• Mary Breakell

Newsbrief 75 CLOUD response to Climate Emergency

Newsbrief 75 12 November 2020

Consultation on Lancaster City Council Review of Local Plan in the light of the Climate Emergency was discussed at CLOUD AGM on 22 October 2020

Deadline for responses 20 November 2020

Topic videos prepared by Lancaster City Council Planners can be found on Climate Emergency Review of the Local Plan 2020–2031

It is vital to respond! It doesn’t need to be long, just raise the issues that concern you.

We hope our response below will help you, though there may be other issues that you might want to raise. If you use elements of our response please use your own words

CLOUD Response to Climate Emergency Consultation

  1. Housing and Energy Efficiency

CLOUD welcomes the ideas behind building more energy efficient homes, the discussion of Passivhaus building, micro renewables as ways of reducing carbon emissions. Would this be an opportunity for Lancaster to set a standard for energy efficient construction that had to be met by developers, which could become a benchmark nationally? Could this also be linked to a requirement by developers to build well insulated affordable housing.

  1. Sustainable Transport

A truly sustainable transport system enhanced public transport and active travel is vital to Lancaster’s future. This indeed was considered at the Local Plan Hearings and is addressed by the planners in the videos. The questions that trouble us relate to how this will be delivered, how it will be funded and to the contradictions between the aspirations for a ‘sustainable’ transport policy and the ongoing consultation on transport for Lancaster https://lancashire.gov.uk/transforming-lancaster-travel/ .

There are promises of electric car charging, and limited parking in new developments. Electric cars are welcome but by no means a silver bullet. They don’t solve congestion problems and electric cars are very intensive in resource use in their manufacture. A more fundamental question relates to how a Local Plan Review relating to Climate Change can argue for sustainable transport while supporting Bailrigg Garden Village. The Junction 33 link proposals - all 6 options - are aimed solely at connecting Bailrigg Garden Village to the M6. This will enable garden village residents to travel away from Lancaster to work etc - although garden village schemes are supposed to be self-contained communities offering employment as well as housing and not just housing estates for commuters.

How would sustainable transport be funded?

When asked at the Local Plan Hearings how the cycle superhighway would be delivered, the response from one planner was that it was ‘aspirational’. The results of our Freedom of Information request on the £140M Housing Infrastructure bid revealed that all plans for sustainable transport remain ‘aspirational’. The £140m is completely focused on the large strategic infrastructure part of the wider package so all £140m would fall into your category of 'road building'. The other categories would be funded by what the government term 'local contributions', such as from other public funding pots or from housing/commercial developers via the planning system. In the bid approximately £30m worth of public transport and active travel (cycling and walking) initiatives have been identified.”

  1. Protecting the Natural Environment

Protecting the natural environment and through it biodiversity should be central to any planning policy in the 21st Century. After all we are facing major species depletion as well as need for natural habitats while woodland both removes natural carbon and supports biodiversity. Building on greenfields damages the natural environment in ways which impact negatively on the climate and biodiversity. How might this be avoided and how to avoid ‘greenwash’ through ‘offsetting’? How much attention is given to the damage done by grubbing out mature mixed hedges and old mature trees and woodlands which, in many cases could be avoided? Again isn’t this an opportunity for Lancaster to become leaders in biodiversity protection rather than merely following national trends.

This might include integration habitat forming schemes into the planning strategy and not just a bland planting of a few saplings. We especially welcome the imaginative use of ponds etc to achieve the dual benefit of helping to reduce flooding and promoting wetland biodiversity. For instance the Surface Water Attentuation Ponds, shown on the Peel Holding plan of the Whinney Carr site, may offer scope to become more than their primary design function to hold run off water and become naturalised ponds for wildlife. Involving organisations such as Rewilding Britain and the RSPB may be able to help.

  1. Flooding and Water Management

Flooding and water management lay at the heart of our concerns regarding the Local Plan and were expressed at the Hearings in 2019, so it is welcome that attention has been given to this vital consideration. We remain concerned that key elements of the Local Plan have significant flooding implications.

Meetings with the Environment Agency locally have already established that drainage from the existing M6 doesn’t meet current standards and the rapid run-off is one cause of Whitley Beck flooding in Galgate. The Junction 33 link proposals don’t offer any alleviation of this acknowledged problem. The engineering reports do address drainage from the proposed new roads and mention attenuation measures before discharge into the river Conder - upstream of Galgate. There is no indication that any of this will reduce the local flood risk, or that this issue is seen as a priority. The engineering reports concentrate on highways issue such the steepness of gradients on the link roads, rather than the flooding impact on the local community.

We remain concerned that flood risk ‘mitigation’ may apply to new properties but does little to protect existing properties, both from surface water flooding and from overburdened 19th century sewers. Reference is made to SuDS. These are designed to moderate flows of water from new developments but they need regular maintenance, as recent floods have shown. Who is responsible for clearing out the tanks? Surely this should be the responsibility of the developers and regular monitored. Is this the case? This is undoubtedly the time for change.

4. Limited visibility of this consultation

Given Covid restrictions and distractions it is of course difficult to run a meaningful consultation. This consultation has been disappointingly low on people’s radar. There was an article in the Lancaster Guardian https://www.lancasterguardian.co.uk/news/uk-news/review-lancaster-districts-local-plan-reflect-climate-emergency-targets-gets-underway-2985557

Being signed up to Lancaster City Council alerts generated emails to residents. Judging by the number of views of the video clips the City Council Planners used to explain the elements of this consultation, has almost sunk without trace, with views of between 50-87 of individual clips.

It is unfortunate that this review only addressed a limited number of Climate Emergency issues. The People’s Jury, which Lancaster City Council initiated in February 2020 is full of wider range of ideas and very well informed. http://www.lancaster.gov.uk/sites/climate-emergency/lancaster-district-people-s-jury-sessions-overview

5. Is the Climate Emergency review of the Local Plan radical enough?

The declaration of the Climate Emergency by many councils around the UK has been overshadowed by Covid but remains just as urgent. How could Climate Emergency be best embedded in every decision made by the Local Council and by Planners and how could this be then translated into what is built, how and where? By restricting the questions being asked to the obvious sections of the Local Plan that have the words environment and sustainable in it, rather than interrogating the whole local plan, risks a very piecemeal and potentially contradictory response. As Mike Berners Lee argues, There is No Planet B and we are running out of time to reduce the impact of climate change.

It is vital to respond!

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