Council homes in on revolution in green living with office move

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THE chief executive of Harrogate Borough Council says the local authority is poised on the brink of a revolution in promoting green living ahead of a key meeting on its multi-million pound move into new offices.

Wallace Sampson, who has recently been named a member of a new Leeds City Region Green Panel, said he believes the move to sell off its five main office sites in the town centre and relocate to one single building would be a major boost to the local authority’s target to reduce its emissions by 40 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.

He claims it will also help set a standard to be followed by residents and businesses across the county.

Mr Sampson was talking to the Yorkshire Post ahead of a report on the accommodation move - which could see its main offices at Crescent Gardens become a top class boutique hotel to support the conference and tourism trade, and its Knapping Mount site converted into homes – which goes before Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet on February 1.

It is feared the council may make staff efficiency savings of up to 20 per cent from the relocation.

“It is not just about carbon emissions but what we can do that saves money and creates jobs,” Mr Sampson said.

“We recognise our best opportunity to influence is to look at what we do as a council ourselves.

“The buildings that we occupy, how we buy fuel and energy, the cost of our fleet of vehicles and ways of working to minimise impact on public and private transport.

“The accommodation move strategy is an environmental policy as well as a money-saving one. The new building will enable us to occupy the building in a much more sustainable way.

“I would like to think we would be doing these sorts of things anyway but there is an added benefit of moving ahead with these in a scarce resource environment. Sometimes targets are aspirational but that shouldn’t get in the way of doing whatever we can to improve things.

“It would be easy to say lets not bother, my view is that is the wrong thing to do. If every individual and organisation pushed this away then nothing would get done.

“There is a responsibility on local authorities to take some leadership on this agenda. But ultimately as individuals and organisations there is a responsibility for us to do what we can.

“This is an exciting time, all the things that we are doing will make a difference. We are poised on the brink of a revolution for the way Harrogate Borough Council operates. Bringing together all these factors is forcing us to think in much more radical and non traditional ways in how we work.”

Harrogate Borough Council was one of the first councils in the country to install ground source heat pumps in its housing stock, reducing emissions by between 50 and 70 per cent.

It has also recently equipped the new exhibition halls at Harrogate International Centre (HIC) with state-of-the-art renewable heat and power schemes including harvesting rain water.

But despite claiming the environment has been at the forefront of his agenda since taking charge three years ago, Harrogate continues have the worst recycling rates in North Yorkshire.

The first phase of a new multi-million pound recycling service is currently planned to be rolled out to 10,000 homes in the summer.

“We have fallen behind the rest of North Yorkshire in our efforts to boost recycling levels,” he said.

“It has been frustrating for me, I don’t want to see Harrogate falling so far behind North Yorkshire.

“It has taken us too long to get to the point where we recognise that our recycling levels have fallen behind North Yorkshire and recognise the need to improve it.”

The current proposed sites for the relocation include Hornbeam Park, Central House, Beckwith Knowle, Pannal, or the current police station site in the town centre.