloucestershire Unitary Authority Con 191.9 282,644
South Lakeland District Council Lib Dem 592 104,532
Suffolk County Council Con 1,489 758,560
Wiltshire Unitary Authority Con 1,370 720,060
Worthing Borough Council Con 13 104,600
Totals  - 20,504 14,266,292
England  - 50,301 55,980,000

About UK100

UK100 is a network of highly ambitious local government leaders, who have pledged to secure the future for their communities by shifting to 100% clean energy by 2050. This is not just good for the planet but for the people and communities they serve, be they in villages, towns or cities. Local leaders are working together to create flourishing communities, seizing the opportunities of technology to create jobs and establishing a nationwide project of renewal, focussed on local needs and ambitions.

UK100 is the only network for UK local authorities, urban, suburban and rural, focused on climate and clean energy policy. It connects local leaders to each other, to business and to national government, enabling them to showcase their achievements, learn from each other and speak collectively to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

It works closely with elected representatives, policy experts and grassroots campaigners to make the clean energy transition a reality. This involves developing solutions to challenges faced by its local leaders, whatever their geography, history or makeup, so as to influence national government and building public support for clean energy solutions.