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Powers to Address Climate Change

As a contribution to NALC’s work on climate change, Staffs Parish Councils Association have published a brief commentary on the powers which local councils possess which can help tackle climate change.

Its purpose is encourage thinking within the local Council sector: both about what local councils may do to make effective use of existing powers, and also to recommend changes to current laws and policies, for consideration and adoption as NALC policy.

Find out more about NALC's climate change work and what your Parish and Town Council can do to make change. Topics and practical guidance on: biodiversity, carbon and plastic reduction, energy, tree planting and project funding. NALC has also published Case Studies: Climate Change, available to download.

Local councils’ powers to address or reduce climate change published by NALCFrom NALC’s publication ‘The Good Councillor's Guide

Allotments and markets: [Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908, ss 23, 26 and 42] (Food Act 1984, s. 50)

  • This allows the promotion of local produce and healthy eating
  • This can help to reduce food-miles
  • Allotments powers also enable the provision of communal food-growing sites and initiatives, run by associations and co-operatives.

Burials etc: [Open Spaces Act 1906, ss 9 &10; Local Government Act 197, s.214; Parish Councils & Burial Authorities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 s.1]

  • This can allow practices such as green burials, eco-friendly management etc

Commons, ponds, open spaces, recreation etc (Open Spaces Act 1906, s.15; Highways Act 1980, ss 47]

  • Scope to practise good environmental management, accommodate recycling facilities etc on the council’s land
  • Scope to plant trees on, and maintain, highway verges

Community centres and other public buildings (Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970, s.19.(Local Government Act 1972, s. 133)

  • Scope to embrace/include on-site green energy, energy-conservation, electric car charging-points etc

Community energy (s20 of the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006):

  • Councils can encourage or promote the local production and use of renewable energy, and also energy conservation, subject to the section 137 of the LG Act 1972 annual spending limit However, restrictions currently on the ability to ‘sell’ the energy directly to local consumers.
  • Also, the ‘s 137 expenditure limit’ is a severe constraint on making capital investments in energy schemes

Highways and sustainable transport (Highways Act, ss 43, 50, Parish Councils Act 1957, s.1; Local Government Rating Act, 1997, s.25, 28 & 29; Transport Act, 1985, s.106A)

  • Scope to promote rights of way routes, walking and cycling
  • Scope to use ‘car park’ powers, to provide useful facilities such as on-site electric vehicle-charging points
  • Scope to make more use of powers to support community bus services, and to run or support car-sharing

Litter and environmental crime ([Litter Act 1983, ss 5.6, Cleaner Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, 2005]

  • Scope to provide refuse and waste receptacles and publicity, including recycling
  • Scope to discourage and prosecute littering and dumping
  • Currently there is no specific power to promote or run waste-recycling or resource re-use activities

Neighbourhood planning [Localism Act, 2011; Neighbourhood Planning Act, 2017 and National Planning Policy Framework,)

  • Scope to include environmentally-friendly planning policies re design, routes, landscaping etc
  • There is a continuing need to ensure that Neighbourhood Plans have ‘teeth’, and that they can be more than just land-use allocation policies.

Newsletters and websites:(Local Government Act 1972, s.142)

  • Scope to use to promote good environmental practices, resource-sharing etc

Community support and engagement (Local Government Act 1972 ss. 111, 140 etc)

  • Scope to encourage and support volunteers and the wider community with grants, loans, insurance protection, publicity, surveys, good-practice advice etc

Tourism Local Government Act, 1972, s.144

  • Scope to encourage and promote eco-tourism

General powers (Local Government Act 1972, s 137; Localism Act 2011, ss 18; )

  • Scope to spend money and/or undertake work on a wide range of beneficial activities which are not prescribed in other legislation
  • However, s 137 annual spending level is limited, and the General Power of Competence is exercisable by relatively few councils.

Subsidiary powers (LG Act 1972 s111):

  • A very useful enabling power, fora council to do anything (that are not constrained by other legislation).which is calculated to facilitate or is conducive or incidental to the discharge of any of its functions.

Permitted development rights (Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, part 12):

  • Councils may erect and operate, without the need to seek planning permission, a wide variety of small buildings, equipment and other structures on their land, for the purposes of any of their functions or public services. This can include a range of small ‘green’ developments

Find out more about NALC's climate change work and what your Parish and Town Council can do to make change. Topics and practical guidance on: biodiversity, carbon and plastic reduction, energy, tree planting and project funding.


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