Sustainable Community Policy Consultation response from Transition Town Brixton
This submission is the product of a Transition Town Open Meeting on Monday 25 February 2008 in which we focussed on the Sustainable Communities Strategy. This is core to the work of Transition Towns which work with the whole community to vision a better low energy future and then back-cast to the present to provide a practical timetabled routemap to ensure we get there. We are dealing with Planet threatening issues
Firstly we are disappointed that there is no definition of community sustainability in the consultation documentation. No reference in made to the Lambeth’s Sustainability Charter. The State of the Borough is a fascinating document but all the Trends are not constructively extrapolated into the future to take into account the recession that is looming, peak oil, and climate change. This will change the needs of our community and therefore the social dynamics. It will also affect what is possible to be done about it and what is necessary to be done.
The future will see increasing energy scarcity and drastic carbon reductions necessary to ensure we have a future. We have to be a zero-carbon society before 2030 or face catastrophe. We have to do with less energy. This means less waste and moving stuff and people around and more local self reliance and supply. This is inevitable. We must plan for it before it is forced upon us.
There are things to welcome in the Vision for Lambeth: the pledge to increase work opportunities; to work together; create opportunities and welcoming places locally; help young people develop businesses.
But the Our 2020 Vision is of a future that is simply a continuation of the present but better. Much of this ‘is already going to happen’ we are told. We beg to differ.
It does not recognise that our whole economy is based on cheap fossil fuel. And our civilisation is based on a stable climate. We can no longer rely on either. We must plan for fewer jobs in financial and service sectors, recession, negative equity, debt, food, energy and warmth shortages, flooding in N Lambeth as sea levels rise perhaps many times faster than currently predicted. If we stay ahead of the curves imposed by nature we can keep some control, reduce impacts, and invest in a better more interconnected world. We might if we do it soon and fast enough avert catastrophic runaway climate change.
In order to have quality of life we first need to assure life. A sustainable community can only happen within a viable civilisation.
THE SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES ACT.
Since this consultation began the government in consultation with people like the New Economics Foundation has passed the Sustainable Communities Act, October 2007. I copy below the Schedule of issues that Local Authorities will have to take into account. This is a good set of guidelines of what will make a sustainable community. Plans for all these issues must be built into the Lambeth Sustainable Community Strategy for it to be worthy of that name.
”’MATTERS TO WHICH LOCAL AUTHORITIES MUST HAVE REGARD
1 The matters referred to in section 2 areâ€”
(a) the provision of local services,
(b) the extent to which the volume and value of goods and services that areâ€”
(i) offered for sale; or
(ii) procured by public bodies and are produced within 30 miles (or any lesser distance as may be specified by a local authority in respect of its area) of their place of sale or of the boundary of the public body,
(c) the rate of increase in the growth and marketing of organic forms of food production and the local food economy,
(d) measures to promote reasonable access by all local people to a supply of food that is adequate in terms of both amount and nutritional value,
(e) the number of local jobs,
(f) measures to conserve energy and increase the quantity of energy supplies which are produced from sustainable sources within a 30 mile radius of the region in which they are consumed, (g) measures taken to reduce the level of road traffic including, but not restricted to, local public transport provision, measures to promote walking and cycling and measures to decrease the amount of product miles,
(h) the increase in social inclusion, including an increase in involvement in local democracy,
(i) measures to increase mutual aid and other community projects,
(j) measures designed to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases,
(k) measures designed to increase community health and well being,
(l) planning policies which would assist with the purposes of this Act,
including new arrangements for the provision of affordable housing, and
(m) measures to increase the use of local waste materials for the benefit of the community.
2 In this Schedule the following terms shall have the following meaningsâ€”
â€œlocal servicesâ€ includes, but is not restricted to, retail outlets, public houses, banks, health facilities, including hospitals and pharmacies, legal services, social housing, post offices, schools, public eating places, leisure facilities and open spaces;
â€œlocal food economyâ€ means a system of producing, processing and trading primarily organic forms of food production, where the activity is largely contained in the area or region where the food was produced;
â€œlocal jobsâ€ meanâ€”
(a) jobs in companies or organisations that in the opinion of the appropriate authority will spend a significant proportion of their turnover in the locality of the place of operation; and (b) jobs which are held by people living within 30 miles of that job;
â€œmutual aidâ€ means actions or initiatives by people in the community to improve services or provisions for themselves and other persons in the community;
â€œproduct milesâ€ means the total distance produce is transported from the place of growth or production to the place of consumption; â€œsocial inclusionâ€ means the opportunity for all people resident in any area to play an equal role in the economic, social and civic life of the area;
â€œlocal democracyâ€ means the ability to participate, by means of voting at elections or otherwise, in decision-making that is as local as practicable to peopleâ€™s place of residence; and
â€œcommunity health and well-beingâ€ means the degree to which persons resident in an area identify with that area and receive an increased quality of life as a result of the nature and the environment of the area.”’
We dispute number of the rather simplistic and unforward thinking premises on which the consultation is based: Employment is key but we must look critically at what employment we are preparing people for and will it be there when they’ve trained. We need to look at localising networks to supply as many of Lambeth’s real needs from within Lambeth or as locally as possible. We need to look at making people locally productive if their old jobs evaporate. We need to be leading in a culture of re-use, remodelling the detritus of the last 2 centuries into future useful stuff and looking after and improving what we’ve got. We need to making existing houses habitable without heating. We need to be growing food locally.
Community safety currently extends to how safe people feel and are. It needs to be extended to food security
All policies should be interrogated to see whether they meet fundamental environmental requirement that are necessary for us achieving a future at all. If they do not then they are contributing to the problem not the solution. Peak Energy means there is likely to be a 2-3% decline per year in available energy over the succeeding decades until there is. To avoid runaway climate change we basically need to be a zero carbon society by the middle of the century or before. We need to front-load carbon cuts as the easy wins are early wins.
To address the 4 headings of the current consultation
Getting Lambeth working
#Bioregional’s One Planet Living www.oneplanetliving.org principles should be applied to judging all projects and business development in Lambeth.
- Create local job opportunites which are permanent and future proofed not temporary ie not developing jobs in sectors that are based on descretionary spend. For example an over reliance on CCI, services, financial, leisure or old technology will expose local employment in a period of recession and scarcity.
- Encourage low carbon employment ie industries that are not dependent on or predicated on high energy consumption.
- Actively support local businesses to diversify and change in a changing market. Eg car mechanics to move towards appropriate technology work.
- The long term viability of a employment promotion should be judged by how it meets essential local needs for food, shelter, warmth, security, family life, occupation, etc. from local sources. see Maslow’s hierarch of needs.?
- Support local business over chain stores and national and multinational organisations and any activity that causes money to circulate locally which enhances its local benefit.
- Facilitate local currencies and trading schemes (Timebanks, LETs schemes) and actively promote the Lambeth Credit Union.
- Support Transition Town Brixton in doing Oil Vulnerability Auditing among local businesses to assess their exposure to rising oil and energy prices.
- Lambeth should have an officer employment policy that gives extra weighting to potential officers and employees who live with cycling distance and especially within the borough.
- Lambeth Council should abide by a “Buy local first” procurement policy – internal and partner organisations. This may require some capacity building for the local suppliers, the goal should be that eventually up to 80% of Lambeth Council’s external spend should be with local suppliers who have roots in Lambeth, are employing Lambeth residents and are actively investing in Lambeth on an ongoing basis.
- Develop a local re-use centre and train local people in re-fashioning waste into future-useful items. The Brixton Scrap Yard (retitling allowed) would be an integral part of this. Also the Building Materials Re-use faciliity which Lambeth has just applied to BREW to develop with Bioregional
- Support the Urban Agriculture with land and training.
Supporting young people into work.
- Training for future-appropriate industries, food growing, insulation installation, roof conversions to productive uses, growing, water and energy collection, plumbing for solar collection, renewable energy installation.
- Training and support for running small businesses – financial, managerial, sales, logistics.
- Training and active promotion for businesses to localise and decarbonise local business. Doing without a vehicle. How to do local sales.
- Training in localised lifeskills: gardening, cooking fresh food, house maintenance, DIY energy saving.
- Promote a local apprentice scheme especially with local small businesses.
Ensuring local services work for you (all)
- Ensure all centres and ‘welcoming places’ are zero or minimum carbon
Connecting people to opportunites
- Ensure all centres and ‘welcoming places’ are zero or minimum carbon
- We must build local networks