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Coming soon: a summit for sorting out Eastbourne’s transport issues

Eastbourne ECO Action Network (EEAN) is organising a SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT & ACTIVE TRAVEL SUMMIT at the Welcome Building, Eastbourne on Friday 17th November 2023. It will be a follow-up to the successful Sustainable Business & Solar Summit last year, which brought together solar and renewable energy experts, manufacturers, installers, landlords and financiers to explore ways of expanding solar power in the UK’s sunniest town.

 

  Why Transport? Our transportation systems, dependent as they are on vehicles running on imported fossil fuels, are a highly significant component of ongoing damage to the earth’s life-support systems. A wealth of evidence suggests that current levels of road transport also undermine people’s health and well-being through pollution, congestion, collisions and by eroding social connections. UN Secretary General António Guterres summed up the situation in 2021:
“Transport is fundamental to implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. We are already close to the 1.5°C upper limit agreed in Paris. The door is closing for action on climate, nature and pollution. We must act together, smartly, and quickly, to make the next nine years count. Transport, which accounts for more than one quarter of global greenhouse gases, is key to getting on track. We must decarbonize all means of transport in order to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 globally. We know how to make this happen. First, we must accelerate the decarbonization of the entire transport sector.”
Here in Eastbourne, the largest town in East Sussex, with more than 100,000 residents, the local authorities have made various commitments. Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) have pledged to achieve a carbon neutral town by 2030 (transport accounts for about a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions). The East Sussex Local Transport Plan runs up to 2026 and seeks to improve sustainable transport, while the Transport Strategy for the South East seeks to refocus its approach from “planning for vehicles” to “planning for people” and “for places”. However, progress has been agonisingly slow. As a report by AECOM put it in 2019 “Eastbourne has experienced a significant increase in highway congestion in recent years. All strategic highway routes to/from Eastbourne are very congested at weekday peak times.” Many recent planning documents talk confidently of a 10% “modal shift” from cars to bus, bicycles and walking. Achieving this would, however, require a massive increase (well over 100%) in cycle and bus use. Last year East Sussex County Council was rated among the poorer performing local transport authorities in England in terms of delivering the government’s objective of ensuring 50% of trips in England’s towns and cities are walked, wheeled or cycled by 2030. The key question is: how can the transport system in and around Eastbourne be made more attractive, efficient and sustainable without undermining the economy and causing undue disruption to locals and visitors? The Sustainable Transport & Active Travel Summit, organised by EEAN, EBC, and Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, will explore these themes by bringing together a range of expert speakers and exhibitors – from companies running electric buses, to pioneers in cargo-bikes for “last mile” deliveries, designers of cycle infrastructure and leafy public spaces to purveyors of car clubs and solar-powered car-park canopies. There will be panel discussions, video presentations and lots of networking opportunities. The audience will include elected representatives, businesses, community groups, transport planners and local institutions from schools and colleges to the NHS. This blog post was written by Robert McGowan, a director of the Eastbourne Eco Action Network CIC. 

The importance of ‘Right Tree, Right Place’

Our guest blogger for this week is Sarah Brotherton from Wild Bourne, the newest working group within the Eastbourne Eco Action Network:

 

One of the ways in which we can tackle the climate crisis is through tree planting. However, this may not be as simple as it seems, it is certainly not a quick solution, and it is definitely not a substitute for reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.

Why are trees and woodlands so important in tackling the climate crisis? Because they store carbon within their structures, or biomass as it is technically referred to. However, it is worth pointing out that equal or even greater amounts of carbon are stored in woodland soils, so it is not just the tree it is what is below the tree that is also important. while woodland soils store substantial amounts of carbon, many grassland soils, particularly those of wet grasslands, and other wetland habitats store vastly more carbon than woodland soils1. Which is good to know, because although Eastbourne does not have a lot of tree cover, especially as woodland, it has large areas of wet grassland in the form of grazing marsh in the Eastbourne Park and Eastbourne levels areas.

East Sussex is one of the most wooded counties in England, with 17% woodland cover compared to the national average of 12.5%. But if you live in Eastbourne, that might seem a stretch to imagine given that Eastbourne and much of the surrounding landscape are not very wooded. That is because the bulk of woodland in the county is within the High Weald, north of Horam, which is in fact the most woodland landscape in the whole of England.

So, does this mean lots of tree planting should be happening in and around Eastbourne? Well, this is actually quite a complex question. Eastbourne has a completely different underlying geology to the High Weald, which has led to a different historical land use, and that in turn has led to the development of very different, but no less important habitats, which is why the landscape around Eastbourne and the Downs at this Eastern end are characteristically different from the low and high Weald of Sussex. Take the chalk grassland on Eastbourne’s doorstep on the Downs. This is an internationally rare habitat, with 80% of the original extent of chalk grassland lost since WWII. Much of the loss in the last 80 years has been to arable conversion on the dip slopes and spreading secondary woodland on the scarp slopes. Secondary woodland is tree and shrub cover that has naturally regenerated because of extensification – the opposite of agricultural intensification – the land is no longer actively managed.

The South Downs National Park Authority in conjunction with Sussex Nature Partnership have produced an ArcGIS map which helps to sense check potential sites across both East and West Sussex, and the full extent of the South Downs National Park for woodland creation. This map draws on national and local data and is the best woodland opportunity mapping tool we have because it has been developed specifically to be used locally. It removes areas not suitable for woodland creation that are often other important habitats, it then weighs both positive and negative factors of the remaining areas across the counties to give one of three scores depending on how sensitive (suitable) the area is for tree planting. The one down side to this excellent tool is that is cannot be used to ascertain suitability for urban tree planting, as urban areas are screened out.

Image source: Mapping Woodland Opportunity in Sussex and the South Downs National Park Technical report, 2022

The map can be found by clicking on the link below. There is a storymap element which explains how the maps work, but if you scroll to the bottom there is an interactive map, which is zoomable:

Sussex and South Downs Woodland Opportunity Mapping (arcgis.com)

This mapping work suggests there is not a great deal of opportunity for woodland creation around Eastbourne. But that is OK, because Eastbourne has other naturally occurring habitats that are just as important if not more important in the fight against climate change. And anyway, the rest of Sussex, and in particular the High Weald AONB holds a place for us with its woodland cover, the same way that the Downs holds chalk grassland for the rest of Sussex. It is a reminder that looking after and restoring all habitats for biodiversity and for us is important, including for future generations, regardless of where those habitats are found.

1 R Gregg, J. L. Elias, I Alonso, I.E. Crosher and P Muto and M.D. Morecroft (2021) Carbon storage and sequestration by habitat: a review of the evidence (second edition) Natural England Research Report NERR094. Natural England, York

Eastbourne Carbon Neutral 2030 Gathering: a short summary

 

March 15th was a significant day in the Eastbourne Carbon Neutral 2030 (ECN2030) campaign, as it was the first chance  for over two years for the many groups and organisations within the campaign to get together again in person to share their progress and their challenges since the campaign was launched back in January 2020. The gathering was co-sponsored by Energise Sussex Coast and the Warm This Winter coalition. The venue, Eastbourne Town Hall, was offered free of charge by Eastbourne Borough Council, together with substantial logistical support from the town hall staff, who did so much to ensure that the event was a success.

The gathering featured updates from many of the campaign’s members, some of them including slideshow presentations. First up was Andrew Durling, Executive Director of the Eastbourne Eco Action Network CIC (EEAN CIC), which organised the gathering. He delivered a welcome speech that set the context for the campaign, explained what its 2030 target meant in terms of actual carbon emissions reduction, and reported on some of the recent activities of the EEAN CIC which have facilitated the campaign. He also briefly introduced the One Planet Eastbourne platform that is being developed to help map the entire ECN2030 campaign in a visual, interactive way that incorporates as much monitoring data as possible to track progress of the campaign.

Many updates were given by most of the key initiatives within the ECN2030 campaign, and some of them included extensive and well-prepared slideshow presentations. These slideshows can be seen by clicking on these links below:

Treebourne

EcoTransport Group

Energy & Housing Group

Eastbourne Borough Council

Energise Sussex Coast

Other groups that gave updates were: EcoEd2030, Plastic Free Eastbourne, Eastbourne Jubilee Green Canopy, and Wild Bourne.

Here is a screenshot from Energise Sussex Coast’s presentation, which featured a briefing about the Energy Champions scheme that will be rolled out across Eastbourne during 2023 with the assistance of the EEAN CIC:

If you wish to train to become an Energy Champion, please contact kate@energisesussexcoast.co.uk or andy@ecoactioneb.co.uk

The updates given clearly illustrated the depth and breadth of the ECN2030 campaign and the large number of local volunteers giving so much of their time and energy to taking real action to ensure that the campaign make real progress whilst simultaneously improving the quality of life, and the health of the local environment, within the town at the same time.

The EEAN CIC intends to organise further ECN2030 Gatherings at regular intervals, hopefully every three months, in order to keep the momentum going for networking within the ECN2030 campaign and to showcase even more of the projects and initiatives within the campaign. Making Eastbourne a town that does its fair share of reducing its carbon emissions as well as learning to live within the ecological boundaries of our one and only livable planet is an ambitious and worthy goal that requires the whole of our community to come together and collaborate to achieve it. The ECN2030 Gathering on March 15th will hopefully be seen as an important step in facilitating that collaboration.

 

Solar Together for Eastbourne residents

If you are planning to install solar panels, or add battery storage to an existing system, then the Solar Together group buying scheme is a great way to get going. 

Solar Together has been running for over six years in the UK and has delivered over 14,000 solar installations. It’s like an auction in reverse. You don’t have to rush around getting lots of quotes, you just need to register your interest. Approved installers are invited to bid for work in a geographic location. The quantity and concentration of installations in a confined area, means greater efficiency for the installers and lower prices for you. The installer with the most competitive bid will win the work.

The current scheme is open to Eastbourne Borough and Lewes district residents, but you must register by Friday 21 April 2023.

It is free to register and there is no obligation to buy.

Find out more on the Eastbourne Borough Council website.

Solar Together logo. Words 'Solar Together' on a green heart with the top left corner replaced by a shining sun.

Welcome speech at ECN2030 Gathering

On the evening of Wednesday 15th March 2023, at Eastbourne Town Hall, there was a gathering of many of the organisations involved in the Eastbourne Carbon Neutral 2030 campaign. The event was opened with a welcome speech from Andrew Durling, the Executive Director of the Eastbourne Eco Action Network CIC:

 

Welcome everybody and thank you so much for coming along this evening. It’s so good to see you all. I do hope you find this evening both productive and enjoyable. My thanks go to Eastbourne Borough Council, and Councillor James Murray in particular, as well as the town hall staff, for helping to set up this evening, and to Energise Sussex Coast for co-hosting and co-sponsoring this gathering. My gratitude also goes to Miles Berkely, my predecessor as Executive Director of the Eastbourne Eco Action Network Community Interest Company (EEAN CIC), who did so much to help lay firm foundations for the CIC and for the development of the Eastbourne Carbon Neutral 2030 Campaign (ECN2030) generally. I also want to thank Pauline von Hellerman and Adam Rose for their great contributions whilst they were fellow directors of the EEAN CIC, during which time we all worked together to help lay the foundations for new, independently constituted groups, such as EcoEd2030 and Treebourne.

Also, on behalf of the EEAN CIC, I want to thank you all for the hard work and dedication you have shown in the ECN2030 campaign so far. You have all done amazing things and I know that you will do even more amazing things over the coming years. I look forward to hearing tonight about some of the inspiring projects and the achievements of the various groups and partners within the ECN2030 campaign. However, not every single group and partner in the ECN2030 campaign is represented tonight. To have updates from them all would take too long. But I do hope that this gathering tonight is just the first of regular such gatherings from now on, and that each time we can highlight different aspects of the strategy and the work of any groups and partners not able to be here tonight.

To put the ECN2030 strategy into context, it aims to reduce the carbon emissions of the borough as much as possible by 2030, with whatever emissions still occurring in 2030 offset by carbon capture of those emissions (such as by planting trees), ideally all within the borough itself, creating a Net Zero result. It is a highly ambitious target, but it reflects the fierce urgency of the Climate Emergency we are now well into. The 2030 target was unanimously agreed by all borough councillors in 2019, so there is a settled political consensus around it, backed up by the enthusiastic participation of many volunteers from across the local community in the campaign to try and reach the target. The EEAN CIC was established in September 2019 as a social enterprise dedicated to facilitating the ECN2030 campaign in any way possible and has developed strong working relationships with Eastbourne Borough Council, local community groups, and local businesses to support cross-community collaboration within the campaign.

But what is the scale of the challenge? The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Manchester says that, in order for Eastbourne to do its fair share under the UN Paris Agreement, then it should achieve an 82% reduction of emissions relative to the 2015 baseline for the borough. By my calculation that equates to a total of emissions in 2030 of just 64 ktCo2. To put that in perspective, the borough’s emissions in 2020 were 276 ktCO2.

But reducing the borough’s emissions has to be done sustainably, as part of an overall strategy to create a truly sustainable town that lives within the ecological boundaries of our one planet. UK emissions fell significantly in 2020, but primarily because of the pandemic lockdown. But that fall could not be sustained because lockdown had to end at some point in order to get the economy going again. A truly sustainable reduction requires systemic, enduring  change across all sectors of the local economy, and in all aspects of our own lifestyles, so that we end up with a town in 2030 where the quality of life is such that it is an even better place to live and work in than in 2020. We can call that a One Planet Eastbourne.

An interactive mindmap of One Planet Eastbourne can be found on a new Community Ecosystem platform on OnePlanet.com that the EEAN CIC has created, and I invite everybody to have a look at it and see what they think. I hope some of you tonight may be interested in becoming part of the team that develops this platform and also provides support for any community group or business that wishes to create its own sustainability plan and connect it to this new platform. In that way we can create a visually engaging, interactive map of all the actions being undertaken within the ECN2030 campaign, joining up all the dots to see where the challenges and opportunities are for scaling up collaboration across the campaign, as well as monitoring the progress made.

The EEAN CIC collaborated intensively with Eastbourne Borough Council and the Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce to mount a Sustainable Business & Solar Summit at the Welcome Building last November, which was adjudged a great success by most who attended, forging much closer links between local businesses, councillors, and community energy cooperatives, as well as creating a much greater awareness of the huge potential for renewable energy installations and energy efficiency retrofits throughout Eastbourne, which would result in significant savings on energy bills, make warmer homes, and create more green jobs. Similar summits are now planned for each year of the ECN2030 campaign. I would like to thank my fellow directors, Jill Shacklock and Rob McGowan, in particular for the huge amount of work they put into organising the summit.

Finally, the EEAN CIC has entered into a long-term partnership with the Eastbourne Climate Coalition to develop a Climate Hub for Eastbourne, which will facilitate positive engagement with the local community about how they can become involved in creating a more sustainable and resilient zero carbon town and how they can make changes in their own lives that fit in with One Planet Living as well as increasing their quality of life at the same time. Two pop-up hubs last year  – at the E-Festival and in the Beacon shopping centre – have already taken place, their success proving that the Climate Hub concept can work, thanks to the commitment and creativity of so many local volunteers and community groups.

 

The following groups made slideshow presentations during the gathering, which can be accessed in the links below:

Treebourne

EcoTransport Group

Energy & Housing Group

Eastbourne Borough Council

Energise Sussex Coast

 

Come Back To Eurostar

EUROSTAR – THE GREENER OPTION!

 

In the month, when train fares increased a record 5.9%, the Government is failing to support direct train services from the south coast to the continent. Not helped by the ongoing indecision around an upgrade to the line and rolling stock, from Hastings to the downgraded Ashford (International).

Diesel Units from Eastbourne to Ashford (International)

Meanwhile on the continent there has been a big move from short distance flights to train travel – including through a growing number of cheap sleeper services to major European destinations. The UK is simply falling behind.

Continuing absence of international rail connections between the two counties and the continent (Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam) and growing pressure for capacity increases at Gatwick Airport (2nd runway), sit uncomfortably together in the context of supposed commitment to sustainable, low carbon transport choices.

We know that Eurostar is having to operate services from London, St Pancras with empty seats due to increased time needed for passport formalities post Brexit, and the need for punctual departures. This may have marginalised the business case for Ashford International stops. We also know that Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper, MP, visited his French counterpart, Clément Beaune, to discuss eliminating border related issues such as queues at London and Paris terminals. That might help bring back Ashford services – we await results.

We are sure that restoration of international services to/from the important rail hub of Ashford presents significant opportunities for travellers both to and from the near continent and would do a great deal to promote currently bypassed but outstanding tourism offer of Kent and East Sussex – without creating more road traffic: our MPs and Local Authorities should wake up and shout about this!

It is worth noting that pre-Brexit, and pre-pandemic, Eurostar had captured from the airlines 80% or more of the market for travel between London and Paris/Brussels*. If Mark Harper succeeds with his French opposite number in removing admin bottlenecks, then new, already planned services to Geneva/Bordeaux/ Frankfurt could follow, further reducing volumes of air traffic.

In conclusion: the neglect of greener travel options is in sharp contrast to the support for more destructive, costly roads – and Gatwick’s second runway.

The climate wins; we all win.

Derrick Coffee

*Source: Eurotunnel, 2019.

Mapping wildlife habitats in and around Eastbourne

This blog post is by Sarah Brotherton, a member of Wild Bourne, a new nature conservation group within the Eastbourne Eco Action Network:

 

Eastbourne is known as seaside town, and the eastern entry point to the South Downs National Park. On one side Eastbourne has the chalk grasslands of the Downs, one of the most species diverse habitats in England. And, on the other side, the wetlands of the Eastbourne and Pevensey levels. Wetlands being globally the most valuable habitats for the services they provide to us – known as ecosystem services.

There is probably far more variety of wildlife habitats than you realised in and around Eastbourne, including: good quality semi-improved grassland, chalk grassland, lowland meadows, lowland heathland, coastal and floodplain grassland, traditional orchards, ancient semi-natural woodland, lowland fens, reedbeds, deciduous woodland, and marine cliffs and slopes. Many important habitats are already mapped, especially those referred to as ‘priority’ habitats. These are considered to be the most threatened habitats, and often requiring appropriate management to restore and enhance them. An easy way to get to grips with the types of habitats in and surrounding Eastbourne, is to look on at the publicly available habitat mapping data provided by Defra (department for environment, food and rural affairs) MAGIC (defra.gov.uk) As an ecologist, the first thing I always do when asked about a particular site is to check these maps and find out, which if any priority habitats are at a particular site.

The map below shows many, but not all, of the priority habitats in and around Eastbourne. Each colour is a different habitat type. For example, the blue is grazing marsh – and that is why it is found around the wetlands of Eastbourne levels and Cuckmere Haven area. The Khaki colour is chalk (calcareous) grassland, naturally this is found on the chalk downland to the west of Eastbourne.

It is worth noting that, there are many important sites that are not on ‘priority’ habitat maps, therefore it is best to treat this data as indicative only, but it certainly gives a good overview. The map also does not indicate the condition of the habitat. Some sites may be thriving habitats, whilst other sites may be in desperate need of appropriate management to restore them back to a good condition.

Priority habitats are different however from statutory protection. There can often be some overlap, but many many priority habitat sites have no legal protection. In and around Eastbourne, there are a couple of national nature reserves – Lullington heath, and the Pevensey levels, and a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) surrounding Eastbourne. SSSI sites have the highest level of national protection, and generally best represent our national heritage either in flora and fauna or geology. This includes the chalk grassland at Willingdon Down found on the Downs behind Willingdon village, and the chalk cliffs which start at the Meads end of the town. Some of the SSSIs are in good condition, whilst others are sadly in a declining in condition, and need urgent appropriate management to help restore them back to the highly valuable habitat they are. This unfortunately includes much of the chalk grassland on the Downs directly above Meads. Whilst the Pevensey levels are generally regarded to be recovering back to good condition.

Statutory sites are also mapped and publicly available from Defra Magic Map Application (defra.gov.uk), and the maps can be used very quickly to assess whether a site has any protection and often what condition the site it is in. The map below shows a variety of conservation designations, from the turquoise stripes of SSSI sites, to the lime green national nature reserves. Of course, every site that should be protected isn’t, and if you compare this map to the one above, you will immediately see quite the discrepancy in priority habitat sites and actual protected sites. But this does not mean these sites are any less valuable for the wildlife that lives there.

If you have the time, I encourage anyone interested to take a look at these maps if not already familiar with them. They are a great resource that are used by professional ecologists and conservationists all the time, and luckily happen to be available to all.

Gatwick Airport Expansion Plans

Speech at Eastbourne Borough Full Council Meeting

Background:

Gatwick airport have requested Eastbourne Council’s support for their plans to expand the airport capacity from 46 to 80 million passengers a year. Eastbourne’s Scrutiny Committee met with representative of Gatwick Airport to question them over their plans.

The Recommendation of the Scrutiny Committee to the Full Council was as follows:

1. Makes any support for Gatwick Airport’s Northern Runway Project conditional on Gatwick Airport’s production and pursuit of a credible plan, in partnership with its Scope 3 stakeholders, to work towards carbon neutrality across its Scope 3 emissions by 2030.

2. Calls on any Government to mandate a faster transition to low-carbon aircraft fuels, and to provide meaningful support to the fuel industry, airlines, manufacturers and other aviation industry stakeholders to achieve this.

Speech by David Everson: Chair EEAN Transport Group to the Full Council

The Scrutiny Committee propose you let the airlines and Gatwick airport  work towards carbon neutrality by 2030 and that you encourage government to support a faster transition to sustainable flying.

On the Gatwick Website it states that the UK Sustainable Aviation Industry has a road map for net zero by 2050 not 2030!

The government’s own official advisor, the Climate Change Commission, has stated ‘that the 6th Carbon Budget set for the government will be breached if net airport expansion is not significantly constrained.’

What is special about the 6th Carbon Budget? It covers the period 2033 -2037. Why will the Carbon budget be breached? Because for the first time the UK will have to start to include all the CO2e emitted by international flights leaving the UK.

The Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, this month, published the UK’s Greenhouse gases emissions. It showed that the UK produced 427 million tonnes of CO2e, of this the airline industry was responsible for about 2% of the emissions due primarily to domestic flights.

It is important to note these figures do not include any international aviation emissions for flights leaving the UK. If they were, it would add another 37M tonnes of CO2e to the total, this would bring the total figure for aviation to a staggering 10% of all the UK’s annual emissions.

So the CCC are saying to the Government do not allow airports to expand if you want to meet your Carbon budget.

What about improvements to make the aviation industry more sustainable

Sustainable fuel for example.. – At the World Economic Forum in Davos January this year, the corporate signatories of ‘Clean Skies for Tomorrow’ pledged to…… ‘achieve sustainable aviation fuel blend of 10% in global jet fuel supply by 2030. … That means by 2030 – 90% of aviation fuel will still be  fossil fuels!

The International Energy Authority (IEA) commented in Sept 2022 – ‘renewable synthetic Kerosene is relatively far from commercialisation’

What about improved Aircraft Design

The International Energy Authority (IEA) in Sept 22 talks about better aircraft designs reducing GHG emissions but state… ‘New aircraft are more efficient – but this has been insufficient to keep up with growth demand’.

What about Economics

I think the expansion of Gatwick airport will harm Eastbourne’s economy by allowing more Brits to travel abroad rather than staying in the UK to holiday.

Summary

I ask you to publicly and strongly reject Gatwick’s request to support their expansion. To do otherwise would make your declaration of Carbon Neutral 2030 a sham!

The Aviation Industry is not sustainable and will not be for at least a quarter of a century.

David Everson: Chair EEAN Transport Group to the Full Council