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Agenda item

Scrutiny Review of Net Zero Carbon 2030 Strategy focusing on the Circular Economy and Green Jobs - Witness Evidence: Natural Environment


Committee received a presentation on the Natural Environment from the Head of Greenspace and Leisure Services and in particular how it fits into the Circular Economy and Green Jobs. The following points were highlighted:

·       The Council aims to develop and deliver a programme to support Greening initiatives across the borough, and this programme would include delivering in in line with the 2020 Environment Bill, Vision 2030 Strategy and Biodiversity Action Plan.

·       This will result in tackling Biodiversity Loss, reducing the impact of climate change and reducing Environmental Risks to Public Health. The Council in its first year has delivered the Islington Greener Together Programme with some first schemes evident on the ground and Council is now aiming to deliver its tree planting programme.

·       Greener Together programme will include delivering approved greener together projects with housing and highways and development of a pocket park framework.

·       With regards to tree canopy cover, the Council will increase Tree Planting and there are plans to combat drought impact through adaptations.

·       On Parks & Biodiversity and Engagement with Nature, the Council aims to increase food growing in communities and promote the benefits of green spaces for healthier Communities and introduce education programmes.

·       The officer highlighted a number of Green Space targets which include a 26% canopy cover by 2025, and 27% by 2030 which is quite high comparable to neighbouring authorities considering the borough size and dense nature of the borough.

·       The Council aims to replace every tree lost by delivering an overall net gain of at least 600 trees every year by 2026 and provide 1000sqm of new green space by 2026. Members were also informed of the increase in volunteer hours and the development of 1.5ha of pocket parking to support new green spaces.

·       With regards achievements, meeting was informed of the 38 approved Greener Together projects, funding from NEIR for the development of pocket framework and the Future Parks Accelerator funding to accelerate urban greening and TFL funding for Greening Cally.

·       Achievements of the Tree Service include the planting of 701 trees in 2021/22, grant funding for a Tree Officer post has been received to engage with residents on identifying locations for trees and therefore increasing the capacity of the team. The Tree donation process will be launched next month with Trees for Streets.

·       Notable achievements with regards biodiversity and engagement with nature, the service has exceeded its target of 250m squared additional habitat space for wildlife in parks and 13,000 volunteer hours in parks and lots of young people engaged in wildlife.

·       Officer also highlighted a number of the council’s biodiversity work and engagement with nature such as Myawaki Forest, the Islington Bloom projects, the Islam nature walk, school children on Big Cities Butterflies workshop and pond dipping etc.

·       Within greener together, risks include lack of capacity for consistent engagement with communities and inability to build trust and lack of potential maintenance budget sources for new green infrastructure.

·       Risks identified within the Park Services include the potential lack of support from local community to leave areas of green space wild so as to improve biodiversity as a large number of people still prefer manicured spaces. Also there is a lack of maintenance capacity for new green infrastructure which needs to be addressed.

·       Risks within the Tree Service include seeking funds to buy, plant and maintain the number of trees required for the canopy cover and tree number targets and also finding enough space to plant the additional trees on public land.

·       The service is embedding circular economy principles by working with community partners and friends of group to create more food growing opportunities in our parks, estates and in peoples own gardens.

·       Although all green waste collected in the borough is recycled and used to create compost, the service is looking to develop more local compost facilities. The service has moved away from traditional bedding displays to a model of reusable plans. in addition, The Service has been able to decarbonise its fleet of vehicles for example by moving away from diesel machinery to electric controlled units. The Service also promotes urban cultivate project creating new clusters of space for urban agriculture using left over open space.

·       In terms of green jobs and upskilled green workforce, meeting was advised of its apprenticeship scheme by creating a pipeline for potential new staff, that the Service has currently 8 apprenticeships.

·       The Service is also developing new green skill jobs such as solar panel installers, heat pump specialists and renewable energy engineers by working in partnership with the Parks for London Green Skill Hub to develop employment pathways and training programmes to meet the current and future needs of the industry.

·       Upskilling of residents and workforce is vital as there is a recognition of a real skills and resource shortage within the Service and locally especially with the ageing workforce, there is a need to have in place clear pathways into the industry for young people.

·       The service is considering new procurements to ensure upskilling of residents and workforce, providing volunteer opportunities for local people where they will begin to learn new skills.

·       The reduction in pesticide use across the borough was reiterated, that glyphosate is no longer used in Islington parks and open spaces and only used in limited places to treat invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed.

·       In response to concerns that some of the schemes introduced have resulted in criticism that residents views were not being taken into consideration, the officer acknowledged the concerns with a particular scheme, that going forward lessons have been learnt and that most of the schemes being planned are community led, that the design team has been increased in terms of looking at the size and location of planters and pocket park and that issues of accessibility are being taken onboard so as not to impact blue badge holders.

·       The Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Transport reiterated the Council’s position, in terms of changing the outlook of Islington Streets, that where possible it will continue to discourage car use.

·       On the issue of composting, the meeting was informed that presently this is being taken out of the borough and would be interested in it being done locally but more work needs to be done in terms of the estates in comparison to composting in people’s gardens.

·       A request for more information and briefings about the projects be carried within Councillors wards be made available was noted.

·       Meeting was advised that although tree surgery/maintenance is carried out by external contractors, Council officers monitors works carried out.

·       In response to a question, officer advised that the engagement with young people is not an accreditation scheme however the Service can consider it going forward.

·       A member reiterated the need for Council to promote some of its projects, in particular Gillespie Park which is visited by school children for education purposes, that it is a natural park, good asset for residents of the borough especially in light of improving residents and visitors wellbeing.

·       The seeting was advised that the service does not prune trees on a 3 year cycle however trees are inspected and works carried out as and when required.

·       It was suggested that there was an inadequate number of green champions for the 38 projects in place. In response, it was stated that the ambition was to have more champions with future schemes.


That the presentation be noted.

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