Leader of South Tyneside Council writes on how working closely with South Tyneside SERA, the Labour Council is delivering on a range of ambitious green projects including carbon negative social housing, the planting of new trees and multi million pound energy efficiency measures.
As Leader, I have been determined that the South Tyneside SERA group works closely with leading Councillors to ensure that we prioritise a clean and green environment and that we work with local partners and the Council’s Housing Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) in a joined-up approach to reduce our impact on the environment.
I am delighted that together we have achieved some notable successes.
We have secured over £17 million to deliver environmentally friendly schemes across council homes, including a plan to help address social issues associated with fuel poverty. Last year, almost 200 homes benefitted from measures including cavity wall and loft insulation. 500 homes had roof replacements and between 2011 and 2015, more than 1,000 residential properties were fitted with solar panels. These measures are helping to reduce energy consumption, while residents benefit from lower energy bills.
Driven by a strategy to reduce carbon emission and deliver efficiencies, we’ve saved more than half a million pounds in energy costs across Council buildings, reducing carbon emissions by 28 per cent . Existing buildings have upgraded heating and lighting, while new buildings – The Word, Hebburn Central and Jarrow Focus – were modelled at the outset with modern energy features.
Around 26 per cent of our street lighting units have now been converted to LED, saving around £300,000 a year and we continue to seek out and deliver new and innovative energy solutions, including increased use of renewable technologies. Solar panels are fitted to 20 of our buildings, with more schemes planned, including further wind turbine technology to generate electricity for our Middlefields Industrial Estate. We’ve also secured ERDF funding to develop a brand new Energy Network in Jarrow, which will use a cutting-edge river source heat pump to fuel 11 council buildings and provide electricity.
Since 2010 we’ve reduced the amount of waste to landfill from 66% to 0.6%. However we want to further support household recycling and have embarked on a trial bin collection scheme, specifically to separate paper and card, with more than 1,000 homes playing a part in reducing their impact on the environment.
South Tyneside is also home to the North East’s first carbon negative social housing development. The £3.1m Sinclair Meadows scheme saw 42 properties built in 2012 to level 6 of the Government code for sustainable homes. The south facing properties have solar panels, timber frames, extra levels of insulation, biomass heating systems and use recycled rainwater.
Our generation-changing project, the 100 hectare North East International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) will create new businesses in energy, offshore manufacturing, automotive energy and low-carbon fields. This nationally significant site builds on our previous success at award-winning One Trinity Green, one of the North East’s most highly sought-after locations for innovative, hi tech and environmental businesses. This includes ‘Envirowatch’, which manufactures ‘environmental sensing solutions’ that measure air quality, noise pollution and water levels for flood prevention.
Our network of electric vehicle charging points has been recently expanded to provide additional plug-in points in residential areas, creating a transport network that helps people lower their carbon footprint and improve air quality.
I’m proud to say that South Tyneside was one of the first authorities in the North East to produce a comprehensive tree and woodland policy, with sustainability at its forefront.
Central Government is aiming for 12% tree canopy coverage by 2060 with an additional one million trees in towns and cities and 11 million in rural locations by 2022. Already at 10%, we intend to well exceed this, boosting South Tyneside’s canopy coverage with an additional 6,000 trees in woodland and urban locations over this winter and next.
We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and know how much residents and businesses want to play their part and we are working with schools, community groups and partners to identify further opportunities to create an attractive environment that will benefit generations to come.
Driving that political agenda is the SERA Group across South Tyneside and I am grateful for their support and encouragement.
Leader, South Tyneside Council and a Member of SERA