County Hall rolls out environment plans across Essex

The UK’s first Electric Forecourt adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A131.

The UK’s first Electric Forecourt adjacent to Great Notley, just off the A131. Picture: GRIDSERVE / GILES CHISTOPHER - Credit: Giles Christopher

Ambitious plans for an additional 50,000 trees, more electric vehicle charging stations and countywide energy-saving LED street lighting have been given the green light.

Essex County Council's 2021/22 Budget and 12-month Organisation Plan includes £26.8 million investment in LED streetlighting and £7.3 million for greener, safer Active Travel.

In 2019 Innovate UK awarded Essex County Council, Gridserve, Brunel University and Upside Energy £5.3m to develop and deliver UK’s first electric forecourt at Great Notley. The forecourt, which includes 24 EV charging bays, on-site battery storage and a solar power canopy, opened in December 2020.

The council has committed to support funding to plant 375,000 trees by 2025 as part of the Essex Forest Initiative to offset carbon emissions. Two years ago, it planned to spend £1 million with partners over five years for the Essex Forest project. In 2019/20 ECC worked with partners to plant 36,000 trees with a further 50,000 are set to be planted this year.

Mass tree planting of this scale helps to reduce the effects of climate change while improving local air quality, encouraging biodiversity and reducing the risk of flooding.

Following the upgrade of 42,000 main road streetlights across the county already, a large portion of the remaining 85,000 lights will be converted to LED bulbs in 2021/22, which use 60 per cent less energy.

A further £7.3 million has been allocated for the Active Travel Fund to develop, design and build cycling and walking routes and a further £1m will be invested to improve existing cycleways in the county’s towns, with funding helping to upgrade, repair and improve existing routes.

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Cabinet member for the environment and climate change action, Cllr Simon Walsh, said: “Supporting measures that champion the environment and benefit sustainability are vitally important and we have some very exciting initiatives being rolled out in Essex.

"The electric vehicle strategy, Essex Forest Initiative and our streetlighting upgrade to LEDs will see huge future benefits for carbon offset and energy efficiency savings. Planting thousands of trees this year will also improve local air quality for our local communities.”