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The future is green for Norwich

Tim O'Riordan

Tim O'Riordan

Archant Copyright 2010

A pioneering commission set up to combat climate change will tomorrow present a blueprint for how everyone in Norwich can reap the benefits of joining forces to cut carbon use.

And one of the most eye-catching suggestions the Norwich Independent Climate Change Commission would like to see introduced is a £1 per ticket levy on car parking in Norwich city centre, with the proceeds pumped into a Low Carbon Fighting Fund.

That money, says the commission, would not be used by Norwich City Council, but by an independent trust, and could be used to help families get energy-saving insulation in their homes to cut energy bills and reduce carbon use. Other proposals include:

Aiming towards a vehicle-free city centre, with more cycling and walking routes

Norwich City Council developing a strategy to support the use of local food and allotment schemes built into all new development as part of the planning process

The good work schools are already doing should be strengthened by more encouragement for more use of renewable energy and low carbon technology.

Lobbying of the government for planning guidelines insisting new buildings promote lower water usage and reduced carbon emissions.

All new housing, businesses and schools built to the highest environmental standards.

Examples of good practice at cutting carbon emissions being promoted to inspire others and show Norwich is leading the way.

Panel member Tim O’Riordan, emeritus professor of environmental sciences at UEA and former sheriff of Norwich, said the idea of the report was to create wider public recognition that Norwich can become a low carbon city.

“The idea is that if we all work together we can do something about this and feel good about it. It is the idea of everybody pitching in and doing something about it. It saves money in the household budget and makes you healthy.”

He added: “What we were asked to do and what we did is have a report which sets out clearly that if we want to go to a low carbon Norwich we need to do something different. If we are really going to play our part we cannot do it by the normal way of doing things, we have to talk about new ways of doing things.

“We can all doing something even now and everybody doing something together makes a big difference.

“This is a very important first step to help people to reduce some of their carbon usage.”

He said the more controversial part of the plan was not going to happen overnight and the proposals for a parking levy would go into a low carbon fighting fund.

“This would be used to improve the quality of living for those who cannot afford to take carbon out of their own lives. It would be used to help those who cannot help themselves to get their carbon down.

“In the immediate future nobody is going to go for extra costs on parking and extra costs of cars. It is not an ideal time to do this. But we are thinking about the coming decades. The nation is committing itself to lower carbon and Norwich should be part of this.”

Tomorrow, the commission will hold a conference at St Andrew’s Hall in Norwich, where it will outline its vision for cutting carbon in the city.

Bert Bremner, cabinet member for environment at Norwich City Council, said the council was getting ready to prepare its next environment strategy and members and officers would look carefully at some of the proposals.

But he also said that the administration would need to strike the right balance before pressing ahead with the measures.

“There are some really positive ideas in here and some will be in the mix when we form our next environment strategy,” Mr Bremner said.

“But it’s also a question of cost. We have got to have the right balance. Personally I would see the parking levy as a non-starter - who is going to collect it? On the basis of that everywhere else would be cheaper.”

• What do you think of the commission’s suggestions? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road. Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

About the commission

The commission, made up of key local figures, was set up in November 2009 to look at what can be done in the city to combat our impact on the environment.

The aim was to influence the city council and get a debate going on how to cut carbon use. The panel, chaired by former Norwich City Council deputy leader Brian Morrey, includes Graham Smith, dean of Norwich Cathedral. Tim O’Riordan, emeritus professor at the University of East Anglia and a former Sheriff of Norwich, Evening News editor Tim Williams, plus officers from the city and county councils.

One of the key pieces of work carried out by the commission was an independent study into how Norwich and the suburbs around it could switch to a low carbon society.

The commission, one of the first of its kind in the country, received more than 570 responses to its consultation on how to deal with carbon reduction.

Interviews were also held with 42 people, including the leaders of the four political groups at Norwich City Council, representatives from businesses such as First and Jarrold’s, staff at Norfolk County Council and representatives from Transition Norwich - a community group addressing climate change and moving towards carbon free living.

The study investigated a number of areas including people’s personal and collective responsibility to reduce carbon emissions, preparing for the future, building a low carbon Norwich, what the city council can do to support individuals, communities and businesses and what economic incentives might be available to encourage change.

Its findings were outlined in a 24 page report entitled Taking Pride In A People’s Low Carbon Friendly City, which called for a series of actions to be taken to drive down carbon emissions in Norwich.

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