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Maidstone council will not hit its 2030 net carbon zero targets

A borough is set to miss its net zero targets, in part due to delays in phasing out petrol cars.

That was the warning from Cllr Paul Harper (Fant and Oakwood Ind), speaking at Maidstone council’s latest review of progress.

Cllr Paul Harper warns that targets will be missed
Cllr Paul Harper warns that targets will be missed

In 2020, the authority set a goal of becoming a net zero district by 2030. But with transport accounting for 52% of its CO₂ emissions, the switch to electric vehicles is a must to meet the target.

But Cllr Harper said: “With the national policy that petrol cars can still be sold up to 2035, that is unlikely to be met.”

The borough is doing what it can to encourage the switch-over by providing more EV public charging points – there are currently 66 in Maidstone.

That equates to 37 EV charging points for every 100,000 residents – a long way behind Dartford, for example, which already has 74 EV charge points per 100,000 people.

The national zero-emission targets requires 80% of new cars and 70% of new vans sold in England to be electric by 2030, but Maidstone has calculated it will then need 1,377 public EV charging points – 21 times as many as it has now.

Maidstone needs 21 times the number of public EV charging points
Maidstone needs 21 times the number of public EV charging points

The second largest emission source in the borough is from domestic electricity and gas consumption. They account for 32% of total CO2 emissions in Maidstone.

The borough would like to encourage everyone to switch to heat pumps, but has estimated the average cost of conversion to be £23,400 per house.

The council has moved away from the scattergun approach of its first carbon-reduction plan, which had included 38 actions, to a more narrow approach concentrating on five key areas.

They are: net zero housing, sustainable integrated yransport, developing a borough-wide EV strategy, maximising renewable energy, and creating a planning policy framework for solar farms in its Local Plan. For net zero housing, it is appointing a new energy officer who among other things will explore funding to encourage heating pump and solar panel installation.

On transport, it proposes to hold an “innovation workshop” to explore ideas, as well as a focus group to look specifically at bus services.

Maidstone House urgently needs a retro-fit
Maidstone House urgently needs a retro-fit

On EV strategy, it will investigate ways of providing charging stations through the town’s street lighting system and, to maximise renewable energy, it will concentrate on provision on its own buildings.

To that end, it has submitted a bid to the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) for a £3.1m grant to retro-fit Maidstone House with a new heating system, window glazing, LED lights and solar panels.

Maidstone House accounts for 17.6% of the council’s own carbon emissions.

The borough’s biggest polluter is the Maidstone Leisure Centre, accounting for 51% of the council’s emissions.

Maidstone has already set aside £2.5m for a renovation of the centre, aimed principally at making it more energy efficient, while the council has also allocated £60m in its long-term capital fund to provide a replacement – more efficient – leisure centre.

Maidstone Leisure Centre is the town’s main polluter
Maidstone Leisure Centre is the town’s main polluter

On solar farms, the council will look at allocating land specifically for those in its next Local Plan review.

Cllr Harper said the plan had “lots of good aspirations” but was not going to achieve its target by 2030.

He said: “To get where we want to be is a massive change. We said the same thing about a sustainable integrated transport strategy four years ago – we seem to be moving at a very slow rate.”

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