Driving the green agenda at a local level

Despite the central government diluting the UK’s net-zero policies, the nation’s green agenda is continuing to be driven at a local level, argues Lampton Group’s non-executive director Emma Jones in this new op-ed.

Driving the green agenda at a local level

Equipped with clearly defined roadmaps to reduce carbon emissions, individual regions are spearheading sustainability strategies by adopting a comprehensive approach that leverages partnerships and innovative business models.

When produced locally, sustainability strategies are delivered in a way that benefits the wider community. Not only do they mitigate carbon footprints but they also provide better health outcomes through cleaner air; improved access to high-quality green spaces; reduced overheating and flood risks, and can stimulate economic growth through green jobs and skills development.

Sustainable solutions in practice

The breadth of services delivered at a local level offers extensive opportunities to reduce emissions and embrace greener practices, directly influencing the sustainability of regional communities and creating both immediate and long-lasting impacts.

A prime example of tangible change being driven at a local level is the escalation of green housing, which represents a long-term strategy aimed at significantly reducing carbon emissions. To meet the UK’s carbon targets, an estimated 19 million homes require retrofitting by 2035. Delivering this will require significant upskilling in areas such as solid wall installation and low-carbon heating systems.

As such, beyond reducing energy costs and improving residents’ health, the focus on green housing will create additional benefits through job creation and skills development at a local level. To support the sustained delivery of green services, many regions are prioritising environment-focused education and training initiatives – such as Carbon Literacy training. Some are also working in partnership with local education providers to ensure green skills are on the agenda with the Local Government Association forecasting the creation of 700,000 new green jobs by 2030.

Additionally,  ‘nature-based solutions’ are being embraced locally to adapt to the changing climate. By expanding high-quality green spaces, local areas can mitigate the risk of surface water flooding, while tree planting initiatives can alleviate overheating, with mature street trees capable of reducing street-level temperatures by up to 6C. Given predictions that London could experience 45°C temperatures by 2050, these nature-based solutions will play a vital role in protecting local communities.

Navigating the funding crisis

While many regions remain committed to their sustainability strategies, they face mounting challenges as a result of funding constraints and shifting central government priorities. The Government’s decision to backtrack on net-zero ambitions last September, alongside the stop-start nature of big funding programmes like the Social Housing Decarbonisation Scheme, has signalled a diminished focus on sustainability. Local authorities need long-term financial certainty and confidence to invest in the supply chains and infrastructure needed to deliver green initiatives going forward.

In this challenging landscape, innovative partnerships and business structures, such as the Local Authority Trading Company (LATCo) model can provide financial stability and even profitability. LATCos collaborate closely with councils to support overarching goals while leveraging commercial potential and operational flexibility to create new channels to generate revenue. This financial surplus is then reinvested into the community, supporting broader initiatives and helping local authorities to reduce the impact of the funding crisis.

The LATCo model in action

Lampton Group, a LATCo that has been operating in the London Borough of Hounslow for over a decade, for which I am a Non-Executive Director, exemplifies this approach. Lampton Group is fully supportive of Hounslow’s net zero ambitions, optimising its services to support Hounslow’s decarbonisation efforts while generating additional revenue.

Lampton Homes, the business’ housing arm, ensures sustainability is kept at the forefront of new developments, such as the New Road Triangle site in Feltham. Providing 176 new homes, the development features air-source heat pumps, solar panels, and energy-efficient building materials which contribute to a 70% carbon reduction in comparison to minimum new build standards. Houses refurbished by the business also meet high standards that enhance both economic viability and sustainability.

Meanwhile, Lampton Group’s Recycle team is one of the only organisations of its kind in London to deliver a successful kerbside segregated waste collection, producing high-quality materials. In the past year, these materials have generated over £1.45m to be reinvested by the council. In addition, Lampton Group’s Commercial Recycling and Waste Collection service caters to Hounslow’s business community, delivering financial gains of £119,000 in just nine months.

Lampton Group’s Greenspace team of experienced horticulturists and ecologists plays an essential role in the upkeep and development of high-quality green spaces which are managed in a way that encourages biodiversity, including the delivery of an extensive tree-planting programme. The business has accelerated commercial activity for the Greenspace team in the last two years, with profits being reinvested into Hounslow. The Greenspace team is contributing to business growth by steadily increasing its number of clients, driving revenue from non-core contracts including historic homes and gardens, private sports clubs, leisure centres, shopping centres and schools.

Consolidating its commitment to minimise its carbon footprint, Lampton Group was certified as a Carbon Literate Organisation earlier this year. 70 employees undertook carbon literacy training to reduce organisational carbon emissions and maintain a low carbon culture. Each employee who completed the training wrote a series of pledges outlining how they plan to drive decarbonisation. Pledges range from transitioning to greener fuels to delivering educational initiatives across the business and raising awareness in the wider community.

The transition to net zero

As the green agenda continues to gain momentum at a local level, councils are well-placed to drive net-zero initiatives and deliver benefits for residents and businesses alike. Amid ongoing economic volatility and funding challenges, councils that embrace strategic partnerships and innovative business models like LATCos will be best positioned to ensure a smooth transition to a zero-carbon future in a way that is cost-effective and profitable.

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