To consider the Council Plan update and the Biodiversity Policy for adoption as part of the Council’s Policy Framework.
The Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder, Councillor Jonathan Brook, presented a report proposing an update to the current Council Plan (2019 to 2024). The revised Plan, which would run from 2020 to 2025, was attached at Appendix 1 to the report. A number of minor changes were outlined, the most important being additional updated text on working across boundaries reflecting progress on the Lancaster and South Cumbria Economic Region and additional emphasis on the Climate Change emergency and the Council’s response in this regard.
Councillor Brook turned to the issue of Biodiversity and referred to the motion carried by Council on 23 July 2019 (Minute No.C/36 (2019/20) refers). The scope of the Green Team had subsequently been widened to address this and, as a starting point, a corporate policy on Biodiversity had been drafted, which was attached at Appendix 4 to the report. The policy sought to maximise the ways in which the Council could use its direct and indirect influence to ensure that the impact of human activity within South Lakeland on Biodiversity was as positive as it could be.
Councillor Brook informed Members that the Council Plan and the Biodiversity Policy had been considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 25 October 2019 when Members had suggested the need for reference to transport within the Council Plan. This request had been implemented prior to consideration of the Council Plan and Biodiversity Policy by Cabinet on 27 November 2019 when both documents had been recommended to Council for adoption. Councillor Brook now took the opportunity to strengthen the importance placed by the Council on sustainable transport, proposing an amendment to the bullet point under Climate Change on Page 7 of the Council Plan to instead read, “Working with Cumbria County Council and other partners to promote and encourage the provision of and access to sustainable public transport across the District.”
Subject to the inclusion of this amendment, Councillor Brook moved adoption of the Council Plan and the Biodiversity Policy as part of the Council’s Policy Framework. He was seconded by Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, who emphasised the importance of the documents as well as the need for partnership working in order to deliver what communities wanted. He encouraged all Members to work with their parishes and for those representing South Lakeland District Council on outside bodies to present the Council Plan to those organisations in order to seek means by which to meet the aspirations contained therein. Councillor Archibald also stressed the need for the Council to contribute to mitigating Climate Change and reversing Biodiversity loss, and for strong consideration of these issues throughout all decision making.
Councillor Tom Harvey, as Leader of the Opposition, explained that whilst his Group supported much of the content of the Council Plan, there were elements with which they did not agree. He, therefore, requested that two separate votes be taken in relation to adoption of each of the documents under consideration, as his Group wished to show support for the Biodiversity Policy.
Discussion followed on the contents of the documents. Attention was drawn to the Council Plan introduction, “response to climate change and enhancing biodiversity,” and the need for the Council to work on preparation for major flooding incidents was stressed. Attention was drawn to discussion which had taken place at the Cabinet meeting about the need for the publication of information on steps being taken by the Council to address Climate Change and Biodiversity loss, particularly around tree planting, as well as how communities could become involved and including details on who to contact at the Council in this regard. The need for the Council to take any opportunity possible to address Climate Change and Biodiversity loss was stressed; it was pointed out that the Council, as a significant landowner, could take steps to make a difference on its own land. The need to plant trees in order to combat Biodiversity loss was raised and attention drawn to the additional benefits of tree planting in relation to flood alleviation, and attention was drawn to the work being carried out by the Council in this regard. Councillor Dyan Jones, as Climate Emergency and Localism Portfolio Holder, explained to Members that the Council would be planting 350 trees this Winter across South Lakeland. She added that the Council did not have the legislative powers to mandate doubling trees on other landowners’ estates, however, that over the last 12 months, the Council had been working proactively to identify potential sites for further planting. Councillor Jones informed Members that, in 1919, UK tree cover had been approximately 4% and was currently around 12%. She drew attention to the many incentives and schemes in progress and to work carried out by the Forestry Commission, National Parks and private landowners. She asked Members to encourage their local residents to contact any of these bodies to engage as a volunteer or supporter and drew attention to the latest edition of South Lakes News which included a large section dedicated to all things green. It was also hoped that the County Council would manage the verges of its vast road network to increase biodiversity, creating corridors for pollinators. It was further suggested that the Council, as owner of the bed of Lake Windermere, might look to improve its water quality for the benefit of, for example, arctic char and reed beds. Also noted and welcomed was the promotion of cycling within the Council Plan, as well as the section in the introduction regarding tackling health and inequality.
Separate votes having been taken in relation to each document, it was subsequently
RESOLVED – That the following be adopted as part of the Council’s Policy Framework:-
(1) subject to the inclusion of the amendment as outlined above, the updated Council Plan 2020 to 2025, attached as Appendix 1 to the report; and
(2) the Biodiversity Policy, attached as Appendix 4 to the report, consequent changes to be made to the Policy Framework list within the Council’s Constitution.