Building back greener, 11th November 2021
Before COVID-19 became a global preoccupation, the climate and ecological emergency was probably our biggest threat, and concern. Post-pandemic, it's in sharp focus again, as the COP26 summit has demonstrated during the past fortnight.
At Mendip, your Council agreed its priorities early in 2020, just before the first lockdown. We had three distinct ambitions: to make Mendip a fairer place; to deliver on our climate and ecological commitment; and to enhance our towns and rural communities.
These priorities remain, and are more vital than ever. We cannot ignore the urgent needs of the environment, yet we must find ways to help our economy recover. There's a tricky balance to be struck.
We want to see businesses grow and prosper, but in an energy-efficient way. We must help encourage important sectors such as tourism to develop sustainable accommodation, food and travel, including walking and cycling. And we need to get people back together, by improving the infrastructure of our village halls and community facilities in a 'green' way. We need these important local buildings to develop thriving hubs that support residents, NHS professionals and volunteers in our city, towns and villages.
Fortunately we have some exceptional opportunities in Mendip to use Government funding to help us achieve these aims. Take, as an example, the Glastonbury Town Deal - worth an eye watering £23.6 million. This 'once-in-a-lifetime' sum of money will be spent on twelve distinct projects in the town.
The projects being developed range from the restoration of former industrial buildings, to the development of a large-scale clean energy project that will create self-financing green jobs and enough energy to run additional projects. The opportunity for a park and ride using electric buses to move people around would obviously gain from home-generated energy. Other projects will create improved facilities in the town centre including a health and wellbeing hub in St Dunstan's House, better sports facilities at Tor Leisure, and a revamped visitor entrance to the Abbey Ruins.
These projects will generate opportunities for employment as well as improving the offer to residents and visitors. Any financial surpluses will stay within the town to help finance the needs of future generations of businesses and community facilities.
Under the Government's Levelling Up funds for Mendip we're working with our friends at Sedgemoor and at South Somerset District Council, on other innovative projects that will help us deliver on our priorities.
This is a time of recovery, of opportunity and renewal. We're not just building back, we're building back greener. I can assure you that your local Council is working super-hard to achieve the very best for this District, its people, and the planet.
65th column for Mid Somerset Series, 11th November 2021
Mendip Matters, written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council