The current cost of living squeeze makes the need for more sustainable living in Herefordshire all the greater, according to the council’s head of economy and environment.

“It’s not sustainability versus the cost of living,” Councillor Ellie Chowns says. “Saving the planet and saving money are one and the same.”

The university lecturer and former West Midlands Green MEP explains: “We in the Green Party have been banging on about insulation and heat efficiency for decades. It costs less if the heat stays in your house.

“But in Herefordshire we have older, bigger, more detached homes than average, making them harder to heat.”

Helping to retrofit existing homes, and investing in new housing that is both affordable and environmentally sustainable, are among Herefordshire Council’s priorities for the coming year, according to its recently published delivery plan.

“People shouldn’t have to go back and patch up new houses in order to cut their bills,” she says.

Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine “highlights the politics of fuel and where it comes from” she says. “We need to use what we already generate more efficiently.”


On transport, she says: “It’s expensive to run a car. I haven’t had one for a couple of years.”

Instead, she gets about via a local car share club, booked via a smartphone app, and on her electric bicycle, which she is “evangelical” about. “It takes me the 10 miles to council meetings, in my suit,” she says.

Seventy electric bikes, or “ebikes”, are due to be among new additions to Hereford’s fleet of shared Beryl Bikes. Meanwhile, a £46,000 council grant late last year has helped car clubs get started in Kington, Fownhope, Leominster and now south Hereford, with “more coming”, she says.

“They won’t work for everyone, but can help avoid the cost of ownership, especially if you don’t use it every day, and lets you try an electric vehicle.”

She insists these policies are not a case of the Greens, the minority partner in the council’s controlling coalition with the Independents for Herefordshire (IfH), wagging the dog.

“We all have a strong commitment to the zero-carbon goal. On housing for example, this is pushing at an open door with Ange [Tyler, IfH Cabinet member for housing].”

A new raft of new sustainability initiatives will come this Thursday when Coun Chowns seeks cabinet approval for a £1.33 million package of “priority projects” funded from the Government’s New Homes Bonus to local authorities.

Some of these were put forward by the Climate Change Assembly of residents, which met online during January before producing a package of 35 proposals across themes of food and farming, transport and building.

“They weren’t hand-picked Greens; it was a representative demographic, yet they were 85-90 per cent in agreement,” Coun Chowns says. “People are passionate about improved bus services, improved homes and local food – these are not marginal concerns.”

The council has since reviewed the assembly’s recommendations with external guidance, to cost the benefits from them, she explains. Other proposals put forward by council officers include enforcing a minimum energy efficiency standard for private rented accommodation and developing a business case for solar farms across the county.

Once given the go-ahead, these are expected to be put into practice “over the next two to three years”, she says.