Localising new-build housing

Architect and writer Clive Aslet (left) writes about a development of 4,000 houses on 500 acres – houses, small apartment blocks, schools, surgeries, mixed income housing, shops, business premises and leisure facilities and green spaces – on the edge of Newquay. There is an emphasis on local labour, materials and procurement.

“How society chooses to house people is every bit as important as how it chooses to feed people,” says Tim Gray, estate surveyor and chief of operations “If you can get those two things right, you will be happier, healthier and better able to engage socially. the ambition is to build community and engender civic pride, to live so that you can meet your daily needs conveniently on foot, not to differentiate between homes of different tenures, and to be connected socially with the adjacent settlements — this should provide good foundations for deciding how the nation should build homes in the future. There really is an alternative.”

Aslet describes a number of features:

  • a core commitment to spend the money in Cornwall, using local labour and materials and a pattern book with typical Cornish vernacular details, e.g. roofs are made from Cornish slate from a nearby quarry
  • The plans include setting up a town farm in some listed buildings to provide food for residents of the development.
  • There will be mixed-use neighbourhoods, in which the car is subservient to the pedestrian.
  • There will be a community orchard, allotments and ‘edible gardens’.
  • Low-cost rented homes are scattered among the more expensive owner-occupied ones 30% of the housing is affordable.

The area has been given a new lease of life. The quarry provides jobs, and so do the builders responsible for the work — all firms are from the southwest, whose work not only requires local labour, but also helps to establish local supply chains. They form what Gray calls a “consortium” a method that ensures the architecture is practical and appropriate for the local market.

Newquay is poor and homes are particularly needed by young people. Judging from conversations with a number of people in their twenties and thirties and young families met in the area, they like the designs, the edible gardens (herbs and fruit bushes are planted next to houses), espaliered pear trees and bee bricks (bricks with holes laid into the eaves of houses to welcome threatened bee populations), they’re all part of the philosophy — as well as local style, local materials and local employment . . . local food.

This is symbolised by the community orchard. seven acres of land that has been turned into allotments. “Trespassers will be composted”, reads one of the signs. Orchard and allotments are visible signs of the local food web that is being encouraged. They’re also somewhere that people from the new housing can meet long-time Newquay residents.

As Tim Gray said, this should provide a good foundation for deciding how the nation should build homes in the future. There really is an alternative: Aslet sees it as the beginning of a movement that made Britain better to live in.

 

 

 

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Doncaster leads on local sourcing

As local sourcing where appropriate is central to relocalising and strengthening regional economies, many will welcome news of a pledge made by Doncaster’s Mayor Ros Jones to ‘buy local’.

mayor ros jonesBusiness Desk reports that when Ros Jones became Mayor in 2013, the council spent more money with firms located outside of borough, but now the vast majority of work goes to local firms, supporting the local economy and helping to stimulate jobs and growth.

Mayor Jones said: “I was determined Doncaster firms could bid for suitable contracts and by understanding what is involved in the procurement process have every opportunity to win work. We have put on workshops, organised events and provided support for business owners so they understand the rules, can find available contracts and know how to prepare their tender bids. This work is certainly paying off with amount of work being won by local firms increasing by a staggering 34% in the last four years”.

Doncaster Council’s procurement team has trained about 130 businesses on how to do business with the public sector and procurement rules have been changed to include local suppliers.

Working with the Business Doncaster team, supplier engagement events have enabled firms to meet public sector buyers, while other public sector agencies in Doncaster have also been encouraged to ‘buy local’.

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Dan Fell, the innovative chief executive of Doncaster Chamber, added: “Doncaster Chamber believes that it is important for local organisations in the public and private sectors to do business with each other to generate new supply chains and keep work local where possible.  For many years the Chamber has encouraged partners to ‘Buy Doncaster’ and, as such, is delighted that Doncaster Council has such a high percentage of its good and services locally.”

Because of Mayor Ros Jones’ pledge to ‘buy local’ – and despite reduced council budgets – the amount of work awarded to firms in the borough increased by over £27m since 2013/14 and now represents 68% of all council spend. In  2016/17, Doncaster based companies are projected to win over £108m of council work.

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Endnote: see news of the Birmingham Pound which encourages sourcing of local goods and services: https://brumpound.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

Corbyn focusses on decentralisation: localising energy and transport

corbyn-eee-manifestoJeremy Corbyn has launched an environmental manifesto that outlines plans for the UK to achieve 65% of energy from renewable sources by 2030 – without fracking.

Corbyn proposes to put cities, councils, devolved governments and communities at the heart of an efficient, decentralised energy system by promoting a shift to electric and hydrogen buses and cars; a network of low-emission zones and cycling with safe cycle lanes and hire schemes in every town and city.

The manifesto places social enterprises, including not-for-profits and co-ops at the heart of Corbyn’s plans for a “publicly run, locally accountable energy system”.

A “publicly run, locally accountable energy system”.

In a speech in Nottingham, the Labour leader said, “We want Britain to be the world’s leading producer of renewable technology. To achieve this, we will accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, and drive the expansion of the green industries and jobs of the future, using our National Investment Bank to invest in public and community-owned renewable energy. This will deliver clean energy and curb energy bill rises for households; an energy policy for the 60 million, not the Big 6 energy companies.”

He has promised to promote over a thousand local energy companies in the next parliament and legislate to give community energy co-operatives the right to sell energy directly to the communities they serve.

Housing

It would launch a National Home Insulation plan to insulate at least 4 million homes and phase out coal-fired power by 2025. The Labour leader estimates over 300,000 jobs would be created in the renewables sector as a result of these measures.

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Labour would reinstate the department for energy and climate change in its first month of going back into government, as part of its plan to rebuild and transform Britain, “so that no-one and no community is left behind,” he said at the event in Nottingham.

Jeremy Corbyn also encourages the British public to take action as individuals to help to meet the Paris climate agreement. He proposes to use the precautionary principle to protect the environment and people from harm – not a pay-to-pollute approach allowing the richest corporations and individuals to wreck our planet.

 

 

 

Post-Brexit we need to build an economy for the many

‘Home-grown solutions’

neil mcinroyYesterday, Ann (West Midlands New Economics Group) sent a link to an article by Neil McInroy (right), chief executive of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies. CLES focusses on economic development and regeneration, ‘promoting and implementing new progressive economic activities which create positive environmental, health and social outcomes’.

It was recently published in the New Start magazine under the title given and a few highlights are offered here:

“Framed by austerity, the economic reality behind many voters choosing Brexit was a future of little promise – insecure jobs, insecure public provision, insecure futures. As a result, many leave voters felt that they had little or nothing to lose. On the back of an economic recession eight years ago, insecurity and a social recession has been built . . .

“Maybe the game is up now? Brexit may now consume the energies of Whitehall and the treasury. The rhetoric and promise of more devolution from Whitehall may at best slow, if not stop. We can hope for more and deeper devolution, but I suspect this is a forlorn hope. More importantly, there is a pressing task in reducing the existing pain and hardship and addressing deteriorating community relations and cohesion.

“In this, the local economic development community, local politicians and potential Metro mayoral candidates have a responsibility. They must strive to protect and build progressive economic and social policy. They must look toward home-grown solutions, and radical innovations across public, social and commercial sectors. They must adopt a pro-social approach to local economic development. This is less about treasury-backed local agglomeration policies, boomgoggling promises and trickle down. This is about stimulating local demand, social investment, addressing city-wide inequalities and the economics of social cohesion. Progressive local solutions are out there. We need to be bold in accelerating them.

“I would hope the newly-formed commission on inclusive growth . . . (will) use its influence to broaden its narrow growth-within-austerity remit, and explore how to build a truly democratic, inclusive and resilient economy within fairly-funded public services.

“The Brexit vote was in part prompted by a sense that people felt abandoned by the economy, and the state. This has created a new local economic and political reality, and with it come great dangers. As such we must avoid deepening the social recession and accelerating the divides between the haves and the have-nots. It is imperative that we now build an economy for the many and not just the few”.

Read the whole article here: http://newstartmag.co.uk/your-blogs/post-brexit-need-economy-many/

Localism: a rescue plan for British democracy

A notable omission from Localise West Midlands’ extensive range of articles about, or with references to localism, is a review of a book by Simon Jenkins: Big Bang Localism: a rescue plan for British democracy.

big bang localismIn this book he attributes the decline in British voter interest and participation to the over-centralisation of power in Whitehall, ‘one of the most centralised governments in the West’. As turnouts in elections are dwindling, he notes, many are turning to ad hoc pressure groups and direct action.

Centralisation has not worked well, Jenkins believes; levels of satisfaction with health care, education and policing are lower in Britain than almost anywhere in the developed world. He notes a change in public opinion which once, on the whole, believed that the British government works well and is now shifting to a belief that it needs improving, citing contemporary YouGov polls showing a rise in discontent with public services and health care

Twelve years later the need to heed Jenkins’ pre Corbyn message has never been greater as the established on the political left and right frantically attempt to discredit and unseat a democratically elected party leader.

He noted that Britain’s local councillors are outnumbered three-to-one by 60,000 unelected people serving on roughly 5,200 local quangos, managing various functions that may be local but are no longer under local democratic control. Examples include health service, housing, prisons, training and economic development.

Jenkins points out that, across Europe, countries have spent the past two decades refreshing their local democracy – even traditionally centralised countries like France have devolved. The USA operates the most decentralised system of government and in these countries, public services are delivered more locally than in Britain – and win greater public trust as a result.

He sets out a programme for a ‘democratic Big Bang’, to return power to the local level, including control over health, police and education services, to re-enfranchise the British people:

Counties and cities should run:

  • health services
  • secondary schools
  • policing
  • the prison and probation services
  • youth employment and training
  • planning.

Municipalities and parishes should run whatever gives a community its pride and visual character:

  • primary schools
  • old people’s homes
  • nurseries and day-care centres
  • clinics and surgeries
  • parks and sports centres.

Local services should mostly be funded by local taxation, which should be raised from a combination of:

  • residential property tax
  • business rates
  • local income tax.

Jenkins proposes that central government funding of local services should take the form of a block grant, determined by the Local Democracy Commissioner and paid to local authorities with no strings attached.

The “enemies of localism” are vested interests and the national media, but devolution in Scotland and Wales shows that people prefer decisions about local services to be made locally. Simon Jenkins recommends that the Big Bang should start with a “bonfire of central controls” and an end to targets and official league tables, adding “Big Bang Localism is the answer to the failure of Britain’s public services and the loss of faith in British democracy”.

Quantitative easing to fund climate change programmes?

finance murphy header

Colin Hines, co-founder of Localise West Midlands and Richard Murphy, Professor of Practice in International Political Economy, City University, London, warn that the Paris Climate talks are facing an enormous funding problem to which there is only one viable solution.

In a new report published by Finance for the Future, entitled ‘Climate QE For Paree’, they suggest that the measures to be put on the table in Paris will not go far enough to halt a disastrous global temperature rises of more than 2 degrees because no one has suggested how the enormous cost of tackling this issue is to be addressed, particularly at a time of global economic slowdown.

The paper offers a solution to this problem, using a variation on the idea of People’s Quantitative Easing that has received much attention during 2015:

The world has or is intending to print €7 trillion of quantitative easing to keep the financial system afloat​. In that case, why not use this mechanism in the form of Climate QE to save the planet?

The European Central Bank is already e-printing €60 billion a month under its QE [programme and is committed to doing so till September 2016.

If it allocated say €10 billion a month either from this QE programme, or from an additional QE commitment, it could use it to buy climate change bonds from the European Investment Bank. The EIB could then direct these funds to climate change programmes in both Europe and developing countries.

This could have a galvanising effect on other rich countries, putting pressure on them to introduce their own Climate QE initiatives and thus further bolster global funds towards the many hundreds of billions eventually needed to keep temperature rises at 2oC.

Importantly, since Climate QE involves one arm of the EU, the ECB, creating e-money and using it to buy assets from another arm of EU, the European Investment Bank (EIB), this will not increase Europe’s repayable debt levels. This would also hold true for countries like the United States and the UK, something that is crucial to making involvement in ‘Climate QE’ post Paris politically acceptable to all rich countries.

How the European Investment Bank Could Spend Climate QE

The EIB already invests around 10% of its funds in developing countries and prioritises climate change mitigation and adaptation (e.g. renewable energy, energy efficiency, urban transport and other projects that reduce CO2 emissions).

To achieve the goals likely to be set in Paris, Climate QE funding should be used by developing countries to fund low carbon emitting industrial and agricultural infrastructure and energy efficient buildings in cities. Such projects face difficulty attracting private finance, since the returns are harder to identify and the process of capturing and sharing them are more complex than normal investment programmes.

Rich Countries would benefit too

Colin Hines said:

‘Climate QE is not just for poorer countries. The economic and employment advantages of investing in energy efficiency and renewables is not only a way to generate economic activity in every city, town, canton and hamlet across Europe, but will also ensure our continent’s significant contribution to helping solve the biggest threat facing humanity, which is climate change.’

For further details contact:

Richard Murphy, Director of Finance for the Future LLP and Professor of Practice in International Political Economy, City University, London

Tel +44 (0) 1366 383500

Mobile +44 (0) 7775 521 797

And

Colin Hines, Convenor Green New Deal Group

Tel +44 (0) 20 8892 5051

Mobile +44 (0) 7738 164 304

How and why has the community spirit evident in Stirchley and neighbouring Bournville developed?

stirchley baths 3

As the writer saw in the first hour over a hundred local people flocking into Stirchley’s restored Edwardian Baths, their new community hub, with more coming through the door as she left, she remembered one resident’s words in Stirchley online:

Stirchley is a unique community. It must be one of the only remaining Edwardian designed High Streets left in Birmingham still mostly populated by independent traders of all descriptions.

Around this high street are hundreds of affordable owner occupied households of all age groups and ethnicities.

Its residents generally display the old Brummie attributes of being amiable, tolerant and willing to work with each other.

It has parkland aplenty, great public transport routes and is as much alive at night as it is in the daytime.

change kitchenStirchley Baths is a Grade II listed building, built in 1910 and closed to the public since 1988. Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet approved plans to transform the building into a community hub in 2012. It has ‘re-emerged’ with a community hall, meeting rooms, cinema space and training rooms. Its café will be run by Change Kitchen, well-known in the city centre, an imaginative choice.

Stirchley groups who intend to use the hub include established leisure, karate, arts and crafts groups, heritage initiatives, film nights and the monthly Stirchley community market. Three enquiries have been received from couples hoping to have their wedding receptions there.

The question stands: how and why has the community spirit evident in Stirchley and neighbouring Bournville developed?

stirchley banner

More about Stirchley:

http://stirchleybaths.org/timeline/

https://stirchleyhappenings.wordpress.com/

http://stirchley.co.uk/onlineforum/index.php

https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/tonight-see-stirchleys-restored-edwardian-baths-preserving-and-reinstating-many-original-features/ (pictures of the exterior)

 

Financial tools supporting the local economy: the world’s first crowd-funded fee free payment app

“There seems be a real appetite among consumers to buy from independent retailers and support community shopping”

droplet header

Those who have been expressing interest in Localise West Midlands’s involvement with a future Birmingham Pound will also read the Birmingham Press account of Birmingham’s Droplet a mobile app born in Birmingham promising a ‘customer loyalty revolution’.

droplet snapshot 1a brum

The Press reports: “Droplet, the brainchild of tech entrepreneurs Steffan Aquarone and Will Grant, has used £575,000 of Crowdfunding to take the world’s first fee free payment app into eight cities across the UK. More than 300 independent retailers across Cambridge, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Norwich are now accepting transactions by using the simple mobile app . . . The first eight cities have been chosen due to their vibrant independent scenes and their willingness to embrace new idea. Local ambassadors, who are well known in the community, have been appointed in each location to work with merchants to introduce the technology and grow the Droplet brand organically. With user numbers now over 23,000, there are plans already in place to build on the initial rollout by targeting another ten cities in 2016.

Will Grant says: “Birmingham is still a critically important city for us. This is where the Droplet story all began and we have just strengthened our team here to include new ambassador Laura Patricia Jones. She will be charged with building on our existing merchant base of 35 retailers and growing our user numbers in the city.”

droplet snapshot 3 brum

Using Droplet is simple for the consumer, just tap ‘pay here’ when entering a registered outlet for the first time and the payment is taken directly from your chosen card – you’ll get a notification on your phone to show how much you’ve been charged and the reward stamps you’ve earned.


For further information, please visit www.dropletpay.com follow @dropletpay on twitter or watch the launch video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzG1cO1-jXA

Local development as a strategic alternative in Fife

Once again many will question the dependence on a global market economy as headlines shout, “China’s ‘Black Monday’ sends markets reeling”. For months, in a range of publications, Mohamed El-Erian, who chairs President Obama’s Global Development Council, has been forecasting the risk of a ‘perfect storm’, adding that considering ‘its destructive potential, it warrants serious attention by policymakers’, though China does not loom large in his list of contributing factors.

fifediet small family2

Mike Small (with family, above) is said to be ‘behind’ the Fife Diet local eating experiment, which aims to relocalise food production and distribution on a regional basis, as a response to globalisation and climate change. See a 2008 Telegraph article and more in depth on the Transition Culture website.

Remarkably, it is funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund and has also received funding from Celebrating Fife, the Co-op Community Fund and Awards for All.

Over an eight year period the Fife Diet has developed from a simple idea framed around ‘local eating’ to a complex one about sustainable food, environmental justice, globalisation and culture. They set out to build a sustainable food movement that popularised eating healthy, local produce in Fife, starting from the understanding that there is something fundamentally wrong with the food system but also from the thought that they could, by acting collectively, do something about it.

They now believe that food has become central to the precarious economy. Real progress won’t be made until control is regained over the retail experience, and profiteers that benefit from products that fuel obesity are confronted.

In the Food Manifesto they are developing, they call for opportunities for the ‘right to grow’ and an expectation of quality healthy food in our public institutions, aiming eventually to become – as the Scottish government puts it, a ‘Good Food Nation’.

FAQ: “But what fruit do you eat?” Fife’s Pittormie fruit farm produce:

fife's pittormirefruitboxjuly091

Remarkable achievements listed on their site:

CELEBRATING OUR OWN FOOD CULTURE

When we started we were met by a mixture of incredulity and poorly-disguised scepticism. People really didn’t think that you could eat food from Fife, and survive at all. It was just unthinkable, unimaginable.

CARBON SAVINGS

In 2011-2012 we saved 1019 tonnes of C02e. Then, in a three year period (April 2012- March 2015) we saved a further 6976.37 tonnes of C02e. These are immediate savings, by diverting food waste from landfill thereby avoiding creating methane, for example, or by sequestering carbon and enriching soil with compost, but also by eating locally, growing our own food, eating organic, changing the meat we ate (and eating less of it).

OUTREACH

We held or attended over 500 outreach events over the three years, engaging with 15,520 people.

GROWING SPACES

We established a community food growing garden, a wildlife and forest garden and a vibrant volunteer and community group who are maintaining them. We hosted 57 events at the garden, including the children’s gardening club, large community lunches and volunteer sessions.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

We ran 79 weekly children’s gardening clubs (79 clubs over three years) and hosted 7 large-scale community events.

LEADING THE WAY

We were part of building a new food movement in Scotland that encompasses the right to food, championing small producers, insisting on sustainability as a measurement of quality in food production and celebrating food sovereignty.

NEW ORCHARDS

We planted 7 orchards around Scotland from Galloway to Sutherland with our Silver Bough tour (‘ a cultural conversation about apples’).

SCHOOL LUNCHES PILOT

We collaborated with Fife Council and the Soil Association in a pilot project exploring regionally sourced, healthy, sustainable and organic school lunches. See here.

INSPIRATIONAL PRINTED MATERIAL

We published a series of inspiring posters, postcards, booklets and other materials including recipe books, calendars, guides on native apple varieties and a booklet on gardening with kids. We also produced a free Ebook for our members of Collected Recipes from the life of the project.

BIRTHING THE ORCHARD COLLECTIVE

We curated and hosted the National Orchard gathering and helping the Orchard Collective into existence.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

We are proud to have been part of a wider movement and welcomed the collaborative work over the past eight years with such groups as Nourish, the Soil Association, Slow Food, Permaculture Scotland and Transition Towns.

Much more here: http://fifediet.co.uk/fife-diet-chronology/

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End note: protect and rediversify local economies

pp hines logoAs LWM’s co-founder, Colin Hines, has written, there is growing opposition to a system which regards as inevitable the driving down of tax rates for higher income earners, worsens social and environmental conditions and kills local jobs and small business opportunities:

“Whistling in the dark to keep up the nation’s economic spirits by promising export-led growth in an era of rising Asian dominance is a ridiculous policy. The alternative to these dangerous and damaging dark alleys is to propose a set of practical measures for protecting and rediversifyng local economies. This is the only way to tackle the economic and environmental crises, return local control of the economy to citizens and provide a sense of hope for their future . . .”

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