Kenneth J. Spelman, C Env.,F.R.T.P.I.,F.I.C.E., F.C.I.W.E.M.,M.I.E.I., CHARTERED ENGINEER
Any sustainable activity as most of us have been told many times is an activity which can be undertaken repeatedly without depleting the resources used and thereby allow future generations to undertake the same activity.
With the advice from the Climate Change experts that we have got to change our ways and produce a less polluting society, these changes can mainly be taken by you the reader. The largest problem is the properties that are already built and need to be updated. This means that the reader should be establishing hopefully a five year programme but probably a ten year programme to update their property with Climate Change in mind. The programme would need to be financially supported by the Government either in the form of Tax Credits or by Grants.
The first step which has been taken by a large number of people is providing better loft insulation and providing double glazed windows. Some people have also used cavity wall insulation where it is safe for it to be used. Next on the programme would need to be geo or air thermal heating which would provide the source for the central heating system.
The final addition would be solar and photovoltaic panels. Although this may not be appreciated in conservation areas most of the slate roofs planning authorities would want to keep were at one time a modern replacement to the original thatch. The solar panels will provide hot water and the photovoltaic would provide electricity and would be linked with batteries for storing electricity. With properties mainly self sufficient in electricity this would safe guard against terrorism.
For the change in car usage it is possible for each dwelling to produce their own hydrogen so that it would be possible to have hydrogen powered cars.
We can see from the above that the biggest problem in moving towards eco sustainable towns is with existing properties. Although the concern about eco sustainable towns has led people to think of providing new settlements which would be sustainable. In thinking of establishing a new settlement an economic reason for it to exist must be established. If people have to drive to work in a neighbouring town 10 or 20 miles away then the new settlement will not be sustainable. With establishing all the infrastructure at great cost for a new settlement can hardly be justified. It will be much better to link new settlements onto existing urban areas where the whole infrastructure exists.
In order to create an affordable development agricultural land for the extension would be purchased by the Local Planning Authority or Government Agency. Land for houses for priority people who are essential to the functioning of the extension and for public service activities would be purchased at four times agricultural value and at ten times agricultural value for open market houses. The Authority or Agency would design the layout and establish roads and services, and either undertake the development themselves or sell to housing associations and developers at eight times agricultural land value for the priority houses and twenty times agricultural value for open market houses.
Local authorities should be required to purchase farms around or within their area in order to provide local produce for their residents, and to reduce transport journeys.
These extensions to existing settlements would need to be designed sustainably and if the extension was large enough then there would be a range of opportunities to the designers and the residents. Hydrogen vehicles would be the only vehicles that would be allowed in the area. The main supermarket for the area could be owned by the residents and provide a link and integrated system for the provision of convenient stores in the area.
It is envisaged that each neighbourhood within the extension would consist of no more than 2,500 dwellings and this neighbourhood would be surrounded by a landscaped cordon so that at some future date it could not coalesce with other neighbourhoods. The landscape cordons could be linked so that an inner network of cycle and pedestrian ways could provide easy internal access to the facilities in the extension.
The individual dwellings would need to be designed to space standards that are superior to the Parker Morris standards and include a room which would allow two or three people to work and run a small business from home. The planning permission for the dwelling would automatically grant permission for the business use which would not be subject to business rating.
It is quite likely that the design of the houses and the general configuration of the extended area would allow for the use of composting toilets. The provision of these toilets would need to be linked to encouraging residents to grow their own produce. Several experts have drawn attention to the fact that Global Warming will cause many of the countries that provide us with food not to be able to do this in future.
It is necessary for us to plan nationally for all our food to be provided within the country. This, of course, prompts the question as to how many new houses and people can the United Kingdom accommodate. There must come a time when people will be told they need to find somewhere else to live. There is no point in building too many houses if people are going to starve. In any new development there would need to be neighbourhood facilitators who would encourage people to grow their own produce possibly using permaculture.
Whilst the above proposals may not satisfy the pursuits they can be realistically achieved with the support of all concerned. Certainly there would be a considerable reduction in the resources used producing the reduction in the number of power stations.