CEEAC are asked to discuss the options detailed in the Domestic Retrofit report and provide guidance to officers over which options should be prioritised for further detailed investigation.
Jessie Fieth, Senior Climate Action Officer, introduced the report on Domestic Retrofit for South and Vale and the challenges faced, noting the limited power that the district council had in this matter. However, that did not stop the council from encouraging its progression. The officer provided some slides to the committee with some facts and figures. There were five themes in the paper, containing actions that can be taken. Committee was asked to give further comments and steer to the climate team by 23 January 2023.
Three ways were presented by which actions will be taken in this process.
1) Quick wins
2) Further research/ resources
3) Wider Partnerships
Members discussed what was presented to them. Overall, members agreed that this was a useful report and thanked the officer, noting that there was overlap in work at district and county level.
It was suggested that information could be added to the council tax pack regarding the “Quick Wins.” Officer replied that currently it was unknown if that could be done, but she would report back.
It was suggested that Theme 4 should be a priority as it was a power that the council had (planning), and we should do what we can.
Other ideas raised included:
A member felt that the council had lost 9 years of retrofitting homes across the district and the council will need to retrofit 9000 houses a year in South Oxfordshire to be carbon neutral by 2030. Raised ideas about a “retrofit unit” and asked whether the plan had included the Flexible Home Improvement Loan as there was no link. Officer had included the loan and will work on fixing the link issue.
An opinion was provided that training and advising for the retrofitting process should be a position created, enabling people to have their homes assessed.
The plan’s rental property focus was approved of. There was a need to support people retrofitting old buildings / listed buildings and support them with knowledge of local planning procedure. A link was asked for on the South Cambridgeshire retrofit policy, as an example of good practice, and was provided after the meeting:
South Cambridgeshire’s local plan ‘Policy NH/15: Heritage Assets and Adapting to Climate Change’ on page 129.’
Communication was emphasised and the need to communicate on every level, not just social media. The idea of thermal imaging was suggested. A view was given that retrofitting was a responsibility for all of us.
Highlighting how retrofitting will eventually become a huge market, it was suggested that there was a need to encourage people to work with the council.
Some positive responses had been received from people regarding information sent out from the website. The main issue that was noticed was how people were struggling to get things fitted, e.g., solar panels, due to the inconsistency of installers. Struggling to find workers to do the work.
A member mentioned changing technology - solar sheeting, and how it was replacing solar panels due to it being lighter. It was less likely to need the roof to be adapted too. It was important for the committee to keep up to date with new technology.
A point was raised that people needed to have an understanding of what to install and when, as retrofitting a home can be a lengthy process, and people may be unsure of what work to carry out first in terms of efficiency, financing, how various works link to each other etc. Potential need for more workers and facilities to ensure people were able to get their houses surveyed.
On the booking of the council’s two infra-red cameras, the climate action team had taken over the process of booking them, so contact Jessie Fieth to attain them. They were currently booked. There were specific conditions the cameras need to work efficiently, mainly in the cold winter months.
Committee acknowledged that our demands were outstripping supply, and there was potential for a market to grow. Retrofit advisors / coordinators were a needed resource, with the council being a trusted body, could help provide this.
Identified the need for a variety of case studies regarding the scale of retrofitting both small and large, to avoid putting people off starting the process. Noted that the retrofitting process was expensive, both small and large.
Overall, members felt that the demand for such works meant that there would not be issues of competition with other companies, as the demand outweighed the providers current availability, particularly for advisory services, where the council would bring value. It was added that the council would need to be aware of what skills were available and the council wouldn’t have all of those. Working with housing associations should be a top priority.
The Senior Climate Action Officer thanked the members for their comments.