Supporting Local Authorities to Meet Net Zero

23 July, 2021

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As part of the UK’s overall goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, local authorities throughout the country are considering ways in which they can make their estates more energy efficient while also ensuring commercial viability of their facilities – meaning that innovative and flexible solutions are more important than ever before. Associate director Chris Mortlock discusses the ways in which Pick Everard is supporting its clients in achieving those goals.

Making the best use of its landbank is not new to the public sector – efficiencies and viability of facilities has long been at the forefront of discussion, but as we collectively work towards our net zero ambitions as a country, sustainability is very much front of mind.

We are working with a number of local authorities throughout the country to understand how best they can make use of their estates, whether that be through a process of land disposal for other uses, refurbishing existing facilities or thinking about potential revenue streams that could be included on existing sites. An area where this has been particularly interesting is when we are considering highways/waste depot sites.

Over the years, many of these sites have sprawled and now use a considerable area of land, which has caused local authorities to now consider how best they can potentially consolidate through more efficient facilities which may in turn generate surplus land. The nature of the sites, however, means that any surplus may not be suitable for all kinds of development; for instance, the London Plan 2016 identifies certain sites as Key Industrial and Business Area (KIBA) sites which couldn’t be utilised for residential use, so we need to think creatively about how best to utilise the space while also delivering against our sustainability objectives.

Opportunities to make best use of sites

There are a range of different uses that we can consider when looking at how best to utilise space on waste sites, many of which work towards net zero carbon targets while also generating an income stream for a local authority. We are working with a number of local authorities at feasibility stage to consider different uses and options for surplus space.

For example, if you look at a recycling depot there are potentially options to better utilise the waste coming onto site while at the same time benefitting the circular economy. This could be as simple as implementing an opportunity for re-sale to the general public – allowing people to purchase items that have been recycled by others, or including workshop space for items to be upcycled into something new, thus reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill.

There might also be the opportunity to provide anaerobic digestors to allow food waste to be utilised for heating while also producing bio-compost which could then be sold on for use on community allotments, for example.

We are also considering the possibility of including EV charging facilities and potential partnerships with taxi firms or car clubs, which would act as another revenue stream for local authorities.

In support of these initiatives, we can then consider whether the facilities on sites are as energy efficient as they can be through our engineering and architectural teams working together to ensure that facilities are meeting efficiencies targets.

However, as is the case with all public sector activity, it is absolutely vital that any option is underpinned by a robust financial model. Local authorities remain focussed on budget and generating income streams where possible, so it’s imperative that any option stacks up financially as well as supporting the wider net zero carbon targets.

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