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Taking the lead on energy issues
Leader of Stockport Council, Councillor Dave Goddard, isn’t afraid of big projects. From major regeneration to a district energy scheme, Dave is making things happen.
Dave takes a strategic role in Stockport’s energy projects, linking them up with regeneration and economic growth opportunities in the borough and sub-region. He works with big players and has to take some risks to make things happen.
Dave’s biggest message for other leaders and councillors is that you can’t be intimidated by big projects. They require working with others and getting your executive team and key services like planning on-board from the beginning.
Dave recognises that the community directs the themes and projects that he prioritises as the leader of the council. Stockport’s residents feel strongly about the environment. This enthusiasm has set the tone for council support of energy and regeneration projects that are sustainable and bring jobs and income to the area.
This case study demonstrates the importance of strong political leadership in tackling tough issues. It also shows the importance of using the planning system to make a difference. This particular example focuses on sustainability – a priority for Stockport – but the principles are applicable to a variety of council priorities.
Top leadership tips from Dave
- Don’t be afraid of big projects
- Respond to your community
- Make cheap and secure sustainable energy happen
- Get the planning service on-board
- Work at the sub-regional level
- Get the big players involved
Don’t be afraid of big projects
Dave advises that councillors should always have some big exciting project ready to go when funding opportunities arise. For Dave, the Grand Central redevelopment is that project. When you arrive in Stockport by train, it’s the first thing you see when you exit the station.
I’m willing to bite the bullet. I’m not frightened by the big projects.
Grand Central is a large leisure complex with a cinema and bowling alley. The owners of the Grand Central site went into administration allowing Stockport to purchase it for £15 million. Dave worked to sell the idea and the benefits of the scheme to members. Stockport expects to raise £4 million in net rent over 10 years. This means they can cover the prudential borrowing payments. Ultimately the council will own the freehold and a useful asset for regeneration of the area.
Stockport’s town centre is sustainably located and has significant opportunities for new development. For this reason, the core strategy sets out policies that encourage development in the town centre. Core Policy CS11 includes Grand Central as a site for office development with some leisure.
Stockport will redevelop the Grand Central site into a hotel with conference venue, office space and parking – taking advantage of the close proximity of the rail station and the A6 motorway. They want the development to be BREEAM excellent, the highest sustainability rating for non-domestic buildings.
This is about making radical changes – buying something and making it better. Spend money on the public realm, that’s part of what draws in business.
Dave makes it clear that they are not turning into property speculators. This is about positive regeneration and investment in the area. Dave visited trade fairs and spoke to local businesses through the chamber of commerce to discuss his plans. The council are getting a lot of interest from architects to develop the scheme. For Dave, the bottom line is that we are in a recession and ‘this is the time to put your money where your mouth is’ to make things happen.
Respond to your community
Residents in Stockport are knowledgeable about environmental issues and they want to know what the council is doing. They speak about climate change as a high concern and they expect the council to respond to this. This is also reflected in the local strategic partnership, which is fully committed to carbon reduction.
Residents make their voices heard to the council in different ways. For example, some homeowners in conservation areas in the borough want solar panels and windows with double glazing in their homes. The council has developed a team of staff from the planning service to help residents in conservation areas use new technologies in a sensitive way.
Dave hopes the enactment of the Localism Bill will lift sustainability up the agenda because it is recognised as an issue of local importance in Stockport. Through localism, Dave sees an opportunity to achieve the community’s environmental objectives, particularly through section 106 agreements.
The planning service has already built on this local enthusiasm by carrying out a borough-wide energy study and adopting supporting policies for decentralised energy. The study is part of the core strategy evidence base and is the basis for policies that address climate change and exploit sustainable energy opportunities. The study also identified energy projects that would link into new development and support regeneration in the borough.
The council is working with Stockport Homes, the arms-length management organisation, to install a biomass boiler at Lancashire Hill housing estate. They expect to earn money through the renewable heat incentive, create five jobs through the supply chain and installation, and offset 1387 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
There are 487 homes in Lancashire Hill that will benefit from affordable heating through this project.
Photo: Cllr Dave Goddard outside the Lancashire Hill Development.
Make cheap and secure sustainable energy happen
Dave was also positive about another project currently in development with Stockport Homes. The council aims to put solar photovoltaic panels on some council owned buildings and up to 750 council homes by March 2012. The electricity generated by the solar panels will earn money through the feed-in tariffs. This will pay back the council’s initial investment. The motivation for the project is to reduce carbon emissions and energy costs for the council and tenants.
The Grand Central project isn’t just about property development and regeneration. The site will be a key anchor load for the district heating network that Stockport is planning to develop in the town centre. An anchor load is a site that has a high and consistent heat demand. For a new district heating network, an anchor load is essential to ensure financial viability.
The town centre district heating network will also provide heat for Mottram Towers. Dave is talking to head teachers to get schools connected to the network as well.
The district heating network is supported through Stockport’s planning policy. Dave sat on the Members’ Core Strategy working group and consistently champions planning policies on environmental issues. Stockport’s Core Strategy, adopted in March 2011, has a policy outlining requirements for appropriate new development to connect to a district heating network.
Development Management Policy SD-3 sets out the council’s energy opportunities as they vary spatially in two distinct parts of the borough:
- network development areas and
- microgeneration development areas.
The network development area includes locations in the borough that are suitably dense to support district heating or cooling networks. New development will need to contribute to these opportunities where it is technically feasible and financially viable to do so.
This type of policy will be an efficient way for developers to meet the energy section (Part L) of the Building Regulations as it tightens to achieve zero carbon development. Developers are likely to be able to connect to district energy schemes as part a range of ‘allowable solutions’ to meet Part L requirements. An enabling policy such as SD-3 could make Stockport a very welcoming borough for the kind of regeneration and development it wants.
Get the planning service on-board
When it comes to deciding on planning applications, Dave recognises that the development management team should be involved in wider corporate objectives. The planning committee have generally been on-board and supportive of council priorities outside of planning.
However, Dave thinks there is room for more flexibility in how they interpret planning policies generally. Planning is ‘rarely a black and white issue so flexibility is important’. If a proposal comes forward for a new supermarket, then the developers need to show that they will also create jobs and the infrastructure needed to improve the community. And the council should be open to those discussions.
There needs to be a level of pragmatism. Where we work best in Stockport is through flexibility.
Work at the sub-regional level
Dave expressed a real sense of enthusiasm throughout our interview. He attributed this partly to the exciting work he is leading as chair of the environment commission for the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA). Through this role, Dave has succeeded in getting buy-in from neighbouring authorities on strategic energy projects.
To facilitate partnership working and political support for this work, Dave did a road show to the ten boroughs in Greater Manchester. He also worked with energy companies, local businesses and the public. AGMA aims to be ‘the world’s leading low carbon conurbation by 2020’.
Dave stresses that working on energy projects needs to be part of a plan. There is a sub-regional decentralised energy study that identifies strategic energy opportunities, some of which require partnership working. AGMA are also looking at getting involved in the new Green Deal through discussions with energy companies. To move these projects and opportunities forward, a group of planning and economic development officers from each authority meet regularly.
Greater Manchester’s motivation for working on sustainable energy projects comes from a desire to promote economic growth through projects that will also address fuel poverty and ensure long-term energy security and affordability in the sub-region. It’s Dave’s job to work in partnership and promote projects that link all of these interests together.
Get the big players involved
Part of Dave’s role is to work with organisations and businesses in the borough to save money and lower carbon emissions. The penny is dropping but he still finds that he needs to spell out the business case for cutting carbon emissions.
Greater Manchester has commissioned assessments of the opportunities and risks that climate change will bring for their economy. These studies have shown that there could be a £1.4 billion potential for investment in Greater Manchester each year by 2020. This would involve 2,000 companies and 34,000 jobs.
The city-regions strengths in the low carbon economy include:
- carbon capture and storage
- sustainable energy technologies
- alternative fuels
- remediation of contaminated land
- environmental consultancy.
There are also huge economic opportunities for housing retrofit and building technologies.
At Manchester Airport staff are pioneering measures to use less fuel and lower carbon emissions. Stockport is a shareholder of the Manchester Airport Group. Dave works with the airport to support and encourage their carbon reduction activities. The airport has started power washing the fins of planes, taxiing planes with only one engine running and exploring the use of biofuels. The airport is also a partner in the GM Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project which will provide 300 charging points for electric vehicles across Greater Manchester.
For more information about Stockport and Greater Manchester, please see the links below.
Stockport’s planning polices, evidence and guidance for sustainable development and energy – on the Stockport website
AGMA decentralised and zero carbon energy study – on the AGMA website
Visit our online resource, Compare Renewables, for information on council-led sustainable energy projects:
Compare renewables – on the LG Improvement and Development website
PAS offer member briefing modules and a variety of publications for councillors:
Watch a short interview with Cllr Dave Goddard from the LG Group Compare Renewables event in March 2011.