Catalytic Action 6: A climate ready LDF

The Executive of Manchester City Council- in effect the “Cabinet” of the 96 seat elected body, has recently accepted a report called the “Call to Action.”

A London-based consultancy called “Beyond Green” wrote the report, (for £32,000 plus expenses), which commits the Council to nine “catalytic actions.”

They are:

  1. World-leading neighbourhood regeneration

  2. Retrofitting Manchester’s civic heritage

  3. A business alliance for climate change

  4. Low carbon energy infrastructure

  5. Low Carbon Communities

  6. A climate-ready Local Development Framework

  7. The Manchester Prize

  8. Greening the City: i-Trees

  9. A green airport

We here at MCFly Towers think that these sorts of things go better with consultation. While we are waiting for the Council to announce just what it is going to do on this question, we will be posting one “catalytic action” per day on the MCFly blog, with a brief analysis. We invite the people of Manchester (and heck, why not beyond) to comment on these. We will pass on your comments to the Council.

That’s not to say the other parts of the report aren’t worthy of comment too- it’s just that we have to start somewhere, and here is as good a place as any…

Catalytic Action 6: A climate-ready LDF

“In the City of Manchester the key vehicle for achieving these aims is the Local Development Framework (LDF). The LDF is the spatial expression of the Community Strategy and as such climate change activity needs to be embedded within LDF, as in the Community Strategy and the Local Area Agreement. There will be several different parts to the LDF and as such several opportunities to embed low carbon planning and design requirements into the City’s future architecture.

“In April 2009 the City Council will publish the ‘Refining Options’ stage of its LDF Core Strategy, the principal statement of Manchester’s spatial planning objectives and principles.

“During consultation on Issues and Options earlier this year, some respondents argued that climate change imperatives mean Manchester should not seek to grow its population further and should place greater constraints on development than hitherto.

“The City Council recognises that development adds to Manchester’s carbon footprint, both in the ‘embodied energy’ that is used simply in the process of constructing buildings and infrastructure and in the additional emissions generated by extra residents. However, it rejects the suggestion that this argues for reducing the pace or quantum of development in Manchester. That would run counter to the City’s regeneration goals, but on a broader perspective is also the least sustainable course of action: continued population growth in and around Manchester is a welcome and unavoidable consequence of the City’s rising prosperity and demographic change; and development in and around urban cores offers the most economically, socially and environmentally beneficial way of absorbing this growth.”

Well, again, isn’t this something the council was going to have to be doing anyway?? So isn’t this “money for old rope?” There is no, in the terrible jargon of carbon offsetting ” additionality.”

So, during the previous consultation, various greens went “er, how are you going to square the circle of continued growth and reducing carbon emissions?” (this is- another jargon word- known as ‘decoupling’. Like two train carriages are ‘de-coupled’ from each other, the idea is that if you make your production processes much much more efficient, you can still have growth. Critics would say it’s like someone on a diet thinking they can lose weight while eating twice as much of the “low-fat” option…)

And how does the council respond? Does it respond with the sort of ‘radical new thinking’ that the Call to Action is supposed to represent.

Er. “However, it rejects the suggestion that this argues for reducing the pace or quantum of development in Manchester. That would run counter to the City’s regeneration goals…”

So, in effect, the Council is sticking its fingers in its ears, shutting its eyes so hard their retinas are detaching and shouting “La la la” very loudly.

We live in la-la land…

What is to be done? Be ready, really ready for the LDF Refining Options consultation. If they’re not going to consult on the Climate Strategy (they promised they would, but it is now a safe bet they won’t), then Manchester’s “green” activists need to be ready to rock and roll in April.

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