Investing in our environment is investing in our future. The Conservatives broke their promise to be the greenest government ever. Unlike the Conservatives who attempted to privatise our forests, Labour will renew and expand our local woodlands, which are the lungs of our communities and offer plenty of leisure opportunities.
Uttlesford’s landscape is largely taken up with arable farming. The woodland cover it possesses is small compared to other districts and comprised of small pockets of woodland, mostly privately owned but also including woods managed by charitable trusts. Small, isolated woodlands are unhelpful to biodiversity, especially if they are not managed for conservation objectives. The situation in some parts of the district is so bad that naturalists have described it as an “arable desert”, deficient in wildlife.
When open to the public, woodlands provide opportunities for leisure and learning. Well managed woods can boost local biodiversity, encouraging pollinators such as bees thereby helping farmers as well as increasing the range of fauna and flora that support the natural food chain. Woodlands growing native species on a coppice rotation can also provide carbon neutral biofuel, either used in wood burners or in electricity generation. Uttlesford Labour wants to encourage the development of woodlands with improved hedgerows to create wildlife corridors linking woods together.
We will also look at how woodlands can be exploited for commercial value, while simultaneously supporting biodiversity. Biomass systems that burn wood pellets, chips or logs to power central heating and hot water boilers could be installed in affordable homes in the planned garden communities. This would help residents save money, while revenue from the biomass would help sustain the cost of woodland management.
The Energy Saving Trust states: “The carbon dioxide emitted when wood is burned is the same amount that was absorbed over the months and years that the plant was growing. The process is sustainable if new plants continue to grow in place of those used for fuel. There are some carbon emissions caused by the cultivation, manufacture and transportation of the fuel, but as long as the fuel is sourced locally, these are much lower than the emissions from fossil fuels.”
We would look at tapping government facilities such as the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive and make community woodland management and biomass heating a target of the high yield portfolio in our district investment strategy.
Labour wants Uttlesford to go green and assist with transition to renewables in transport. We have an ambition to start the journey toward making UDC a leading Council in the uptake of electric vehicles, for example by supporting the installation of more charging points at major centres of employment and public facilities, rewarding the uptake of electric vehicles – such as through parking benefits and subsidised charging – and exploring other incentives including more renewable micro-generation of energy for vehicle charging. This will help make our district a cleaner place to live and reduce pollution in our congested town centres.