Climate change and biodiversity update

Last Updated: 15 August 2022

Since declaring a Climate Emergency in 2019 we have been working towards our targets:

  • a carbon neutral council by 2030
  • a carbon neutral South Lakeland District by 2037

Through work to reduce our emissions, through capital projects and work in the community we have made progress towards both targets and are encouraged by the action taking place across the district.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from South Lakeland as an organisation have more than halved from 5259 tonnes in 2010 to 2476 tonnes in 2019/20 driven, a further decrease of 15% was seen in 2020/21 to 2097 tonnes.

In the district, we are seeing progress and carbon savings through work carried out by organisations we have supported through funding such as Future Fixers, Green Small Businesses and Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS).

We are being recognised for our work in tackling Climate Change from a rural perspective, as UK100 produced a report highlighting best practice of countryside Climate leadership and we were one of the case studies: UK100: Landscape of Leadership.

Buildings

Buildings and energy represent a large proportion of the emissions across the district and our own operations.

Our progress in reducing emissions has come from our work to reduce emissions in our buildings; the recent development of South Lakeland house has reduced emissions through modern building fabrics used. We have also delivered a series of energy efficiency measures in our buildings such as installation, LED lighting and draught proofing. We have reduced our dependency on fossil fuels through investments in solar panels and invested in PV arrays on 3 of our buildings:

  • South Lakeland House: usage is 37,000 kWh annually, solar amounts to 10% of our energy usage at South Lakeland House
  • Mintworks: so far in 21/22 solar usage is 5,200 kWh, which is 8% of Mintworks energy usage
  • Town View Fields: so far in 21/22 solar usage is 6,993 kWh, which is 3% of Town View Fields energy usage

The £50,000 investment in solar panels at South Lakeland house is set to payback this year and the recent Mintworks installation is producing more energy (500kWh pa) than expected, and will payback earlier than expected; 2024, and has already saved the council 9.08 tonnes Co2e.

We are continuing to reduce the emissions from our public buildings and explore new heating technologies in the future.

Energy from buildings is a key area to drive carbon reduction across the district. We are supporting CAfS with grant funding to deliver energy projects such as Cold to Cosy, Solar Made Easy and the Big Solar Co-op; which includes solar PV installation on larger nondomestic buildings, bulk-buying solar PV for domestic properties, energy efficiency measures on domestic properties and providing advice to residents. CAfS provides further information.

We are committed to district wide carbon reduction and ensuring we transition to a low-carbon district in an equitable way, by tackling growing fuel poverty and supporting our community in ensuring their homes are energy efficient.

We have been part of a consortium in the Green Homes LAD2 project to deliver a series of energy efficiency measures to residents vulnerable to fuel poverty. We are expecting to retrofit 80 properties with a variation of energy efficiency measures including solar panels, insulation and heat pump installations.

The next stage of the Green Homes Grant; LAD3 has been combined with HUG1 to create Sustainable Warmth. We are part of a Cumbrian consortium that has applied for £25 million of funding to address fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency and carbon savings in at least 1,000 mainly private sector properties.

Transport

Transport emissions are a large part of the district’s overall footprint; the Cumbria Carbon baseline report found that South Lakeland had the largest transport emissions of any Cumbrian district totalling over 250 KT Co2e. We are taking steps to improve the sustainability of how people and goods get in and move around the district and are aiming to provide alternative transport and active travel options for our residents.

We are committed to playing a role in decarbonising transport across the district and our first role is the decarbonise our own transport emissions to play our part. We aim to decarbonise our fleet by 2030 and this year have purchased our first electric vehicle and are conducting trials and infrastructure work to prepare to transition to a low-carbon fleet.

We also recognise the importance of active travel and have introduced a green travel protocol that recommends following a hierarchy of more sustainable travel options before using employees’ vehicles when travelling for work purposes. The progress made in introducing remote working and virtual meetings, which reduce the need for travel, will be sustained. Our Active Travel Group has been engaging with key partners to introduce additional cycle routes and safer routes to school. We have supported the County Council in preparing a Local Cycling and Walking Improvement Plan for Kendal and Ulverston which will help to form the basis for the continuing development of our district’s cycle and walking network.

Our commitment to decarbonising transport has culminated in our ambitions to support the increase in Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure throughout the district. We have successfully bid to the SOSCHI charging infrastructure fund and as a result we are installing 24 22kW chargers into our car parks including South Lakeland House, Library Road Kendal, Redbank Road Grasmere and Buxton Place Ulverston. These charge points will go live in late summer 2022 and will be available for public use. They will support a 2-3 hour charge time for your vehicle and our first step in providing EV infrastructure to our residents. 

We are also a member of a Cumbria wide EV infrastructure group, which aims to significantly expand Cumbria’s EV charging infrastructure. Supported by EV charging infrastructure specialists, the partnership formed in Autumn 2020 and has since been mapping potential locations for the installation of EV charge points across the county. Hard to reach places are a particular focus, along with locations near households with little or no access to off-street parking. The work completed by the partnership will be used to support ambitious bids to the UK government’s On street Residential ChargePoint Scheme (ORCS) and the new local electric vehicle infrastructure (LEVI) pilot, to fund the roll out of public EV charging infrastructure across Cumbria.

Green Economy

Key objectives in our Climate Change Action Plan are:

  • support businesses to become low carbon organisations
  • help the tourism industry transition to low carbon
  • enable the transition to a Green Economy

The role of business and the economy in our district is pivotal and enabling a transition to Green Economy is at the forefront of our Climate action.

We have focused on support for businesses to become low carbon, training for businesses and business owners and supporting organisations in reducing their carbon intensity from their energy.

We recognised in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis, a green recovery was crucial to our local economy and set up three business recovery initiatives to revitalise the local economy through low-carbon practices.

In October 2020, we launched a partnership with consultancy Green Small Business. This gave local businesses the chance to get subsidised environmental advice and 12 months of Green Small Business certification. Green Small Business audits businesses’ environmental impact and drafts up tailored environmental policies for them.

We cover half of the fee companies would ordinarily pay, and a special offer meant South Lakeland businesses signing up could register for a £50 rate instead of the ordinary £300 rate. Up to date over 25 businesses in South Lakeland have engaged with Green Small Business and there has been some great success stories around energy efficiency, reducing travel emissions and sustainable services provision.

We have renewed our collaboration with Green Small Business and are aiming for 20 new businesses to sign up in the 2022/23 year.

We have subsidised a Purposeful Business Start-Up Programme: Future Fixers. Since its inception in 2020, dozens of eco-friendly businesses have graduated from the programme giving people the skills and knowledge to run a green, ethical enterprise. Our backing means the usual £495 fee is cut to £60 for South Lakeland residents (and the course is free for residents receiving unemployment benefits). So far, between 2019 and 2021, 38 businesses have graduated from Future Fixers’ Purposeful Business Start-up Programme. Provision of green skills training to South Lakeland residents is crucial and is an important consideration of reaching Carbon Neutrality as a district.

The third imitative and partnership is with Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS). We have funded CAfS since 2014, and since 2016 has annually provided £50,000 to the organisation for Sustainable development and Low Carbon projects across South Lakeland.

Specifically for enabling a transition to the Green Economy, CAfS have offered advice to more than 22 communities on energy efficiency projects including facilitating community microgeneration at Killington, facilitating the development of Burneside Community Energy and energy efficiency improvements at Sandylands pool; have launched the Big Solar Co-op encouraging renewable energy generation in Ambleside and run various events and capacity building promoting sustainable energy choices.

In terms of Green Business support CAfS has delivered a range of services helping businesses improve their carbon literacy including workshops, advice, training, specialist consultancy services, and Cut Your Business Carbon online surgeries. In 2019, CAfS began supporting the town of Ambleside’s efforts to become a zero-carbon community. Through this work, the charity created its carbon footprint calculator, which calculates a business’s total carbon emissions and gives a detailed breakdown of which areas of operations are the highest emitting. As part of CAfS 2020-22 funding agreements they have held a business support day in Ambleside for over 20 businesses, used its contract to direct businesses to support for energy efficiency and grants, as well as funding the Solar Made Easy project, through which a trusted solar panel installer will work with small businesses in the South Lakeland area.

For the 2022/23 funding agreement between ourselves and CAfS there is a focus on Green Business support offering one-to-one support for small or medium sized businesses. What you can do provides further details.

Biodiversity

We are committed to a review of how our activities can protect and enhance local and global biodiversity while at the same time delivering services, housing and climate change protection to the residents of the district and working with local authorities and other strategic partners to jointly address this highly serious issue.

We are an active member on Cumbria Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) pilot. The purpose of the LNRS is to restore and link up habitats so that species can thrive, and agree the best places to help nature recover, plant trees and woodland, restore peatland, mitigate flood and fire risk, and create green spaces for local people to enjoy. With an agreed LNRS in place, the nature recovery work of everyone in Cumbria from the designated landscapes and large conservation partnerships, to farmers, local businesses and community groups can help to deliver a bigger, better and more joined up nature recovery network across the whole of the county.

For years, we have been protecting local biodiversity through our land and woodland management. In 2018 we commissioned Cumbria Woodlands to compile Woodland Management Plans for our main wooded sites in the Grange over Sands, Kendal and Windermere areas. This is to enable works to improve the structure of the woodlands and manage emerging tree diseases such as Ash Dieback and Phytopthora. Significant works to manage Ash Dieback disease have been carried out in Yewbarrow and Hampsfell Woods in Grange over Sands.

Our contractors felled diseased trees and the wood has been utilised by Morecambe Bay Woodbanks, a charity group, who created habitat piles and extracted useable timber for firewood and woodland crafts. This work has also furthered previous works by Butterfly Conservation in Yewbarrow Woods to create glades suited to woodland butterfly species such as the Brown Fritillary.

Storm Arwen in November 2021 has had a huge impact upon trees in the district, with extensive damage in Serpentine Woods, Coffin Wood, Little Wood, Swine Parrock and Prickley Fell Wood in Kendal. Once the trees on these sites were made safe and blocked paths were cleared, the majority of the branches and timber have been retained in the woods for wildlife habitats. Existing saplings in the woodland understory will now thrive and naturally regenerate, replacing the windblown trees.

As Ash Dieback continues to kill Ash trees throughout the district we will manage the risk presented by infected trees on our land and plant replacement trees where we can. We will also seek opportunities to increase both ground based and standing deadwood habitats.

We have also been facilitating the work of nine ‘friends of’ groups at our various parks, highlighting how vital community partnerships are for protecting and enhancing biodiversity across the district. Groups such as Friends of Nobles Rest, Friends of Lightburn Park, Friends of Fletcher Park, Ambleside Action for a Future and Kendal Conservation volunteers have carried out vital work to protect and enhance biodiversity such as planting bulbs, wildflower meadows, trees and bog areas in our parks. Please visit the various friends groups pages for more information of their vital community work.

To further enhance this work and to encourage more community biodiversity action we have recently launched a biodiversity community toolkit. This provides information for community groups about how to work on our land, the various biodiversity features we’re recommending and guidance on how to install and maintain.

Our commitment to protect and enhance biodiversity as part of our strategy to respond to climate change was underlined by two funded projects in our Climate Community fund:

  • The Gill Banks Action Group received £940, to carry out wildflower planting in the woodland area of Gill Banks in Ulverston, clearing brambles to make space and planting 200 Foxgloves, 300 Primroses, 200 Red Campion and 50 Teasels
  • South Cumbria Rivers Trust (SCRT) received £4,000 for their Cool Rivers project to recruit, train and support volunteers to carry out survey work along rivers and becks to determine the extent of tree cover. SCRT have now completed the project and have trained 3 volunteers, carried out surveys and discovered some interesting findings

Community

Working with our partners in the community is a key aspect of our climate change and biodiversity action as an organisation, and is embedded throughout this update.

One specific community intervention was our Climate Community fund. This £20,000 fund was launched in Autumn 2020 and sought South Lakeland projects that addressed climate change through measures to reduce carbon, enhance biodiversity to support carbon offsetting measures (through for example tree planting or peat restoration), addressed community behaviour change and consumption habits or promoted community/domestic energy efficiency.

The fund was oversubscribed with some excellent local projects receiving a share of the fund. These included; Cumbria Wildlife Trust received £4000 to help restore Foulshaw Moss habitat, the Friends of Nobles Rest received funds to enhance biodiversity in the parkland, Light Up Lives (a Grange and Cartmel Food network and volunteer group) received £1500 to run a project on home grown food, and Gill Banks Community Group received £1000 to re-wild a neglected piece of woodland on the Cumbria Way.

Working with Parish and Town Councils is important to achieving our district wide target and creating a low carbon district. In order to support Parish and Town councils, we have funded and managed a scheme called the Greening Campaign.

So far 11 parish and town councils have signed up to the Greening Campaign which is a toolkit designed to take parish or town councils through steps to help households reduce their carbon footprint.

Most have now finished and have received their estimated carbon saving for the community. Carrying out phase 1 of the campaign has led to another local green group being set up in one area (Duddon), and PEAT in Grange are building upon the campaign with their own projects. We still have funding available for more parish or town councils to join and this has been promoted. Our officers are working with organisations (CALC, CAfS, ACT) we are funding for 22/23 as to how we can work together to support the parish and town councils and encourage more engagement on climate change.