Why Green’s my favourite colour

Well l am back, and let’s deal with some Green issues first.

People will have the opportunity to visit homes across Bath and the Chew Valley to find out about first-hand about having solar panels and other energy-efficient features installed in their property.

The Green Open Homes event on 4-5 November will see 17 homes in Bath and five homes in the Chew Valley open their doors across the weekend. Residents interested in improving the energy efficiency of their homes will be able to talk to homeowners who have already had work done.

Several of the homeowners who will be opening their homes attended a launch event last night at Buro Happold. Lyn Barham said: “‘I have quite a modest house and quite modest means; in a way that is why I wanted to get involved because there are lots of people in my situation. It is really lovely to go look at the big architect-designed creations, but many people will be constrained like me to add energy efficiency measures bit by bit as the chance arises.’

The Green Open Home event website includes a map of all the open home locations and case studies of each property including Lyn’s Victorian terrace home in Odd Down, Bath.

Councillor Oli Henman, cabinet project lead for Climate Emergency and Sustainable Travel, said: “The council has set out ambitious priorities for tackling the climate emergency with bold targets and a range of practical actions. One of the highest priorities is decarbonising buildings and reducing energy loss. We have made good progress by introducing the UK’s first Net Zero new build planning policy in our Local Plan Partial Update to ensure new houses are fit for the future. We are also aiming for 65,000 residential retrofits across our area, making older buildings more efficient. In addition, our target is to produce 300mw of renewable energy capacity by 2030, so homeowners can help to move the needle.

“Partnerships with local businesses and charities are essential for our collective journey to a more sustainable future. Events like these are important for promoting steps towards reducing our carbon emissions locally, so people can see great examples of improving energy efficiency in a home like theirs.”

Jackie Head, one of the volunteers for the scheme and a member of the B&NES Future Ambition Partnership Climate & Nature Group said: “Homes in the Chew Valley are different to those found in the city of Bath, but there are similarities between different villages, whether it is older style cottages or farm houses or houses built in the second half of the 20th Century. Local people can see a home that is like their own and be inspired to take action.”

The Bath event will take place on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 November and the Chew Valley homes will open on Sunday 5 November only.

There are plans to run further Open Homes events and support community groups to run their own. Any groups wishing to organise their own can contact Nicola/passam@bwce.coop for help.

The green Open Homes B&NES project is managed by Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE) in partnership with B&NES Council, Bath Preservation Trust, Buro Happold, Transition Bath and the Centre for Sustainable Energy, with sponsorship from the University of Bath and Good Energy and funding from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero working with the South West Net Zero Hub.

Meanwhile, the solar installation on the new Keynsham Recycling Hub and campaigns such as Bright Green Homes and Solar Together have helped Bath & North East Somerset Council win recognition as one of the UK’s top ten local authorities on climate action.

Data published by Climate Emergency UK showed that Bath & North East Somerset scored 57% on its Council Climate Action Scorecard, ranking seventh overall. Only 41 of the UK’s 388 local and combined authorities scored above 50%, with the average score being just 32%

Climate Emergency UK scored all UK councils on their climate actions against seven criteria: biodiversity; buildings and heating; collaboration and engagement; governance and finance; planning and land use; transport; and waste reduction and food.

The council ranks third overall on biodiversity with a total score of 69%, recognising the programmes and campaigns that have been put in place to boost diversity following the council’s declaration of an ecological emergency in July 2020 including the Bathscape, Somer Valley, Waterspace Connected and Chew Valley Reconnected.  Bath & North East Somerset Council was the first Local Planning Authority in the West of England to adopt a biodiversity net gain policy.

The highest score achieved by the council was for Buildings & Heating (84%), it was ranked fifth in the country. This is as a result of innovative schemes such as the energy exchange blades installed in the King’s Bath to take heat from the King’s Spring to heat the Roman Baths and Pump Room as well as the Bath World Heritage Centre and Roman Bath Clore Learning Centre.

Planning & Land Use was another section the council scored highly in (77%), reflecting the fact that we were the first council in England to successfully adopt an energy-based net zero housing policy as part of our commitment to tackling the climate emergency.

Cllr Sarah Warren

Councillor Sarah Warren, deputy leader and cabinet member for Climate Emergency and Sustainable Travel, said: “This is excellent news, it helps to highlight the progress that Bath & North East Somerset Council is making. We are at the forefront nationally with many of our policies related to the climate and ecological emergencies. A great example of this is the work we’ve done on our planning policy, which will be the foundation for the council’s climate emergency ambitions.

“These scores are also a reminder of the work we still have to do. Having secured funding to support a number of sustainable transport schemes across the district, we are significantly improving our travel choices including public transport, walking and cycling routes and helping to better connect local communities.”

Other scores were Collaboration & Engagement (62%); Waste Reduction & Food (29%); Governance & Finance 47% and transport (26%).

The full results and methodology can be found on the Climate Emergency Website website:  https://councilclimatescorecards.uk

And, in a Westminster Hall debate, Bath’s MP Wera Hobhouse, who is also Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy and Climate, called on the government to bind climate change legislation to planning legislation, empowering local councils to speed up planning decisions on renewable energy projects. 

Bath’s MP, Wera Hobhouse

It comes as House of Commons research, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats, reveals that the South West has approved both the highest number of solar energy projects of any region in the UK, and the highest number of solar energy projects per head of population. 

  • Since 2015, 376 solar energy projects have been approved in the South West, compared to an average of 244 project approvals per region. This is the highest number of approved projects for any region in the UK.
  • The rate of planning refusal for solar energy projects, at 7.8%, was lower than the national average of 8%. 

Mrs Hobhouse noted that the South West had built the UK’s first transmission-connected solar farm, and commended B&NES Council for being the first UK council to introduce a Net Zero housing policy. She stressed the importance of empowering local authorities to speed up planning decisions and secure cheaper, greener energy for their constituents.  

Mrs Hobhouse said:

“I am pleased to see that my region of the South West is leading the way on solar energy. Every project we approve will provide more cheap, green, and secure energy to residents across the South West, including my constituents in Bath. 

“We are in a time of climate crisis and fast action is crucial, but it is only with consent from our communities that we can deliver the path to net zero. That is why empowering local authorities is so vital. I am calling on the government to grant local authorities the power and resources necessary to approve more renewable energy projects, faster, so we can all benefit through cheaper, greener, and more secure energy.”

  1. The number of planning applications and refusals for solar photovoltaic and wind energy projects since 2015 can be found here.
  2. A breakdown of the number of solar photovoltaic applications, including population and area, per region, can be found here