Monday, December 12, 2016

Greenprint for survival

The Blueprint for Survival was written by a number of people associated with The Ecologist. Although the problem of greenhouse gases had not emerged in 1972, all the other existential problems have got steadily worse. 

I would highly recommend reference to the blogger who writes under ‘Greenprint for Survival’ and having said that, I would like to add my own take on this concept following on from a thought provoking conference held by Sustain into ‘common good land uses’.  It seems that there is a stark choice between pursuing these minority pursuits as exceptions to the norm which can be demonstrated to be beneficial to some and not harmful to the majority (ie not against the public interest). Or, in order to be accepted (eg to get planning permission) it should be explained how these uses of land and buildings are an important and indispensible part of how the mainstream should be looking in the creation of a sustainable and resilient society (ie in the public interest).

Whilst I believe that diversity should be celebrated and that the planning system should find space for individuality, imagination, innovation and the ‘quirky’ (the inspector’s view in supporting a shark sculpture in a suburban roof) I think that it is important that common good land uses should mainly be presented and explained as being in the common and public good.

This is a big ask that I think is predicated on a fair description of the really big issues that will be faced in 2017 and for the foreseeable future. 

The public issues in the most critical position appear to be:
-       loss of biodiversity and soils,
-       insecure supplies of trustworthy food,
-       a transport system that cannot cope with increase in motorized mobility,
-       to set a trajectory to peak GHGs by 2020 and zero by 2050,
-       to finance and run acceptable health and social care services
-       inequitable supply and distribution of housing,

On the last two points I would like to quote Angela Brady past president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, "Were running out of time
for this tidal wave that's coming towards us. I'd like to see London
Mayor Sadiq Khan say that 10% of new development is given over to
co-housing. We need exemplars for others to follow.)  That is 10% of
say 30,000 per year? which equals 3000 units or 100 schemes.  That's a few
more then are being planned today?

On the questions relating to nature/food and carbon I would propose that the preparations of bio-regional plans become the norm.  All development plan are drawn up subject to extensive public consultations.  Unfortunately, the test of soundness is mostly limited to what is in the plan (eg is there a 5 year housing land supply) and not what is missing. However, if NGOs or local residents can show what dire consequences would arise from the plan as submitted, this would be an opening for pro-activity and the presentation of a different or additional plan which deals primarily with natural capital at a regional scale.  Data could include, inventories of flora and fauna, wildlife corridors, river catchments, soil types and quality, farming regimes (arable or pasture), designated nature reserves, forests and woodlands.  The mapping (with OS help?) could show areas of decline and areas designated for improvement.  There could also be a carbon account which identifies the potential for carbon sequestration in plants and soils.  Such a plan would be  a huge undertaking and would always be ‘work in progress’. However, it would be providing information that should be used and relied on by decision-makers when considering the use of all undeveloped land.  There could also be signals for use in urban areas, including the recreation and health care needs of the urban  population.

It would be this kind of framework or Greenprint that common good land uses could be most easily seen to be in the common good and public interest.

The crisis not mentioned but real nonetheless is in the type of 'democracy' we will be experiencing while these important decisions are waiting to be made.


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