Harlow Council Sustainability Strategy

The Council’s Sustainability Strategy emanated from the Best Value Review of Environmental Services and Sustainability. This review highlighted that the Council needed to improve the overall approach to sustainability and to develop a consistent message and understanding. In addition that sustainability should be embedded through the actions and priorities of the Council.

A cross departmental Council officer group was set up to define the Council’s approach to “sustainability” and to develop a range of potential actions and initiatives. The overall aim is the development of a strategy which underpins and supports the corporate planning framework, and ensures that actions are integrated to support delivery of the key priorities and objectives contained in the Council Corporate Plan and relevant service plans.

The strategy contributes towards the delivery of the Council’s six key priorities for 2009/10 to 2012/13.

These are as follows:

  • Regenerating the town.
  • Promoting a clean, green, healthy and safe environment.
  • Tackling housing need.
  • Developing good citizenship.
  • Improving Harlow for business.
  • Providing value for money.

Energy is needed to fuel our homes, businesses and transportation, but the Earth has a limited amount of non-renewable resources. In addition use of non renewable resources has impact on the environment contributing to air and water pollution and general climate change. Threats to the world as a whole from climate change include increased risk of flooding from higher sea levels caused by the melting of polar ice caps and changing seasonal characteristics increasing the likelihood of severe weather events such as storms.

The severity and timing of U.K impacts caused by climate change are still uncertain but based on Hadley Centre (2004) research suggests the following are likely:

  • Higher temperatures all year
  • More extreme weather including hurricanes, flash floods and droughts
  • More coastal and river flooding
  • Frequent disruption to transport and other infrastructures
  • Loss of native wildlife

In the South East of England it is predicted that over the next 80 years we will experience a pattern of wetter winters and drier summers. For these reasons energy conservation and use of sustainable resources is important for current and future generations.

Act Locally

The U.K Government Sustainable Development Strategy ‘Securing the future’ launched in March 2005, built on the 1999, strategy ‘A better quality of life’. This lays out the goal of sustainable development as ‘enabling all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life, without compromising the quality of life for future generations.

Harlow Council has developed this aim to be relevant at a local level by adopting a defined, measurable, crosscutting and dynamic approach to sustainability that can be integrated into Corporate and Service Planning.

Harlow’s action plan aims to capture local initiatives and opportunities that will contribute outcomes falling under the four priority indicators from the Government Strategy as follows:

  1. Sustainable consumption and production;
  2. Climate change and energy,
  3. Protecting natural resources and enhancing the environment,
  4. Creating sustainable communities and a fairer world,
  5. Cross cutting priority ‘help people make better choices’


From these priority indicators eighteen key themes have been identified. Existing and potential projects with outputs that contribute to the delivery of the Strategy will continue to be identified as part of its portfolio and individual targets prioritised within a SMART Programme Plan into short, medium and long term objectives.

The strategy and action plan will be monitored by the Council through the Council’s performance management framework. It is also intended that a yearly review and update of the strategy and action plan will be considered by the Council.

What the Council has achieved

The development of the strategy has to be considered in the context of the current initiatives which are currently delivering against the objectives. The following is a selection of the range of work currently underway in Harlow.

  • A review was carried out and changes implemented that resulted in a reduction of energy used to print internally (contributing to the reduction of the Council’s carbon footprint) and in the use of paper and other consumables such as toner. The external contract also supports local businesses by stipulating that a minimum of 45% of external printing services must be carried out locally. Large print runs on small printers are no longer allowed and diverted to the Council’s main print room. Lighting on/off system has been recalibrated throughout the Civic Centre.
  • At weekends, blinds are closed to reduce heat loss; staff are encouraged not to be in the building before 7.30am and to leave by 6.30pm.
  • Smart metering technology has been installed on all the Council’s gas meters, and 200 of the Council’s electricity meters to date.
  • The Travel BUDi scheme has been introduced to encourage staff to share transport thus reducing their travel costs as well as reducing congestion and pollution.
  • Cavity wall or loft insulation has been installed in thousands of homes within Harlow under the Home Energy Efficiency Programme (HEEP) scheme.
  • The Council’s waste contract includes the promotion of waste minimisation and aims to increase recycling levels.
  • Voltage Optimisation equipment has been installed in the Civic centre, saving the Council 7% on its annual electricity bill for that building.
  • Carbon emissions from staff mileage in 2012 has reduced by 6.7kg/Co2 per employee – all together this is enough to fill 23 hot air balloons