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Building back greener in North Ayrshire

Photo by Margot RICHARD on Unsplash

Background

North Ayrshire Council declared a ‘climate emergency’ back in 2019 and most recently set themselves the ambitious target of becoming net-carbon zero by 2030. They’ve recently launched a new Climate Strategy and signed an agreement with Scottish Enterprise and Peel Ports that will help drive forward their plans for both the blue and circular economy at key strategic site Hunterston.

Council Leader Joe Cullinane provides an overview and his determination to build back bigger, better and greener in his latest blog – read on below.

Building back greener in North Ayrshire

COP26 has focussed minds on the climate crisis and we can only hope that it will provide the catalyst for real and global change. That said, it would be wrong to say that no progress has been made in the decades that have preceded the first COP summit. But it’s clear that the scale and pace of the change have been nowhere near enough.

COP is our best, last chance to strike an international agreement that will secure a safe future for our planet. It must be a collective effort, with financial support for the global south to accelerate their development in a sustainable, green way. But whilst climate justice is an international cause, it can have local solutions. That’s why we, as a council, can lead locally and inspire those around us to make a change.

Here at North Ayrshire Council, we are moving fast. Every decision we make now is done through the climate change lens. We were one of the first local authorities in Scotland to recognise the challenge and declare a climate emergency, we are also the first in Scotland to be developing not one, but two council-owned solar farms, and have led the way for Scottish local authorities by creating a dedicated Investment Fund to support climate change initiatives, sustainable infrastructure investment and community wealth building.

Our most recent climate strategy was the boldest yet and takes account of emerging intelligence and new technology opportunities while providing a roadmap of actions to achieve net-zero carbon status across North Ayrshire by 2030. Our strategy contains seven workstreams, each with actions that have been developed into the roadmap towards reaching net-zero carbon status by 2030.

We know that to achieve real change, we can’t do it alone and it has to be a collective effort. We have tried to be as transparent as possible and want as many people as possible to join us on this important journey. When we launched our new strategy, we did so with an online event with over 3500 views.

We have also established a North Ayrshire-wide Climate Change Steering group to ensure North Ayrshire can achieve the net zero target and develop a leading approach to climate change for the whole area. The group brings together public sector partners – such as the NHS, Ayrshire College, Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue – as well as young people, local businesses and community organisations to share ideas, lessons learned and best practices from elsewhere in the UK – plus, support and challenge the implementation of the ESCCS 2021-2023.

We are looking at some significant strategic moves that will also help us embrace emerging and green technologies. Local people are aware of recent significant developments at Hunterston and the potential for hundreds of jobs to be created in new factories that produce high voltage direct current (HVDC) cables used in the subsea transmission of renewable energy. This is obviously subject to planning permission, but Hunterston remains a site of huge importance.

We recently signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with site owners Peel Ports and Scottish Enterprise which will drive forward the short, medium and long-term plans for a key part of the Hunterston PARC site. An initial focus for the partners will be developing a business incubator space within the existing buildings on the site, providing facilities for local firms to grow and collaborate. The ambition is to create a centre for innovation to support both the blue and circular economy, including research and development facilities.

The agreement sets out the roles of each of the organisations and how the partnership will secure further investment that will help stimulate development at the site. The development of Hunterston PARC – which is one of Scotland’s largest brownfield sites (320 acres) and its largest deepwater port – is a key site in the Ayrshire Growth Deal (AGD) to which the UK Government has committed £18m over a ten-year period.

While this funding is welcome, we hope to accelerate project activity and secure the AGD funding earlier than anticipated and then utilise this as leverage in additional investments that can realise the economic potential of the area.

Peel Ports has produced a development framework, with input from partner organisations, which is currently out for consultation with the community. We are excited by these plans and look forward to investing in new technologies. As always, we will continue to be bold and brave and will continue leading the climate agenda here in North Ayrshire.

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