A journey to the right destination: creating sustainable and inclusive communities

Angela Barnicle, second left, with Cllr Huw Thomas and Richard Bonner

City leaders have been at the forefront of pushing decarbonisation ambitions because of their broader perspective on the impact on all communities, including communities of the future.

They have declared climate emergencies, set uncomfortable deadlines, and invested in the growth of green infrastructure projects.

Angela Barnicle, chief officer for asset management and regeneration at Leeds City Council, said its district heating network is a key part of the city’s decarbonisation ambitions.

Speaking at a panel event at MIPIM, she said: “We’ve grown that network off our North Bank, and then we’ve done some innovative things with our property industry about making sure when we’re putting new bridges across the river that we’re laying the conduit as well with the pipes, so we’ve got that passive provision.

“One of the new areas of policy that we’re really focusing on is that overall cohort of people that have that ability to pay.

“We’re accessing all the grants and doing what we can for the people who don’t have that – but how do you activate that market that can?

“We’re doing some really great work with the Institute of Green Finance at the University of Leeds, thinking about how we really accelerate that market and give us the skills.”

Cardiff has the first city centre sustainable urban drainage scheme of its type in the UK, in Central Square in the city’s central business district.

Cardiff City Council leader Cllr Huw Thomas said: “This contributes to placemaking, it is creating an urban area where people want to be, want to spend time, want to spend their money.

“It is also, in turn, supporting other initiatives that underpin not just sustainability principles, but inclusivity principles, such as active travel.”

Paul Dennett, deputy mayor of Greater Manchester, highlighted the 10-year gap in life expectancy in different parts of his city, Salford.

He said: “We’ve got to get better as city councils, as city regions, in tackling that significant divide and that does speak to sustainable drainage systems, it speaks to tree planting, it speaks to creating new parks like we’re doing in Manchester at the moment, which is absolutely fantastic. But we have got a long way to go on all of that.

“Innovation and R&D very much sits at the heart of what we’re trying to do in Greater Manchester because this agenda is as much about how we grow our economy as well as how we actually tackle the climate crisis, and ultimately how we create jobs and opportunities for the people of Greater Manchester.”

Bristol became the European Green Capital in 2015 and West of England chair Richard Bonner believed this had a “hugely catalytic effect” on the city.

“It mobilised the whole community of citizens, businesses, and the public sector to work together,” he said.

“I suspect that was one of the reasons why Bristol took the lead to become the first city to declare a climate emergency, setting 2030 as its ambitious plan to decarbonise, and that’s allowed us to bring together many aspects of the assets within the city.

“Not least of which, through the local authorities and the Combined Authority, we shaped a fairly significant investment green recovery fund of £50m, which is being targeted towards a whole host of initiatives that allow us to head towards those ambitious goals.

“But it also created a positive catalysing effect to think really big when it came to how Bristol change the deal around decarbonising the economy.”

Creating the right mindset is important when addressing some of the most ingrained problems in society.

Barnicle talked about HENRY – a childhood obesity programme in Leeds that has succeeded in having a positive, measurable impact and changed behaviours – which can offer lessons on the approach places can take in achieving sustainable outcomes.

She said: “We’ve done nothing very innovative because sometimes there are no new ideas. It’s just about doing the good things well – where we’ve educated parents about the quality of nutrition and health – you get good health, you get good outcomes.

“Sometimes we think we have to go find new things but sometimes it’s about just working really hard and doing the good things really well.”

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