Thursday, 30 July 2015

Green Arena for a Green Capital

Focus on the Bristol Arena and related issues, such as transport plans, has become much sharper as the pre-planning application consultation approaches (mid Sept 2015).  We need a Green Arena that fits with the aspirations Bristol has as EU Green Capital 2015 (please sign and share the e-petition on this here). To achieve a Green Arena the principles below should be applied:

There should be a pro-active, fully inclusive approach towards informing and genuinely involving the public, especially in the vicinity of the development, at all stages. This should include the overall development, plans, adapted plans, construction and ongoing feedback after construction and into the operation of the Arena and associated features.

A broad range of development performance measures should be adopted, social, economic and environmental, and these should be regularly assessed, published and subject to public scrutiny. Performance measures such as: the proportion of Arena and associated development users not travelling there by car; the quality of the air in and around the Arena site as indicated by on-site monitoring stations; the proportion of resources used that were obtained from local sources; number of local people employed and the fairness of their pay.

The development should maximise the availability of a diverse mix of facilities and services, integrated well and using local people, local businesses and resources.

The ability to walk and cycle to, from and around the Arena area and key routes to and from it should be the top priority and should be maximised. Use of integrated public transport systems to access the area should also be a high priority. Essential car users such as disable people and the emergency services also need a high priority. There should be minimum provision for cars, except for essential users, as more cars would add to an already congested and polluted city.

Green, open spaces should be integrated into the development in an optimised way and specially designed to benefit biodiversity, human health, efficiency and the reduction of noise, light and air pollution – as well as enhancing the overall quality of the experience of using the Arena area.

The Arena and all associated developments should conform to the highest possible social and environmental standards in all respects, using innovative low carbon and low waste designs and systems, energy saving and local renewable energy generation technologies.

A total, ecosystem style, joined up approach to managing people and resources should be adopted by the Arena and associated developments, based on a sustainability charter drawn up through cooperation with Bristol’s public as co-authors. There should be an annual report facilitating ongoing public input into site sustainability.

The Arena and associated developments should commit to being partners in enabling the provision, purchase and consumption of fresh, healthy, local foods on and around the site.

Further information on the Arena here:

Thursday, 9 July 2015

The business of going green in BS4

Bristol South needs sustainable development and has for years been neglected compared to other parts of Bristol. It was most welcome therefore to see investment projects such as Filwood Green Business Park open for business this May. What the city and country needs is very many more developments like this and even better ones - boosting local economies, creating jobs and going green. Sadly we still have a cuts focussed government, not an investment, rebuilding, sustainable development focussed one as yesterday's Budget clearly shows.

What is sustainable (or green) business though? And why is it so important? Business is about commercial organisations buying and selling. Sustainable (or green) business means the whole commercial organisation and everything it does is socially and ecologically responsible. This has been expanded on and explained in a number of ways (see here).

Descriptions offered are not always complete and objective due to vested interests however, so if you hear a business, or an individual for that matter, talking up their sustainability or green credentials test what they say. Check that they are including and explaining where they stand on these six criteria:  efficiency replacing waste; renewability and not resource squandering; living within environmental limits instead of pollution; socio-economic goals geared to wellbeing for all not more and more money for a few; this generation and those to come, the world over, getting their dues; and local community empowerment.

Truly sustainable (green) businesses should be able to demonstrate that they are: meeting local workforce needs; offering satisfying fairly paid work; using local goods and services; supporting learning and explaining sustainability; reducing inequalities and meeting basic needs; offering car free access for all; preventing poor health; reducing pollution and climate change; using energy, water and materials efficiently; protecting plants and wildlife; working healthily and safely; supporting local distinctiveness; partners in enabling peoples physical, psychological and social development; partners in involving people in decision making.

Filwood Green Business Park measures up well against a range of these criteria. Its design meets the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) Outstanding standard. It was Highly Commended at the BREEAM Awards last year, as the highest scoring industrial building in the South of England. The process used for planning the park was recognised by the Royal Town Planning Institute as an example of Planning Excellence in their 2013 Awards and ideas from local people, such as a green roof, were incorporated. Complete sustainability performance will emerge over time as the business park goes into operation.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Green space protection in Bristol

Green spaces are one of Bristol’s most valued features; one of the most obvious ways you can argue it is, in a relative sense, green. Bristol City Council Council should do all it can to maximise the protection of this finite asset, especially so given the city’s European Green Capital status. It should not permit the proposed development adjacent to Eastville Park Lake (pictured) on land that has multiple protective designations (details here; planning application 15/01870/F) if the designations are to mean something.

National planning policy has the stated aim of protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development. Building over the land pictured would damage the environment and is certainly not a sustainable development.

Many have experienced the disappearance of areas they and their friends and family once roamed around and played in. In an urban area open, green spaces are vital to sustainability and thus our health and the quality of our lives:

·         offering relief from the all too common congestion and other negative effects of development
·         providing ways of connecting with and appreciating the natural world – vital to wellbeing and to encouraging respect for nature
·         giving people a feeling of space
·         providing leisure, tourism, recreational, entertainment, sporting opportunities
·         helping to attact and keep businesses and help them to attract and retain the staff they need.

The above is not an exhaustive list.

Green spaces are vital to sustainability in that they provide key ecological and environmental function benefits:

·         storm water drainage and thus flood protection, as the land soaks up, temporarily stores and then gradually releases rain
·         taking carbon dioxide (and other pollutants) from the air and thus helping to fight climate change and local air pollution
·         provision of wildlife habitat and food supply, aiding biodiversity
·         buffering people from noise pollution
·         providing naturally cooler areas, thus countering the urban heat island effect

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Land is of course needed if we are to build a sustainable society and so not all types of green space development under all circumstances should be opposed. The council should selectively support and advocate the development of land if it clearly contributes to building the quality of life and sustainability of our neighbourhoods, communities and society by, for example:

·         making use of brownfield sites (research by UWE shows room to build 30,000 houses on Bristol brownfield sites)
·         promoting walking and cycling over motorised travel
·         providing local energy generation,
·         enhancing local food production
·         enabling waste avoidance, reuse, recycling, composting
·         boosting local skills development and small-scale local green manufacturing

This list is also not an exhaustive one.

Please support this e-petition here about prioritising the development of brownfield sites and protecting green spaces.