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I, like many of you, am very much aware of how our daily activities can impact on the environment.

As a local Councillor and Portfolio Holder for Housing for the District Council I am also very much aware of how rising energy costs are impacting residents of our district.

In October 2021, the council declared a climate change and nature emergency and commenced work to produce a detailed action plan of sustainable projects and initiatives across the council's functions and responsibilities.

At the time the Leader of the Council, Cllr Edward Heron, said: "In itself, declaring a climate emergency does nothing, it's what you then do. But this is a clear signal that we consider it of such importance that we will be building on the climate change actions already underway and taking a more fundamental look at our activities, with the target of reducing carbon emissions along with an ambitious action plan being put in place to measure annual district-wide progress."

The council, at its meeting in February 2022, approved a detailed climate change and nature emergency action plan.

As a council comprising over 82,000 homes, we have begun to review the district wide impact of our carbon emissions and activities on the wider natural environment, particularly as we live in an area where our biodiversity, ecosystems and natural environment is so important to the prosperity of the thousands of species that inhabit the national park.

The incoming tourism our wonderful area attracts, creates many greener opportunities than potential negative effects and barriers, and we must understand how we can inform and encourage our residents to collectively contribute to a greener and healthier New Forest District. I am keen for this Greener Housing Strategy to focus on levering in government funding to provide affordable retrofit schemes for our residents which help deliver real savings in the long term.

Focusing on my Housing Portfolio I am keen that the district council attracts the funding to provide access to affordable retrofit schemes and enhance the local skills base to assist our residents and landlords in increasing the efficiency of their homes, reducing the impacts of rises in energy and fuel cost, whilst also providing them with opportunities to aspire to cleaner and greener environments.

As a landlord of over 5,200 council owned properties, we understand our responsibility to firstly, provide good quality housing to our tenants that meet the decent homes standard, and secondly, we understand that as a landlord we have an enormous responsibility to make sure our properties are as energy efficient, warm and comfortable as possible: keeping fuel bills manageable and carbon emissions low.We have a wide range of property archetypes from timber framed to concrete construction alongside conventional brick built housing stock, ranging from 100 years old to those built just this year.

Locations of our properties range from properties in towns and urban areas, to isolated rural areas off the gas network deep within the New Forest National Park. We know that each of these property types has a different requirement in terms of increasing its energy performance to reduce carbon emissions and energy costs. This will include whole house retrofit right through to the simple replacement of external doors and windows, or additional loft insulation.

It is important that we put a plan in place to meet our first significant milestone to ensure our properties meet an energy performance rating of C or above by 2030, whilst at the same time creating a business plan to meet carbon neutrality by 2050.

I am therefore extremely proud to publish this Greener Housing Strategy to outline our commitment to both review the Housing Service's day-to-day operations and our property stock energy performance to both reduce carbon emissions and reduce costs of energy for our residents. 'Greener' technologies such as heat pumps are developing at pace and government funding schemes will encourage the take up of innovation over the coming years.

We have designed a strategy to accelerate our activities over the 10 years to test greener energy pilot schemes, greater understand our impact on the environment and review different options for retrofitting our stock, along with local partners and contractors, as we work toward a second phase strategy to take us toward the 2050 net zero target.

Our learning can also be shared with the private housing sector to breed confidence in the sector and increase take up of low carbon heating technologies.

This is one of the most important housing strategies in our lifetime and I wholeheartedly support our efforts to reduce our impact on carbon emissions and provide our residents and tenants with greener, healthier and energy efficient homes.

Cllr Jill Cleary, Portfolio Holder for Housing, Deputy Leader and Ward Councillor

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