MID Devon District Council should be doing all it can to stop local services declining, and not bankrupting itself on net zero projects, a member of public has claimed.

Speaking during the public questions at last week’s environmental policy development group, where members were asked to accept a report on the climate action plan and programme update, James King said he was shocked to see the cost for net zero projects rise to £117 million, an increase of £7 million from earlier in the year.

“It’s up by £7 million already. It seems what is going to be spent is a large cost for little gain. The council gets £10 million in council tax, the budget for net zero is 11 times that amount.”

Mr King said the money from raising car parking charges, for example, would be better spent on trying to save services in towns like Tiverton and making it a "20-minute neighbourhood" where residents don’t need vehicles to reach amenities.

The "20-minute neighbourhood" or "15-minute city" concept has been gaining momentum and is being implemented in places such as Melbourne and Paris.

Interest in the idea has grown as pandemic lockdowns put a spotlight on cycling and walking.

Mr King said: “I used to live in a 15-minute city, but Tiverton seems to be shutting down very quickly. I think the money could be better spent keeping everything open."

Climate and sustainability officer Jason Ball told the meeting that most projects in the climate action plan would not be locally funded, with cash coming instead from the private sector or central government.

The council, which declared a climate emergency in 2019, but has seen carbon emissions rise this year, wants to cut its carbon footprint, he said, but is looking at a corporate and community action plan.

“There are some large scale projects around landscaping, water catchment management and farming, and not just what the council has to pay for,” he said.  “The scale is daunting but most of the projects would not be funded by us.”

The public was urged to provide information to shape the action plan so policies can be put in place to make the district climate neutral by 2030.

Councillors were told that hybrid working, renewable energy, new solar arrays, heat pumps and building management systems at Tiverton and Crediton leisure centres, and adding electric vans to the fleet of council vehicles is having an impact on the level of emissions in certain areas.

However, sources outside the council’s control in the supply chain are keeping emission levels high overall.