Take the City to the Capital

Yesterday’s occupation of the Houses of Parliament by representatives of the city of Nottingham were a lesson in relationship building. The City created a wonderfully diverse programme to showcase the city’s strengths, ideas, talent and assets to policy makers and decision takers – with an emphasis on ‘can do’ and a sense of fun (not least the noble way in which our University’s academics declined to win the University Challenge event Chaired by the Speaker of the House).

It wasn’t just fun though. There were some key messages that are worth repeating here:

a) There is an ever-strengthening role for universities to provide intellectual, asset and cultural offerings to their respective cities. Nottingham showcased it’s contributions in theatre, history, art, sport, science and engineering.

b) The scale of universities means they can be engines of economic success and growth when they work in partnership with their city government and across their wider economic partnership areas, such as D2N2. I blogged on this previously here.

c) Wider city objectives that embrace genuine sustainability and a low carbon future require their largest and most influential organisations to support them and help show them the way. I was impressed by the number of times I heard ‘low carbon’ mentioned. whilst other cities have shied away from this ambition and put it in the ‘too difficult’ box Nottingham’s leaders have made it a priority. They see the opportunity it provides.

img_5625The morning after ‘Nottingham in Parliament’ and you could ask, ‘well, what’s changed?’

Without doubt, Parliament knows Nottingham was there. You couldn’t turn a corner without the famous Nottingham Green being there. Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham, school children, gold medallists, sporting heroes, business leaders, Knights of the Realm, academics all contributed to the day. They built new relationships, they showcased what the city has to offer and they made Nottingham feel that bit closer to Parliament than maybe it has in the past.

More coverage in the Nottingham Post; the liveblog of the Day from the BBC, Chris Leslie MP’s video of the day; this video from The University and our FlickR page which has some images of events on the day, the journey down  and the Home of Sport activities

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Interview with Emma Bridge, Community Energy England

ebridge-150x1502xThe world of renewable energy continues to get caught in the tossing and turning of government policy and in order to create this rapid growth ‘the community energy sector will need to adapt to new forms of funding and engage proactively with the energy market and traditional energy sector partners, whilst still holding true to the core principles that define community action,’ says Emma Bridge, CEO of Community Energy England in my latest piece for the Environment Journal.

‘As rare as a Sheffield Flood’ – 9 Years on in Sheffield

The City Council in Sheffield, my home city, is consulting on its flood prevention strategy. In 2007 the city was hit by intense rainfall over a number of weeks and, eventually, with the soils saturated and the rivers full, the water spilled across and through the city. It was fatal, it was devastating for businesses and homes were very badly damaged in parts of the city.

floodingIn the aftermath there was significant scrutiny of the city’s flood protection in public. Experts gave evidence. Responsible persons gave evidence and, in time, it was clear that the city needed to invest more thought into how it should do this. Business has recognised it has a responsibility to work with the city council to achieve this. In all the papers I prepared for Councillors on climate change I made the point that there was ever greater variability, intensity and unpredictability in the future climate. Those messages are coming true now. Other cities have experienced the same issues – Newcastle, Leeds, Bristol, Hull, York.

It’s good to see that as part of the planning and development of the city, the city council is now consulting on the ‘Protecting Sheffield from Flooding Programme‘ and is consulting with stakeholders, partners, business owners and members of the public inside and outside of flood risk areas. It’s an £83m package of interventions and whilst the programme focuses on two major river catchments, The River Don and the Sheaf (from which Sheffield gets its name) it considers the effect and impact of the serving tributaries. Those smaller rivers include the Porter and Rivelin, which take their water from the uplands to the west of the city and which flow, generally, west-east towards the lower lying lands before heading to the coast.

The programme justifies itself on supporting economic growth but it recognises the important role rivers and water have played (and continue to play) in the City’s heritage. It’s pleasing that amenity and biodiversity are included and the short animation accompanying the consultation references this. But what a pity it’s only had 6 views. It’s clear to me that we’re in danger of being complacent. The memories of 2007 may be fading but the threat of flood is only getting stronger.

Pleasingly, the strategy acknowledges it needs to create water storage when rivers burst and is proposing open spaces are used to provide temporary storage in, for example, parks. This is a well tried method in other countries and all power to the city for looking at its green spaces as blue spaces too. Slowing down the flow of water through the city is essential if communities downstream are to be protected and specific flood defences on vulnerable areas of low lying land are still going to be necessary.

The consultation has been running since the summer and I hope the response rate is higher than the YouTube views. It’s also encouraging that the city’s highway contractor, Amey are trialling state-of-the-art sensors into gullies in a trial aimed at preventing the flooding of roads. I just hope they trial them in Sheffield too.

My personal view is that this is a step in the right direction, but also a missed opportunity. Water is central to our lives. Where it falls, how it’s stored, moved, used, disposed of and re-used is part of a cycle. I would liked to have a seen a more comprehensive water strategy developed not just with the Environment Agency, but also with Yorkshire Water, so that the future needs of the city are better understood, joined up and planned. We now talk about ‘water sensitive cities’, ‘sponge cities’, green and blue space that recognises the importance of water as part of the health, wellbeing, economic and environmental agendas. As the climates of the future become more energised, less predictable and more intense we need to understand how we will deal not just with flood, but with drought and not for now – but for the climate we know is just round the corner.

There is still time to respond: http://www.floodprotectionsheffield.com/pages/consultation

 

‘Significant opportunities’ for low-carbon cities

Switching to a low-carbon economy offers cities ‘significant economic opportunities’, an assessment says. Low-carbon markets was worth US $33bn (£26bn) to London’s economy, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) says in its latest report. The report, It takes a city: the case for collaborative climate action, added that the cities spread over 89 nations had identified more than 1,000 economic opportunities linked to climate change. Almost 300 cities featured in the report were also developing new business industries, such as clean technology.
Source: http://environmentjournal.online/articles/significant-opportunities-for-low-carbon-cities/