The Local Climate Engagement Programme
In 2022, Essex County Council successfully applied to become part of the Local Climate Engagement Programme, working with Involve. It was one of only five local authorities to be selected from a pool of 75 applicants. The project aims to help develop strategies for greater depth of public participation in the Climate Focus Area (CFA) project.
The CFA will act as a demonstration site for Essex for best practices in sustainable land use management. The catchment areas surrounding the River Colne and the River Blackwater have been selected so a more focused effort can be made to combat climate change in Essex.
Involve is supporting town and parish councils and their stakeholders in Stisted, Tiptree and Wivenhoe to develop Local Nature Plans. Workshops have been held in each of the three areas to understand what local residents think about their local environment and what they believe their local town or parish council should prioritise to protect and enhance it.
The programme was open to all local authorities in England, including regional, city and borough councils. Essex County Council (ECC) is one of five successful applicants to be selected from a pool of 75.
Being a part of the LCE project group will enable ECC and the town and parish councils it is working with to include residents in climate decision-making. The project will focus on one of the recommendations of the Essex Climate Action Commission's 'Net Zero: Making Essex Carbon Neutral' report. The report recommends the creation of a Climate Focus Area (CFA), which will act as a demonstration site for best practices in sustainable land use management.
The catchment areas surrounding the River Colne and River Blackwater have been selected, so a more focused effort can be made to combat climate change in Essex through more ambitious and intensive action within shorter time frames.
The project with Involve will shape the decision-making process for the CFA, with the acquired new knowledge on public engagement used as a benchmark for the rest of Essex.
Through the LCE Programme, Essex County Council will receive training and project support and become part of a peer learning network with other local authorities focusing on public engagement in decision-making.
Cllr Peter Schwier, Essex County Council's Climate Czar, said: "It is our duty to improve our methods of engagement, conversation and decision-making with local communities at the heart – ensuring that the public can own climate decision-making, in turn enabling us to build a deeper understanding of local wants and needs. This also supports policy development more likely to achieve public support, building trust and achieving a fair and popular transition to net-zero."
To learn more about the programme, you can find further details on Involve's website, with most topics covered in their FAQs.
What is Involve?
Involve is one of the country's leading public participation organisations with vast experience in uniting people locally to revitalise democracy and improve decision-making.
The workshops will help ECC to understand what residents think about local nature and what they think local councils should prioritise to protect and enhance it.
The workshops will lead the design of a toolkit which will guide other town and parish councils in Essex to participate in the programme's national evaluation.
For more on Involve, please visit their website.
The purpose of the engagement workshops
We all rely on nature, such as forests, rivers, land and sea, to give us food and water and support our life, health and well-being. Nature also supports a wide economy, places for sports, our gardens and places to visit - and is part of the environment. Nature holds important 'natural assets' for our lives and our future.
Stisted, Tiptree and Wivenhoe councils are working with Essex County Council and Involve to find out what residents think and consider ways to improve and protect nature, wildlife and green spaces in their local area. The question is, how can we best look after local nature? What is most valuable to residents, and what should the town or parish focus on with their nature plans?
Why should this concern residents?
A lot is going on to support nature and biodiversity as part of our work across Essex to support our net zero and climate 'mitigation' targets. This project is about giving local residents more of a say in what happens locally – as local action also makes a difference in the big picture.