10 October 2019
Bernard Hyde has many letters after his name and is a RIBA Chartered Architect has been invloved with aspiring local plan since before 2016. The Local Plan is running late as the council wait to hear if their application for an infrastruture bid worth £170m. Here's what Bernard had to say about the most recent draft...
This response should be read in conjunction with the responses given to previous local plan consultations. Please see attached ‘issues and options’ consultation response February 16 and ‘development strategy’ consultation response June 18.
Ref: Medway Local Plan Response
Date of Submission: 29 September 2019
Submitted by: Bernard Hyde. DipArch.RIBA.DipTP
The future is green, or there is no future.
Medway Council has declared a climate emergency and the creation of a new local plan for Medway is a timely opportunity to produce a plan to guide Medway towards a sustainable, resilient and prosperous future.
Up to and including the nineteenth century we built compact cities, then with the advent of personal motorised transport during the twentieth century we built dispersed cities. In neither case, time has shown, did we get it completely right.
We no longer have to decide between a compact or a dispersed city. Our need for action on climate change has predetermined that we create denser, greener and more liveable urban areas.
Why would we want to repeat the mistakes of the last century, for example spending millions of pounds on highway infrastructure, to turn a stunningly beautiful part of our area into sprawling car dependant suburbs, when the Hoo Peninsula should be declared a National Park.
The Medway Council area has a diverse range of topography and a location to be envied, however Medway’s present circumstances have been constrained by a lack of finance, lack of ambition and a lack of vision.
The vision for Medway’s future needs to be seen as more than a place to moor one’s yacht or land your private aeroplane. Medway Council could turn their declaration of a climate emergency into the greenest, most sustainable, liveable and thriving urban community.
The local plan needs to reflect this imperative, but unfortunately lacks some of the necessary ingredients.
There are two aspects to our current situation regarding climate change, that we need to address.
IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
We all know that the vast amounts of water historically locked into polar ice sheets and glaciers is being released through a global rise in temperature. (This is not news to all of us, I can remember discussing this in a geography class sixty years ago.)
This process can be slowed down or even stopped at some time in the distant future if we act now.
However, for the foreseeable future we need to take urgent action to protect our living space from the impacts of climate change.
The most obvious and on-going impact of climate change is a rise in sea-level.
Medway is blessed by being located where the land meets the sea. All of Medway’s foreshore is tidal and we derive great benefit from it.
However, sea levels are rising and large areas of Medway are susceptible to not only flooding, but permanent inundation from the sea.
The current government policy on sea-level rise is for a ‘managed retreat’. We are already a tiny country with a large population and such a policy is unrealistic.
To combat the impacts of a rise in sea-level we need innovative solutions. We need solutions that not only secure the future of our living space but provide additional benefits whether in the form of for example housing or renewable energy.
The key to such solutions already exists with current technology and developments implemented elsewhere in the world.
In Medway we cannot retreat from the rising waters. These waters have historically been our source of communication, transport and well-being. We cannot abandon well over a thousand years of development.
To finance such solutions, we need to create compact urban areas that can support the cost of the protective measures that we need to take.
All of the additional housing and development needed by Medway to accommodate a growing population, needs to be concentrated into the existing urban areas to help finance the measures needed to protect those areas from the impacts of climate change.
If the government insists that Medway has to accommodate more than double the number of new people, that would be required by natural growth, then the government must pay for it.
In the light of the above it is obvious that spending money on infrastructure to help create more dispersed ‘suburban’ communities that would use up valuable agricultural land is not going to be part of the solution, it is adding to the problem.
Within the local plan period and well before 2035 we need to achieve net carbon zero carbon emissions and better, in all that we have done and will do.
We need to connect climate policy to the needs of all citizens, demonstrating that action to combat climate change can improve lives, not diminish them.
Such action will result in, for example, better homes, more money in the local economy, cleaner air, healthier travel options and new employment opportunities.
The local plan needs to be underpinned by using the following principles for green growth across all activities.
Existing homes need to be brought up to net zero carbon emissions. This can be achieved using a combination of renewable energy and retrofitted insulation.
One method currently being implemented to achieve this aim is based on using the future cost savings on heating and cooling a dwelling to finance the necessary works. (see http://www.energiesprong.uk )
New homes need to be built to net zero carbon emissions and better. This will mean adopting standards of insulation, airtightness and renewable energy beyond current building regulation requirements.
There is a plethora of means and approaches to achieve the required standards. The current method of delivering housing projects relies on large housing developers taking the lead and using their ‘pattern book anywhere’ approach to design, creating inefficient, unsustainable, inappropriate, badly designed dwellings by outmoded methods of construction.
Medway is defined by its two rivers, and for many people living on the water would be an ideal solution. This is proving successful on a large scale in the Netherlands. The concept of a zero-carbon houseboat has been implemented by Bill Dunster, the Zedlife Architect. Medway has many suitable locations, close to urban areas, where this would work.
More money in the local economy.
We need to spend money on our future protection from the impacts of climate change and on creating green solutions to development.
More people living in the urban areas creates opportunities for local businesses to have more customers on their doorsteps. Locally owned businesses provide local jobs and more money stays in the local economy.
The existence of a local circular economy can provide benefits for everyone in the community. This does need supporting and explaining as people often can’t see beyond the cost cutting multi-national offers that rely on the exploitation of producers.
Many more people living in urban areas will reduce the need for private motorised transport and allow for the introduction of less polluting public transport. Nottingham UK and Portland USA are good examples of successful environmentally friendly public transport systems designed to be used with renewable energy.
Portland USA is also a good example where urban forestry has been adopted on a large scale to initially improve the quality and quantity of storm water run-off into important fisheries. The urban forestry has had the additional benefit of improving air quality.
Medway has similar topography and weather to Portland and could benefit from a similar approach. Climate change is bringing with it markedly heavier precipitation events and measures to control the quantity of storm water run-off will become more imperative.
Healthier travel options.
Having more of our daily needs met locally will enable people to adopt non-motorised methods of getting around.
If the environment is clean, safe and attractive, walking or cycling will be a pleasant experience providing health giving exercise.
New employment opportunities.
The green economy has the potential to provide many new employment opportunities as part of a circular local economy.
The key to the success of creating new employment opportunities is to ensure that it is part of a circular local economy.
It is far more efficient, in building construction, to adopt off-site manufacture of components under precision factory conditions using renewable energy.
However, if for example we buy structural insulated panels (SIPs) that have been manufactured in Hull, we have lost both the point and the opportunity to benefit the local community.
‘Local’ must include ownership being local as well. It is very generous of the people in a struggling economy like Medway’s to line the pockets of national and international property developers, but it is neither necessary nor sensible.
Medway has a history of boat building and producing zero-carbon house boats would be one of the many new sources of employment that could be created by a positive response to the climate emergency.
Medway’s climate change fate is closely linked to our neighbouring authorities, particularly Swale Borough Council, that shares the Medway Estuary and River Thames Estuary with us.
Swale has historic experience of inundation from the sea and is better equipped to cope with rises in sea-level, despite having a much greater area of land presently at or below sea-level.
Co-operation between the two authorities would be welcome in producing a well-considered raft of measures to accommodate the impacts of climate change.
Bernard Hyde. DipArch.RIBA.DipTP
On behalf of Medway Green Party