LBBD Youth Climate Summit 2022

Photo Credit: Hamish McNeill (LBBD)

On Monday 14 March 180 young people from across 31 schools came together at Jo Richardson Community School to participate in Barking and Dagenham’s first Youth Climate Summit. Facilitated by Votes for Schools, E.on, and Connected Kerb, it was a chance for young people to feed into the council’s Zero-Carbon Roadmap. Martin Offiah MBE, Brand Ambassador for Connected Kerb and British sporting hero was the special guest who spoke passionately about his journey and why taking action to protect the environment is so important, particularly for the next generation.

As the Member Champion for Climate Change in Barking and Dagenham, I provided some closing remarks at the end of the day.

The full text can be found below.

*STARTS*

My name is Councillor Andrew Achilleos, and I am the Member champion for Climate Change here in our borough.

Lots of people see climate change as a distant threat, something that doesn’t affect them. People think about deforestation in South America, or wildfires in Greece.

Last year a tornado ripped through the streets of Barking and there are increasing flood risks in areas like ours that have a high concentration of waterways. Climate change is happening here and now.

If we want to avert a climate disaster it will take enthusiastic young people like you, who are passionate about the environment and want to make the world a better, safer, and more sustainable place to live.

It’s my job to champion your ideas, and to advise the council leadership.

I was interested to hear your thoughts on our priorities, and I’ve picked out one in particular regarding waste and recycling. Barking and Dagenham currently recycles only 25% of its waste, the lowest rate in London. We must do better, and we will.

I agree with you that 35% by 2030 is too low a target, and I’ll be taking this back to the council for discussion as we further develop our plans.

You will be pleased to know that we are already working incredibly hard to tackle climate change in Barking and Dagenham.

  • We’re using new technology to properly insulate our oldest homes, because poorly insulated housing is responsible for around 30% of our carbon emissions.
  • We’re also helping people switch to renewable energy, investing in solar and heat pump technology.
  • We’re encouraging people to drive electric vehicles and working with Connected Kerb, we are installing 250 charge points this year, and 2000 by 2026.
  • We are also working hard to educate our residents to reduce, reuse and recycle. A big part of what we are trying to do is change people’s behaviour, encouraging residents to make responsible choices.
  • In 2019 we pledged to start phasing out single use plastics from our organisation, and we’re now looking at ways we can use recycled materials like plastics in the future, to develop new infrastructure such as roads and footpaths.
  • And we are planting thousands of trees across the borough, not only in our parks but on our streets and outside your schools to improve air quality.
  • Last year we made a pledge to double our canopy cover by 2040and we’re already off to a great start with the new Forest of Thanks in Parsloes Park where 40,000 trees have now been planted by volunteers – boosting biodiversity, storing carbon and rainwater, and improving the air we breathe.

In the future we want people to think of Barking and Dagenham as the Green Capital of the Capital.

This is just the beginning of our journey to net-zero, there is a lot of work to do, but it starts here, with you, and with us.

We can avoid a climate crisis, but only if we work together as a community.

Thank you.

*ENDS*

Member Champion for Climate Change Annual Report 2020/21

Over the last 12 months, we have seen a significant acceleration of global climate change, which has had local manifestations in Barking and Dagenham. We have seen flash floods and an unprecedented tornado rip through our streets. We have some of the poorest health outcomes relating to air pollution in London and the time for action on this is now.

I am wholeheartedly dedicated to the cause and want to see a greener, healthier borough in the coming years. The reality is that we cannot avert climate change now, but we can plan for and in many cases mitigate the worst effects.

Part of the solution is educating towards behavioural change, part of it is legislating with future generations in mind. There are nature-based solutions and there are solutions rooted in how we deliver services sustainably. The bottom line is that we all have a part to play, and the council aims to lead by example.

Since I last reported back, the council has been making great strides towards realising its ambition of becoming the green capital of the capital. Our climate targets fall under three broad categories which I have worked to influence over the past year and a half, these are the built environment, transport, and our parks and open spaces. I have also played a key role on the Air Quality Action Plan Steering Committee and helped Cabinet Members drive the policy forwards. Since its introduction I have instigated a quarterly monitoring committee bringing together heads of department to ensure that targets and actions are delivered to improve the air we breathe.

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham has approx. 18,000 homes that require deep retrofitting which includes internal and external wall insulation, loft insulation, heat-pump technology, solar panels etc. the cost of which is c.£85k per unit, which poses a significant challenge.

One of my early suggestions was to work alongside other local authorities with similar housing stock in order to establish a collective position whereby we can tender out the work in phases to bring down costs. This process started in December 2020 and officers are currently working on a long-term plan to decarbonise the boroughs housing stock alongside a delivery partner.

In addition to this, I’ve also been looking at development, making sure that we are building sustainably and mitigating any air quality impacts from the construction process. Throughout the past year I have been meeting regularly with Be First to discuss upcoming projects, through this I have instigated an audit of contracted construction companies to ensure they meet environmental standards, and have launched a review of funding streams for green infrastructure such as Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), S106 and the Carbon Offsetting Fund.

TRANSPORT

Since the start of 2021 I have been an active member of the Walking and Cycling Strategy Steering Committee. The committee was established to devise a phased investment plan to improve the connectivity of our borough. They key focus of the strategy is to improve active travel options and make our roads safer for all users – motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. My input has helped establish our priority schemes, which for next year will be improving the cycle route from north to south from Marks Gate to Dagenham Dock.

When I was young I never learned to ride a bike, so as part of promoting active travel I met up with Vandome Cycles and Sustrans for a ‘bikeability’ training session, which is offered to local residents in Mayesbrook Park free of charge every Wednesday. Active travel has a number of benefits, not least reducing emissions and helping to keep people fit and healthy. 

I have also worked alongside other ward councillors, advising on schemes to improve the street scene, making short journeys more appealing for residents on foot. Two excellent examples are Rainham Road South and Whalebone Lane South.

When it comes to electric vehicles (EV) the reality is that at present the borough has low ownership. However, the government are phasing out the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles which means over the next decade motorists will rely on EVs and the infrastructure will need to reflect that. I have attended many national stakeholder conferences and have worked closely with Be First and the council to influence our EV strategy. As with all progressive policies the local authority is aiming to lead by example and is in the process of electrifying its fleet.

In terms of public transport, I am working hard to lobby Transport for London to ensure that our bus stock is fully upgraded so that all busses operating in the borough are hybrid, electric or hydrogen. The Thames Clipper is also coming to Barking Riverside which will alleviate pressures on the c2c line, and Crossrail is on the way, albeit late.

PARKS AND OPEN SPACES

The natural world is my real passion and over the last year, as Covid restrictions have eased the ‘Wild and Free in LBBD’ scheme which I launched in 2020 has really come to life. The Park Rangers have worked incredibly hard to develop an engaging programme of events for families at Eastbrookend Country Park, and I have worked alongside them and officers to make the rebranded Discovery Centre a real destination for residents and visitors. Part of this process has been the opening of the Eastbrookend Tea Room which has brought a new energy to the centre, attracting hundreds of residents and visitors to the borough through its doors. Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EastbrookendCountryParkTeaRoom

This has been an amazing and transformative 12 months for our parks, and I am proud to have played an advisory and practical role in shaping some of the projects. In December 2020, alongside delivery partners SUGi and The Conservation Volunteers we planted 32,000 trees in Parsloes Park creating the largest ‘Miyawaki’ forest in the United Kingdom, the revolutionary planting method uses native trees and brings a host of increased environmental benefits. More here: https://www.lbbd.gov.uk/parsloes-park-forest-of-thanks

Earlier this year I joined the Cabinet Member for Public Realm in opening the Ripple Greenway. This previously disused space was reimagined by Sustrans and Trees for Cities and a new linear park was delivered. The park features a number of sculptures based on ‘The Lost Words’ by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. More here: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/our-blog/projects/2021/london/the-ripple-greenway-bringing-neglected-greenspace-to-life

The Dagenham Corridor received a make over last year which included new wayfinding/signage, benches and accessible pathways. Following this Beam Parklands and Eastbrookend Country Park both received Green Flag awards at the start of 2021, and the Discovery Centre even featured on Transport for London’s 150 years of cultural heritage poster. Building on this success the Park Rangers and comms team have developed and launched a fantastic new website dedicated to the borough’s country parks: https://barkinganddagenhamcountryparks.com/

In July I submitted a motion to the council to double canopy cover across the borough by 2040. Officers are currently working on a strategy to deliver this through new woodland creation projects, and an increase in street tree planting. At the very start of the year, I sat on the BD Giving Panel which awarded £20k to the River Roding Trust for them to deliver more trees along the River Roding on the western border of the borough.

This has been a very exciting and busy year as Member Champion for Climate Change. In the coming months I hope to continue building on the borough’s achievements to ensure that we realise our vision to become the green capital of the capital.

Promoting Active Travel in Barking and Dagenham

Barking and Dagenham Council in association with Vandome Cycles, Sustrans and Be First offer a fantastic range of cycle training options across the borough for children and adults. Whether residents are new to cycling, or just want to brush up on their skills. Training is free and available to anyone who lives, works or studies in the borough.

The council is currently developing a new Walking and Cycling Strategy and steering committee member Councillor Andrew Achilleos, the Member Champion for Climate Change, has been looking at ways to encourage residents to make shorter journeys on foot or by bike.

Cllr Achilleos said: “We know that travelling from one side of the borough to another, or from somewhere like Marks Gate to Dagenham East is difficult without a car. However, research shows that a high percentage of people are still driving five minutes up the road for a pint of milk.

“That’s why we are trying to make it more appealing and easier for residents to walk or cycle short distances by improving existing cycle networks, creating new ones, and changing the character of our streets. The Walking and Cycling Strategy is about creating routes that work for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to better connect growth areas and existing communities across the borough.”

Active travel has a number of benefits, not least reducing emissions and helping to keep people fit and healthy. During a recent meeting it came to light that Councillor Achilleos could not ride a bike, so on Thursday 15 July he met up with cycle instructors from Vandome Cycles for some training.

Cllr Achilleos explained: “I like to practice what I preach and if I can pick up cycling at 34, anyone can do it. When I got on the bike it was a case of finding the confidence in myself to stay upright, once I had that it was a fun experience. Richard from Vandome Cycles was a great instructor and I would encourage residents of all ages to book in on a training course during the summer!”

Sessions are held from 4pm to 8pm on Wednesdays at Jim Peters Stadium in Mayesbrook Park. You can receive one-to-one training from a qualified instructor in the following:

  • Basic cycle skills: Practice off-road and learn the basics. Improve your skills to cycle confidently through your local area.
  • Urban cycle skills: Practice off-road and then move on to quiet roads to refresh your cycling technique.
  • Advanced cycle skills: Learn how to improve your cycle skills at complex junctions, in heavy traffic or at night.

Why not arrange your first session for free today?

Contact Vandome Cycles by email: info@vandomecycles.co.uk or call 020 8220 3075.

Member Champion for Climate Change Update

The following update was delivered at Full Assembly on 30 September 2020.

Climate change and wider environmental issues such as biodiversity loss and air quality are my passions, and in the short space of four months I have already started to work on some exciting projects across the borough, which I look forward to updating colleagues on throughout the coming year as things take shape.

Often when people think of climate change and the environment, they think of fossil fuels, trees, wildlife, pollinators etc. all crucial things to consider, but actually it goes wider and is more deep rooted into our everyday lives than that.

It’s the developments we build, it’s the products we buy, the way we travel and the things we eat.

Historically when people think of Barking and Dagenham they think of Ford and industry, but in the future, I want to see the Leader’s vision realised where our borough is seen as ‘the green capital of the capital’.

This isn’t without it’s challenges.

Something which is often missing from the climate change debate is how its impacts will disproportionately affect traditional working class communities such as those in Barking and Dagenham,

Yet our communities are often hard pushed to adapt, especially after a decade of Tory cuts to local government budgets, public spending, and support for those that need it most.

It’s hard to shop ethically when you’re trying to provide for your family on a shoestring, and it’s hard to justify and find the time to visit Britain’s national parks with so many other pressures.

That is why as a local authority we have to look at an ethos from the past to improve our future – before the 1840’s there were no public parks in Britain. The Victorians introduced the idea of bringing the countryside to the city – encouraging communities to enjoy and feel a sense of ownership over the outdoors.

In the coming months I will be working on a number of comms projects that seek to engage and empower our residents to explore and enjoy our parks and open spaces. I have also been in touch with some of our neighbours to look at best practice on how we establish active ‘friends groups’ which will seek to educate and instil in our residents a greater sense of ownership over their local parks and nature reserves.

In addition to this I am liaising with colleagues in BeFirst about increased cycle infrastructure. Making the most of new funding streams available due to the pandemic. Trying to pull something positive out of these difficult times.

I’ve been building relationships with our Ranger Service, horticultural teams and external partners to help increase canopy cover which will deliver a wide range of benefits to our residents.

Next month I’ll be on site with the cosy homes team, safety guidelines permitting, to see the invaluable work they are doing to retrofit and insulate homes across the borough – as around 30-40% of carbon emissions come from the built environment nationally.

Lots of this work has already been set in motion by Cllrs Ashraf and Geddes – for example the Gascoigne regeneration project is now seen as a benchmark for sustainable development, and the Wild and Free in LBBD project has already seen local families venturing into our parks in greater numbers.

With that – I’m really excited to see what achievements we can make together in the coming year.

Thank you.