ACT Newsletter June 2021

The latest Newsletter is now available with a plethora of information and items on the following topics :

  • Membership tidy up
  • Great Big Green Week 18-26 September 2021
  • Teignbridge District Council’s Local Plan – Part 2
  • G7 Protesters are just ordinary people
  • Teign Estuary Trail
  • The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill – updated
  • Jessie’s cycle challenge to COP26
  • The Climate Change Committee – “Mitigation and Adaptation”
  • Rivercide documentary 14 July 2021
  • Wales freezes all new road building projects

An idea for the Heart of Teignbridge

The government demands that the local plan provides sites for about 750 houses per year over the next 20 years in Teignbridge.

Where homes are built makes a difference to carbon emissions.

If you build small flats in town centres:

  • There are fewer emissions from construction.
  • There are fewer ongoing emissions.
  • You don’t need a car, so there is a chance of no private transport emissions.

This post considers how far this could be achieved in the Heart of Teignbridge using the sites already identified in part 2 of the local plan. It is quite a long post which includes some feasibility calculations, which considers:

Overall allocation of sites in the plan

Part 2 of the local plan identifies more new sites than are needed to meet this when sites already allocated in the existing plan are taken into account.

The plan proposes that the allocations are split between the areas identified as follows:

  • Heart of Teignbridge: 40% (c. 2,920 homes)
  • Edge of Exeter: 24% (c. 1,800 homes)
  • Dawlish: 14% (c. 1000 homes)
  • Teignmouth: 1% (c. 100 homes)
  • Bovey Tracey: 3.5% (c. 250 homes)
  • Ashburton: 3.5% (c. 250 homes)
  • Villages: 14% (c. 960 homes)

Each site has a suggested minimum and maximum number of homes, the following table is derived from these, and shows the level of choice in each area:

The columns in this table are sourced from the local plan documents as follows:

  • Proposed distribution comes from ‘How much housing development is required’ in chapter 2.
  • Min is the sum of the lower number of homes for each site in the area, taken from chapters 3 to 10.
  • Max is the sum of the higher number of homes for each site in the area, taken from chapters 3 to 10
  • Min <= 1ha is the sum of the lower number of homes for each site in the area, where the site is less than 1 hectare (and so suitable for a smaller developer).
  • Max <= 1ha is the sum of the higher number of homes for each site in the area, where the site is less than 1 hectare (and so suitable for a smaller developer).
  • %required min is the proportion of Min that would be required to satisfy the proposed distribution.
  • %required max is the proportion of Max that would be required to satisfy the proposed distribution. This indicates the level of choice between sites given in the plan.
  • Notes are any observations.

For the sake of argument let’s accept this distribution. It shows that there is a considerable amount of choice of sites in the Heart of Teignbridge, Dawlish, Bovey Tracey and the villages.

The rest of this post considers a possible allocation for the Heart of Teignbridge.

Allocation in the Heart of Teignbridge

Within the Heart of Teignbridge the sites are subdivided into Urban Renewal sites, which are on existing land that has already been developed for other purposes, and the rest of the Heart of Teignbridge.

Enough of the sites in the Heart of Teignbridge to meet the allocation of 2920 are shown in the following table:

Some of the sites towards the bottom of the table have been chosen to make up the numbers, but this allocation tries to avoid using green field sites that are away from current development.

This post considers putting the maximum possible amount of development into the Urban Renewal sites, this has a number of advantages:

  • The homes delivered will all be within easy walking distance of:
    • Newton Abbot Station
    • Bus services
    • Newton Abbot town centre
    • The combined cycleway/footpath towards Bovey Tracey and Moretonhampstead to the north, and currently to the Passage House, soon to be extended to Teignmouth.
    • Hackney marshes
  • The need for car ownership for day to day use would be minimised:
    • occasional car use could be provided by a car club.
    • Day to day car use would only be needed if work demanded it.
    • The need for further car parking would be minimised.
    • Car traffic growth would be minimised.
  • These sites suit smaller dwellings and these is a proven demand for smaller dwellings.
  • The combination of smaller dwellings and possibilities for active travel and use of public transport will give the smallest carbon footprint.
  • Development of green field sites further out away from the centre is minimised.

We then consider other sites as near to the Town Centre as possible. The A382 development is already in progress, and there is relatively level access to the town centre along this corridor. This favours the Berry Knowles, Caravan Storage and Forches Cross sites. Unfortunately we still need to find 424 homes from the remaining sites.

Housing Need

The latest TDC housing policy document states that there is a waiting list of about 1000 applicants, and that 51% of these applicants are looking for a single bed property the proportion of property types required by applicants is shown in the following table:

Additionally 1 in 3 Teignbridge residents is over 65 years old, so probably doesn’t have children.

This says that there is a need to smaller properties, which could be flats.

There is clearly a need for social and affordable housing, as the waiting list recently has been about 1000 applicants, with about 350 applicants being housed each year. If the waiting list were to be substantially reduced over say 4 years to 100, then an additional 225 affordable homes per year would be required.

On average 137 new affordable homes are provided, other applicants are housed from existing stock. So the number of new affordable homes needs to increase to about 425. That would leave 325 open market homes from the obligatory 750 allocation.

Housing Density

Housing density is expressed in dwellings per hectare (dph), the area part of this measure includes estate roads, but excludes major thoroughfares.

The Teignbridge Urban design guide gives suggested densities for different situations:

From the developable area and maximum homes stated for Urban Renewal areas we can calculate the maximum dwellings per hectare:

Kingsteignton retail park site has a maximum density of 37.04, which is low for an urban area. This is a large site, so makes a big difference to the overall numbers, developing this at 50dph delivers an additional 175 homes.

If all the sites were developed at a density of 70 dph, then only 522 more homes would be required, so only the Berry Knowles and Forches Cross sites would be needed in addition to the Urban Renewal sites. Some sites are already allocated at more than 70 dph, so setting this as a minimum gives 2466 homes, so we are left with 454 to find.

If a minimum of 84.5 dph was set over this area, then 2932 homes would be delivered, which is enough to satisfy the Heart of Teignbridge allocation.

When I originally wrote this section I has misread the developable area of Brunel as 22 hectares, which makes the calculations better. If the developable are of Brunel or Kingsteignton retail park could be increased by 7ha between both sites, then the average density required overall could be reduced to 70dph.

What does 70 dwellings per hectare look like?

The following pictures are from the TDC Urban Design Guide:

So the Teignmouth block to the top left is at 70 dph. These examples are in the Teignbridge Vernacular. For a larger development such as Brunel, a complementary, but more modern style might be appropriate.

Consider the following example from the paper on housing density from Havant council:

I am sure that an imaginative architect could manage better!

So it looks like 70 dph is achievable if most dwellings are small and development is up to 3 storeys.

What should the housing mix be?

In order to substantially reduce the housing waiting list we need to deliver about 425 affordable homes per year. The mix for these should follow the mix of dwelling sizes required by applicants. If the urban renewal area were developed using this mix then the numbers would be as follows:

Here we have split 2 and 3 bed dwellings equally between flats and houses.

What would be the carbon footprint of this development be?

The carbon footprint that can be attributed to this development is made up from:

  • Embedded emissions from construction of dwellings.
  • Operational emissions from buildings in use.
  • Transport emissions

For buildings emissions can be approximately calculated from floor area, we assume that development is to the minimum space standard introduced in 2015. This standard takes into account the number of occupants as well as the number of bedrooms, so a one bedroom flat may have one or two occupants. Apply the minimum floor areas in this standard to our required annual housing numbers:

Embedded emissions from construction depend on the construction type, the following values are assumed, and are applied to a floor area of 45969 m2:

CLT stands for cross laminated timber, which is a lightweight construction that can be used for up to 9 storeys. It lends itself to offsite pre-fabrication. CLT panels have good thermal properties.

The above embedded emissions do not take account of sequestration caused by the carbon sequestered whilst trees are growing being locked up in the structure of a dwelling. If this is taken into account it could be that CLT construction is carbon negative.

The operational emissions can be approximated from past energy performance certificates, combined with an aspiration that the new building regulations will reduce operational emissions to 25% of current building regulations. The average current CO2 emissions from properties with an EPC rating C and above since 2015 is about 24kg CO2e/m2/year. So we assume that these dwellings will be built to 6kg CO2e/m2/year. This gives operational emissions of 276 tCO2e per year.

As no car travel is necessary with these sites, there are no additional transport emissions.

If the urban renewal sites are built at 750 dwellings per year, it will take nearly 4 years to construct these dwellings. If we allocate embedded emissions to the year of construction, then the total emissions over the first few years would be:

Comparison with development of more out of town sites

Suppose that instead we built 750 brick built 3/4 bedroomed homes on sites 3 miles from the town centre.

Assume these have an average floor area of 100m2, then the embedded emissions would be 73.1 tonnes per house, or 54,825 tonnes for 750 houses.

The operational emissions would be 450 tonnes per year.

We assume that a resident 3 miles from the town centre travels everywhere by car including travel to work, shopping and leisure. This might amount to 8,000 miles per year. Worse sites 3 miles from the town centre are generally at a higher altitude, so will require additional energy to go uphill that is not regained downhill. 8,000 miles in an average petrol or diesel car emits 2.5 tCO2e/year, and a diesel 2.2 tCO2e/year. Even an EV powered from grid electricity would emit 0.8tCO2e/year. If we assume 20% EV, 40% diesel and 40% petrol, then the average car would emit about 2t CO2e/year.

Even if we assume 1 car per house, then there are an additional 1500 tonnes from cars. It would be more realistic to assume 2 cars with one being used less, so effectively 1.5 cars.

Putting all this together for the first few years we get:

Once built this option has nearly 10 times the emissions than the alternative low carbon option.

XR Protests at the G7

When you think about an Extinction Rebellion (XR) activist, you probably don’t think of someone like me, writes Amanda Cole. A 68 year old grandmother, with a 44 year history of NHS work in a responsible and respected position. But I attended the protests at the recent G7 meeting in St Ives and joined hundreds of other people rebelling against the failure of governments to act on the dual climate and ecological emergencies.

100 Penitents carry the sins of the G7 through Cornwall. Photo: Tristian Herbert

A sixth mass extinction of wildlife is already underway. Studies show a 60% decline in wildlife populations since 1980, while the world’s natural ecosystems have lost about half their area, all largely due to human action. Climate change is already affecting our weather, bringing more frequent floods and heatwaves. If we don’t allow ecosystems to recover and expand, as well as massively reduce our carbon emissions, it will all get worse. Other parts of the world with more vulnerable communities are suffering these effects more acutely than Britain is right now. 

Attending the XR events at the G7, a meeting of the Group of Seven richest nations, was a great experience in many ways. The protests were creative, inspiring, sometimes sombre, and sometimes fun. There was lots of media coverage; it was great to engage with the public and the police. The reception in my experience was pretty much 100% friendly. There was one woman muttering at a bus stop, but I didn’t catch what she said. There were no Rebel arrests. But of course we were securely separated from the official goings-on in Carbis Bay, so I’m not sure how much we were listened to. The government resolution to pledge a £500m Blue Planet Fund for marine conservation had already been announced last year. About US$2bn is to be provided to help countries worldwide to phase out coal-fired power generation. This may not even be new money. The summit failed to set us up for a successful COP26, the UN climate talks to be held in Glasgow in November, as trust is sorely lacking between rich and developing countries. Overall, these outcomes were more than disappointing. 

So yes, you are right; I am not a typical Rebel. Extinction Rebellion members do come from a particular demographic in the main. But with the richest nations in the world failing to provide leadership and finance to tackle the climate crisis, it falls to each and every one of us to make the changes we feel able to make.

People sometimes think individuals cannot make a difference, but that is wrong. Look at how the British public responded to the challenges the pandemic brought. We were far more responsive and able to change than the government, and even the scientists predicted. And there is some evidence that if you feel good about making a little change, you will go on to make another. What is vital is to choose something you want to do, and are able to do. I would never ask my beef farmer friend to give up meat or suggest my friends on benefits buy expensive eco-products. But we can all start reusing plastic, sorting our recycled waste, and picking up litter, for example. We can all do something. 

I was heartened at the end of the visit to St Ives to hear the speaker at the closing ceremony for the XR events say: “Some people say we’re preaching to the converted in XR. Well let’s make it our pledge before COP26 to talk to people outside this group. Ask what they think. Find out what makes them sceptical or hesitant. See if you can help.” 

So that’s what I’m doing. Let’s all take some climate action today and build towards a happier and healthier future.

Travels With My BEV

Who would have thought there could be so much ‘mileage’, in having a BEV. No, not my best friend, my BEV is a Battery Electric Vehicle, writes Helen Chessum.

Bought last year just before the pandemic took over our lives, BEV turned out to be the perfect lockdown project, providing endless hours of fun looking at stats with my husband, the engineer.

BEV records your driving stats and shows how energy-efficiently you drive. My husband was keen to make sure I didn’t drive on his stats. When we came to the first review I had a little chuckle when my stats beat his. Of course, this facility isn’t exclusive to electric vehicles. Anyone can make use of these stats on newer cars to reduce their own fuel consumption. It’s not rocket science: the more steadily you drive the less fuel you use!

As BEV doesn’t have a fuel tank, you have two displays to guide you: battery charge level and range display. Range anxiety is an issue for BEV owners so you need to be more aware of your charge level and range to manage your nerves, especially on a longer outing. Charging points are not on every corner like petrol stations. On a trip back from Exeter I suddenly got a shock when a flashing warning message was triggered: only 12 miles left in the battery!

The range display is where the magic starts. This is not a specific measure like the charge level indicator, but a prediction based on the conditions, previous driving style and the weather. I can leave home with a range of 140 miles, arrive in the centre of Newton Abbot and still see a range of 140. I’ve driven eight miles but according to the display I haven’t used any energy! It feels like magic but it’s due to energy recovery.

Both feedback displays really are useful to moderate your driving to save energy. At first there was a downside as I became obsessed with the displays but I have now found a good balance. I have to confess I was never so aware of my driving in my old petrol Polo.

BEV also has a blue and green zone energy display, next to the normal speedo. All part of the learning curve, I have trained myself to drive in the green zone as much as possible to maximise this energy recovery and make the magic happen. However, this can have some hairshirt consequences when you see how much energy is drawn from the battery by the radio or the heating. Early on I occasionally drove home shivering and with no entertainment just to protect my stats. This is the extreme end of the energy saving sport. But joking aside, it does graphically ‘drive’ home how much energy it takes to power the mod cons in our cars we take for granted.

What about charging and range anxiety I hear you ask? Well I’m fortunate to have a drive and can park right next to my charger. Much trickier if you live in town. The 13 amp charge lead comes as standard but takes about 10-11 hours to charge fully. Your next investment is a rapid charger. Just plug BEV into her life support overnight and bingo! Or not quite, as my other energy-saving challenge is to charge BEV as much as possible from our solar panels, using truly low-carbon electricity. So overnight is not the ideal time to charge. This all takes some management and engagement with BEV and her charger. So here’s the trick – plan ahead and charge only when you need to travel. At this time of year it’s much easier as there is (usually) more sun. If my journeys are local BEV doesn’t need to be fully charged every time and I can divert some of the solar power to other appliances in my house or to our batteries.

Of course I do still need to use the grid electricity for part of the year. The grid is using more power from low-carbon sources as we make the changes to combat climate change. But there is no guarantee the energy I’m drawing is from renewables. I have to live with that for the time being. By charging BEV from the grid only when I absolutely need to, I’m making quite an impact on my carbon footprint.

The next big challenge with BEV is driving to Bristol and back, which is outside BEV’s 145 mile range. This will involve charging away from home – a new adventure. So wish us luck! 

Site options for the Teignbridge local plan to be consulted on

A meeting of the council executive on 1st June passed a motion to run a public consultation on site options for the local plan from 14th June to 9th August.

Executive Committee meeting

You can watch the proceedings of the executive committee here , this gives access to a recording of the whole meeting, the local plan is item 6 on the agenda, which you can select from the menu on the right.

Jackie Hook said “We will have to choose some sites, help us to choose the least damaging. This isn’t however about who can gather the biggest petition against a site, this is about bringing to the council’s attention additional planning related information and knowledge.”

Local plan consultation on sites

Part 2 of the local plan has now been published and can be found here.

Housing Numbers

As you may know, the Government has told Teignbridge it must build 751 houses a year (they had planned to order 1,532 houses a year!). The council therefore has to identify the sites where the houses can be built. If we do not do this the Government will take over planning at Teignbridge and increase the numbers by 20%.

This consultation asks that members of the public help by:

  1. Checking through the sites and see what may be proposed in your community and commenting about the sites.
  2. Sharing the consultation with your friends and family living in Teignbridge. It’s really important as many people as possible know about the proposals and say what they think to Teignbridge.

This could well be the last time local people are given a say in major planning decisions like this.
The Government is proposing to bring in a new system under which land will be zoned. Anything designated for ‘growth’ will be deemed to have ‘planning permission in principle’.
Government ministers claim their plan will eliminate ‘red tape’ but many fear that it abolishes any meaningful involvement of residents and local councils in planning matters.
The consultation on the possible housing sites ends at 12 Noon on Monday 9th August 2021. Do please have your say 

Low Carbon

Chapter 11 states Teignbridge’s 2018 carbon footprint and analyses emissions trends over the period 2008-2018, showing that the transport, buildings, agriculture and waste sectors have not reduced over that period.

Electricity consumption is estimated to grow from 468GWh to 940GWh (101%) as a result of electrification of heat and transport, as well as growth associated with growth mandated by the plan.

The report doesn’t give any detail of how this electrification will be achieved, but the proposed increase in electricity consumption is close to our own estimates based on widespread EV take-up and retrofitting the existing housing stock to near Passiv Haus standards. Indeed the growth in electricity demand is slightly lower than we estimated, so some other demand reduction must be assumed.

Possible sites are identified for 217GWh of wind and 726GWh of solar, totalling 953GWh. So on a whole year basis enough to meet demand. The report identifies a number of constraints, which mean that this much renewable generation is unlikely to be buildable.

Peak demand occurs in the winter, when solar generation is producing least. We see already that in the recent sunny period that grid carbon intensity for the South West can get as low as 30g/kWh when most energy comes from solar and nuclear. Contrast this with winter when on a calm day most of our electricity in the South West comes from gas when grid carbon intensity can exceed 400g/kWh.

The report identifies an increase of 201GWh of demand from heating, which will mainly be needed in the winter months. It also identifies 49 GWh from additional housing, if we assume that this will also be biased towards winter, the additional winter demand could increase to 230GWh. This is more than could be supplied by the identified wind resource. So Teignbridge will need to import more renewable energy from elsewhere during the winter.

A large amount of land is identified as suitable for solar development. Here there is also scope for a significant contribution from rooftop PV, however, this is limited in practice by the ability of local substations to deal with local generation.

Fast Access tool for planning applications

We have written a tool which enables you to see details of all active planning applications on a single interactive page. This enables applications to be filtered by date range, parish, ward or Wildlife Warden area, type, decision level. Text search on address, proposal and document description and title is also provided.

A summary of each application is shown with reference number and proposal, this can be expanded to show all details and the latest documents relating to the application. There are links from the reference number to the application on the TDC site, as well as to the documents page for the application.

A full description of the application is here.

The tool is available here.

Some filters have been preconfigured:

Precious Trees Need Preserving

New neighbours move in and immediately cut down a magnificent silver birch and create a drive with non-porous material. I am mad! I love trees, writes Fran Hamilton.

What’s all the fuss about?

Let’s start at the bottom, below the surface of the soil. Maybe you have noticed white threads on old rotting wood. These are called mycorrhizal fungi and absorb nutrients and minerals in the soil and transport them from one plant or tree to another, often over huge areas. In this way they extend the roots of any plant. Nearly all plants (including vegetables) are dependent on mycorrhizal fungi for their thriving and survival. You can read about the astonishing abilities of underground fungal networks in Merlin Sheldrake’s book ‘Entangled Life’.

Still at ground level, trees absorb water and hold it, thus regulating the flow that any heavy rain brings. Once a tree has been removed, soil erosion can result from the removal of the many roots that anchored it in the soil. 

Above the ground, the water the trees have absorbed is drawn up and eventually expelled via the branches and leaves. This cools the air, which brings increasing benefits as extreme weather becomes the norm due to climate change. One large oak tree is capable of transpiring 40,000 gallons of water into the atmosphere each year. Strategically planted deciduous trees can cool a building in the hotter months, and then allow the warming sun into our homes during the winter months. Trees can also protect buildings from the wind.

Another key benefit of trees is the reduction in pollutants as a result of the leaves absorbing particles. Researchers from the US Forest Service have calculated that trees in the US remove over 17 million tonnes of air pollution each year, saving at least 850 lives that would otherwise be lost through acute respiratory illness. No doubt the UK will also have a high figure.

Trees are also a vital habitat for wildlife. Tree cavities provide nest and roost sites for birds and bats. In Europe, an estimated 30% of forest-dwelling birds use tree cavities, and it is well known that the availability of cavities – in number and type – is a limiting factor of bird-population size. We quietly acknowledge the lack of tree cavities in our landscape every time we put up a nest or bat-box. The research, however, is starting to suggest that these boxes are not adequate replacements for natural hollows and cavities. Trees have more stable microclimates than boxes, buffering against temperature fluctuations. 

Even a dead tree is valuable for wildlife. Springtails, mites, beetles, flies and parasitoid wasps are particularly likely to use dead trees, but it isn’t unusual to find the humble earthworm living metres-high in a tree cavity. 

So besides not cutting down a perfectly healthy tree what can we do? Tree cover in Devon is only 11.8%  – slightly less than the national average. Surprisingly, Camden and Croydon feature among the top 20 places in England and Wales with the most tree cover, while largely rural areas like the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales have the least.

But before rushing out to plant a tree it’s worth doing some research on which tree to plant. You need the right tree in the right place. Getting it wrong can do more harm than good. The Woodland Trust has lots of information on its website, including an A-Z of British trees and a tree ID app, plus tips on how to choose a tree and where to plant it. 

Planting trees is often promoted as a way of offsetting our carbon emissions, but such schemes can be little more than greenwash. In many cases the trees would have been planted anyway. Reducing emissions in the first place is always the better option.

So be alert to the sound of the chainsaw; trees are really precious and need all the help we can give them for all our sakes.