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Waverley Borough Council Meets Transition Towns

Following a meeting between Haslemere, Farnham and Godalming transition groups and Waverley Borough Council, Waverley arranged a ‘market stall’ event where the council’s various services departments could set out displays of their activities and answer questions. The transition groups were invited to do the same. The event took place from 6 to 9pm on Thursday 22 April.

Present for Waverley were heads of departments plus staff members, as well as strategic director Steve Thwaites and Councillor John Sandy who is responsible for environmental matters.

Clive Davidson and Adrian Wimbush attended for Haslemere. Farnham and Godalming transition groups, Greening Godalming and Friends of the Earth also attended.

The overall impression talking to Waverley people was that they are mostly aware of and understand the concept of sustainability, and in a number of cases are quite advanced in embedding it in their activities. Several staff spoke with considerable commitment and passion about their green efforts. For example, IT services have a programme of replacing their servers with more energy efficient devices and have developed a web conferencing platform aimed at reducing the need for council officials to travel to meetings.

Some departments are constrained by regulation as to what they can do in pursuing sustainable practice. Building services can only enforce the minimum regulations for energy efficiency in new buildings, but say they try to encourage builders to exceed these wherever possible.

Below, Finn Jackson of Transition Farnham gives more detail of Waverley actions on sustainability.

The event was about sharing information and getting to know one another. There was no formal goal for the event, but most participants seemed to find it positive and useful in that it increased our knowledge and mutual understanding of each other. No follow up has been planned as yet, but no doubt this will happen in due course. The event took place in the context of all levels of government having increasingly stringent carbon reduction targets. To meet the targets, Waverley will have to engage the community more fully in its efforts, which is where the link with our transition groups comes in. It is in all our interests for us to work together.

Finn Jackson, Farnham:

I didn’t manage to talk to everyone, but some of the things I picked up during the evening (and can still remember) are:

  • Waverley is going to install two recharging points for electric vehicles in Central Car Park in Farnham
  • They will also be introducing in June a pilot scheme for collecting household waste.
    (They will be taking it to Slyfield in Guildford to be composted instead of using anaerobic digestion to make natural gas from it, but that’s maybe something for the full scheme.) The pilot will run in Farnham, Godalming, Haslemere and Cranleigh
  • They are improving local democracy by screening videos of council meetings on the web
  • They will be introducing a local e-petition service so that, as we already can sign petitions to Number 10, we will be able to petition the council about issues we care about, and if enough people sign then the council will have to reply within a certain number of days
  • They are introducing an on-line business directory which is aimed at improving business to business trade within Waverley
  • The council buildings in Godalming already have solar panels heating all their hot water
  • They investigating/planning to install more on some of their outlying buildings, in some cases using the hot water to heat the (small) building as well
  • Waverley is the most wooded borough in the most wooded county in Britain. “We don’t want to plant any more trees — just leave a patch of land bare for a few years and trees will appear.” This means their focus is currently on removing trees to protect heathland, but it is good news when the time comes for us to grow trees for energy, and food.
  • They are already involving businesses in sponsoring events that promote and enhance community
  • They already run training schemes across the Borough that could be useful in re-skilling our population
  • And when I talked about having a local currency for Waverley, they didn’t run screaming from the building! (To me it would be stronger than a currency for a single town — and surely the reason Waverley exists as a Borough at all is because historically our towns and villages traded together and formed some kind of unit, separate from the towns around us?)

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