Transition Town Bridport
Local support for a sustainable Bridport
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oodfuture news October 2016
The new bulletin includes a great new interactive map of local food outlets in Bridport. Click here to view the news.
Good COP/Bad COPIt’s that time of year again. For the past twenty or so Decembers, governments have met under the auspices of the UN to discuss what if anything to do about climate change. Officially the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, we all know it as COP – this year it’s COP21, in the troubled city of Paris.
Kit Vaughan and Raja Jarrah, who both live in West Dorset, are climate activists who first met at COP13, and since then have attended most of the COPs as part of the delegations of non- governmental organisations that lobby the talks. At a lively meeting in Bridport Town Hall attended by over 60 people, they explained how COPs work, the main issues at stake, and how to tell real progress from ‘greenwash’. They jokingly reminisced about previous COPs – the good ones, where
some progress was made (coincidentally in places like Bali and Mexico with lovely weather in
December) and the bad ones, in bleak places like Poznan in Poland and most notoriously in Copenhagen in 2009, which everyone now remembers as a disaster despite the spin that was put out
at the time.
So will this COP be a good one or a bad one? Of course the moral and scientific arguments for an
ambitious climate treaty are stronger than ever, but the deal breakers in the past have always been
political and economic. There is a lot of expectation around the outcome of COP21, and some of the
signs are indeed good. The two top emitters, US and China, are more aligned than they ever have
been; the cost of renewable energy is fast coming down at a time when the economics of fossil fuels
is looking dodgy; and there are growing calls from the business sector for governments to take
decisive action on climate change. (Not of course, the type of decisive action that the UK government has taken recently).
But there are also many worrying signs. Adding up the advance announcements by governments on
the emissions reductions they are prepared to make gets us nowhere near the target of keeping
below 2 degrees of warming. For many countries, even 2 degrees spells disaster – remembering that
2 degrees as a global average means some places will experience 4 or 5 degree increases – and
they are calling for a 1.5 degree target. Funds pledged for paying for adaptation to climate change
are far far short of the amounts that are needed. There is a danger that the concept of loss & damage (compensation for climate impacts that can’t be adapted to, like loss of land to sea level rise or desertification), which was agreed as a topic for negotiation in previous COPs, will get kicked out
of the agreement. And of course this agreement is simply an agreement about agreeing to take
future action, to kick in after 2020. So far there is no legal obligation to comply, or sanction if you
don’t. And what happens during the five years until then could make all this academic if it sets us on
a path to irreversible climate chaos.
What is clear is that leaving action on climate to international agreements is not going to solve the
problem: no climate cavalry is going to come galloping over the hill to rescue us. In the lively discussion that followed, people talked about what action we can take ourselves. Marching to demand stronger government action, such as on the weekend of 28 & 29 November, is one way of raising our voice. Or find other ways to nag our politicians so they see that climate is something ordinary people want them to do something about. Especially in the UK where the government is moving backwards on climate.
We can also use the power of our money: by investing in renewable energy schemes, such as Dorset
Community Energy, switching to buying our energy from renewable providers, and moving our
savings and pensions from companies that invest in fossil fuels. We can join the wider campaigns for
our institutions also to divest - for example, Dorset County Council has pension fund investments
estimated at £150 million in fossil fuels.
Whatever happens at COP, all of us can do something more about climate change - beyond our
personal lifestyle choices, important as they are. At the very least, we can talk about it to friends and
relatives and stop making climate change the taboo subject it commonly is.
If you missed it you can watch this you-tube film, then this one.
Transition Town Bridport ‘s ViewTransition Town Bridport recognises that the need to tackle climate change, and peak oil, require a shift away from reliance on fossil fuels. To this end, it aims to reduce energy use, shift to renewable energy, build self-reliant and sustainable communities, and encourage local food consumption and growth. There are many ways in which this plan for the Vearse Farm development will not produce a resilient and sustainable community. There are also real concerns that it will negatively affect the viability of the existing Town of Bridport.
1. We do not think this large development on the edge of Bridport is an appropriate solution to the shortage of affordable housing for Bridport residents. The scale of this development will not facilitate the growth of a resilient community with a range of ages and classes of people. Communities can grow more effectively when they are conceived on a smaller scale, and the imposition of such a large development on a small market town the size of Bridport will place an intolerable burden on the medical, educational, cultural, traffic and social services facilities of the town.
2. Bridport already has a demographic imbalance, with wealthier older people moving to the area, forcing the price of houses up. Retaining our young people is paramount for the future vitality of the town. This requires:
3. The development should consist of low-energy homes. It makes little sense to build houses which will be expensive to heat and cause high carbon dioxide emissions over their entire lifetimes. As the price of fuel rises, the need for energy-efficient houses will become more evident. While the planning committee of West Dorset District Council no longer has the power to specify environmental standards beyond national building regulations, there is clearly a demand for efficient homes; these do not necessarily cost much more to build. The district council should strive make this extra efficiency a feature of the development, thereby increasing its desirability to future residents, and making them affordable to live in over the long term. The plan should also provide provision for district heating, possibly through a combined heating and power station, perhaps incorporating an anaerobic digester.
- The provision of jobs should increase in step with the development of housing, so that local people can get decent jobs and afford houses in the area.
- The safeguarding of access to low cost housing, by a designation of affordable or low cost houses, and subsidised homes for key workers.
- Consideration should be given to shared spaces along the lines of the co-housing or Community Land Trust approach, with communal clothes washing and drying facilities, social spaces, gardens, allotments and spare bookable accommodation for occasional use.
4. One way in which the planning authority does have control over the energy efficiency of the housing is in the orientation of the houses. In the Illustrative Master Plan, the houses follow the curving lines of the roads. However a more optimal arrangement is to build the houses on an East-West axis, allowing the homes to benefit from larger windows on the South side, making use of the Sun’s rays to heat the homes passively; in addition many future owners or tenants are likely to wish to install solar photovoltaic or thermal panels on the roof as fuel prices increase and our renewables obligations regain central ground. The district council can no longer insist on panels being installed, but can make their future use more efficient by designing the roads to allow for the correct orientation of the houses.
5. Tucking the social centre, pub and shops in the North West corner of the development does not seem ideal for an organic or resilient community with residents of the houses at the SW corner having to walk nearly a mile to the shops. Similarly isolating the care home in the employment zone, in a three-story building, does not allow for integrating older members into the community, but seems an attempt at placing them out of sight and out of mind.
6. Vearse Farm is prime agricultural land, and while the master plan shows some allotments, thought should be given to providing a community farm on the estate, such as market gardens or aquaponics farms to provide employment, training and local food, so retaining the nature of the land.
7. St Mary’s school is a successful community school serving the Skilling estate. The long-term plan to close it down and relocate it, along with Symondsbury school, to the new development, will undermine these schools’ stability in the years while the axe is hanging over them and leave the Skilling residents without their local school. (St Mary’s school has already missed out on a CLS/DCC supported self funding renewable energy scheme whereby the school would benefit from free electricity, because of the uncertainty of the long term future of the existing building.)
8. Issues of drainage and flooding continue to cause concern, despite the provision of SuDS and permeable road surfaces. Reed beds and willow coppices could provide employment and useful material while helping to control flooding.
In conclusion, we oppose the imposition of a new housing development without ensuring people can live there sustainably and that the jobs exist for them. If they are to be built, they should be energy efficient and designed for the needs of a growing and resilient community.
Letter to WDDC coucillors on Renewable EnergyAfter the local council elections on 7 May, a group of local organisations wrote to the newly elected councillors on west Dorset Distric Council, calling on them to support renewable energy and to wor to meet Dorset's targets for climate changing gas emission. You can read the full text here. The organisations which signed it were:
- Transition Town Dorchester
- Dorset Community Energy
- Dorchester Churches Together (Ecology Group)
- West Dorset Friends of the Earth
- Dorset Energised
- Charminster Clean Energy Group
- Dorchester Quaker Meeting
- West Dorset Pro Wind
- Bridport Renewable Energy Group
- Weymouth Environmental Action Centre
- Transition Town Bridport
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