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Vision 2050: A Sustainable future for Cheshire West and Chester

Vision 2050 is the work of a group of environmental professionals committed to addressing climate change and environmental sustainability (for more info see the Background section of the report). The report addresses climate change and peak oil. The report was presented to the Council in March 2009, for info see: Cheshire and Cheshire West Partnerships Bulletin. Issue 3 mentions the launch in the Update on Partnership Events section. - SO

[Excerpt]

Executive Summary

This Vision for a Sustainable West Cheshire is intended to guide the Cheshire West and Chester Authority (CW&C) in taking decisions about the future of the area. It is centred on the premise that if we are to achieve a truly sustainable community by 2050 the direction of travel set now must be right. This Vision, prepared for the new CW&C Council, recognises its responsibilities as an estate manager, service provider and community leader, whose influence extends to the community, local businesses and other public service providers. This document is designed to inform the development of the new Sustainable Community Strategy during 2009.

The ‘Context’ section paints a picture of the place in which current trajectories predict we will be living in 2050. A common thread emerging is the reduction in individual and collective impacts on resource use of all kinds due to climate change mitigation measures and the depletion of resources, especially oil. It suggests that by 2050 the CW&C area must be characterised by:

• Cohesive communities with most of their needs provided locally, frequently with the involvement of local people;
• Improved health and well-being through increased walking and cycling, and improved air quality;
• More local employment and local businesses with shorter supply lines;
• A vibrant and dynamic local economy;
• Readiness to respond to fiscal strategies leading to a UK economy of modest or zero net economic growth;
• Increased proportions of energy and food produced locally;
• Reduction in waste arisings and optimum rates of recycling;
• Improved habitat management, leading to enhanced biodiversity and greater provision of ecosystem services;
• Improved flood defences, sustainable water supplies and ecological waste water treatment;
• Reduced road freight and fewer car journeys;
• Increased rail and water-based freight and more journeys by public transport;
• Mixed use, demographically mixed developments.

Recommendations for action are then summarised around ten themes:

1. Community energy and energy efficiency: There must be an emphasis on efficient use, renewable sources and small-scale electricity generation local to our communities. Key actions are around supporting community energy schemes, improving the energy efficiency of existing housing stock, supporting new energy start up businesses, introducing energy education and control into homes and schools, and engaging partners in planning for energy reduction.

2. Transport and accessibility: The focus is on the enhancement of localised and integrated systems of public transport in conjunction with cycling and pedestrian infrastructure to encourage people to travel more efficiently using less carbon based fuel. Measures include the careful planning of new developments, coordination of travel planning by major employers, and activities to engage communities in the design of local cycling and walking opportunities.

3. Resource management and waste: The importance of both the use and recycling of materials locally, reductions in the use of non-recyclable materials and design for low energy consumption must be embedded in all our activities, supported appropriately by awareness-raising campaigns.

4. Engaged communities: Transport and resource restrictions will lead to greater emphasis on local arrangements and the need to provide more personalised support services to an increasingly older and more stable population. Communities and individuals should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own needs, with public agencies becoming catalysts and facilitators rather than just providers. Steps towards empowerment include support for low carbon groups and promoting democracy and participation within the school curriculum.

5. Low carbon economy: Central to the creation of a sustainable, low carbon economy is the local re-circulation of money. This will help to fund community regeneration, local services and further local job creation. The reliance on the internet for business is likely to grow, and video conferencing for businesses should be supported. Promotion of the use of natural resources, re-use and repair businesses will be important.

6. Development and the built environment: As resource costs rise and the effects of climate change become evident, innovations in architecture, building construction and standards, energy generation and infrastructure planning need to be accommodated. The use of local materials and recycling will increase. As most of the current building stock and infrastructure are likely to still be in place by 2050, a key concern is identifying adaptation and improvement opportunities.

7. Natural resources: Reduced use of imported goods will make home grown materials more valued. Timber, and other plants such as hemp, flax and reeds will become increasingly important for use as building materials and in textile manufacture. The economic and environmental benefits derived from ecosystems, for example in water retention and purification, will be recognised, and opportunities for re-naturalising land to capitalise on this should be sought.

8. Open space: Open space is a capital resource whose careful management can yield a range of benefits. Specifically, the local management of open spaces within residential areas for multiple uses, such as recreation, timber crops, fruit and vegetables, can facilitate provision of a range of societal benefits.

9. Food and farming: The development of local markets in West Cheshire and surrounds will be important as we rely less on internationally traded, out of season food. Provision should be made for food production by the commercial sector and informally. Opportunities for community supported agriculture, in which the public are customers and workers together, should be encouraged.

10. Water and flooding: Three aspects of water planning are considered: supply, flooding and sewage control. The vision is to manage areas of land upstream for water retention by allowing rivers to flood into wetlands and woodlands, thereby providing clean water, and to provide numerous small areas to treat locally produced sewage wastes using natural processes.

Overall, the report provides an integrated vision of the constraints predicted for the next few decades, and how an enlightened new Authority can turn these into a comparative advantage.

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