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The new "Local-Global" community resilience plan

In continuation with the Connected Places Catapult 2020 housing program priorities, the following blog explores how the localism is becoming a driving force in UK’s future homes evolution. Annalise Johns, Housing Lead for the Connected Places Catapult begins this discussion through this thoughtful piece on building healthy homes for the future.

The speed of response in the past 4 months has been remarkable and specifically the normalisation shift into a pandemic mode of conduct. Equally remarkable, is the agile business model displayed by local businesses who have maintained trading and the rise of local voluntary community service networks established literally overnight. Clearly globalisation has a role to play going forward however, the recent fervour around localism bodes well with the undertow of social-value percolating in economic and built environment circles.

The response rate, globally, is good news for climate change and timely. “In her keynote address, UN-Habitat executive director Maimunah Mohd Sharif said COVID-19 had brought into focus the relationship between health outcomes and management of the pandemic and the development of cities.”

The role of the supply chain, for food, services and essentials has been put to the test over the past 4 months and with this important stress test in many cases a localised solution has been lifesaving.

 

The biggest hurdle faced by this pandemic has been geographic. The logistics of social distancing has transformed how we get to work and access supplies, it has redefined high streets dependant on commuters or tourists. Yet, amid the high rate of shops closing we have also seen an emergence of pop-ups of local suppliers responding to a granular understanding of the local market demands. “The built environment is more than a reflection of economics or politics; beyond these conditions, the forms of the built environment are the product of the maker’s will”[1]

 

An example is the vertical farming industry, such as the Vertical Futures company in East London. Currently the largest urban farming company in the UK, the company’s intention is to support local population health, through the supply of fresh, locally provided produce using an efficient method of supply. Jamie and Marie Burrons who founded Vertical Futures, identified the need to reduce the carbon footprint of food production, and in the process increase local job opportunities. Distribution relies on London’s public transport and feeds a “range of markets and small independent shops and ventures. They can be grown to order if a chef or aspiring home cook wants. This is a highly technical business which relies on expertise from plant technologists, engineers and IT specialists, {…} creating opportunities that weren’t there before.” [2] “In the UK there has been an upsurge in public spiritedness, with local businesses and community organisations setting up food delivery networks to get food to vulnerable residents.”

What we are seeing is a renewed approach to efficiency by capitalising on local assets, local supply chains and services. Though some company’s such as Amazon grow from strength to strength, there is a noticeable rise of decentralisation driven by localism.

 

More than 67% of Local Authorities across the UK have declared a climate emergency and have thereby put in motion plans to reduce CO2 emissions and improve overall local resilience. The latest webinar from the Public Practice shared findings from Tara Gbolade’s review of planning permissions. These findings addressed the required sustainability content included in an application’s successful approval. However, her findings highlighted the sustainability performance of completed developments to be negligible due to conflicting building regulations and the varying sustainability standards found in local plans. This is a clear indication that the systems that universally governs localities across the UK are not designed to adhere or enhance the assets and strengths at community level.

 

The plight of our many high streets and the need to invigorate the economy through carbon neutral lifestyles means localism needs to form a stronghold of any council’s climate action framework.  While it is true a process to assess accountability of developers and ensure the efficiency of homes and buildings are indeed needed. I would argue there is also a geographic dilemma to the climate emergency and the solution lies at the feet of built environment professionals. Stuart Ropke, Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru, asks “do we build different types of homes in future with integrated workspace included and do we open up our office space to local start-ups and individuals who can’t work from home?”

 

We are presented with an opportunity to combine siloed domains of transport and housing to create a truly sustainable approach to our climate emergency plans. The Department for Transport’s Gear Change: A Bold Vision for Cycling and Walking, needs to be matched by a similarly bold housing vision that prioritises local residents and the community specific markets to mainstream carbon neutral lifestyles. A 2020 sourcebook produced by the UN Habitat and the World Health Organisation entitled Integrating Health in Urban and Territorial Planning, is a beacon for our current situation. It adheres to, not surprisingly, a health led approach – the zeitgeist of our time. As evidenced in the NHS Healthy New Town programme, a localized approach enabling a granular reframing of social value, and an openness to address performance gaps by testing new methods, and metrics on a much smaller scale and in a much more tailored way, breeds success. Supporting localism will enable communities to address the spatial inequalities that are at the route of the cause of causes. Ropke echo’s how lasting social and economic change is lasting when it is driven by those most likely to benefit.

 

As stated in the Economists July 25th 2020 Editor’s note Starting Over Again “what is clear is that the old economic paradigm is looking tired. One way or another, change is coming.”

 

This blog is one in a series and is part of our Future of Housing programme. Find out more about our work in this area by visiting our new Future of Housing knowledge hub.

 

Our Future of Housing blog series is intended as a platform for open debate. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Connected Places Catapult.

 

[1] Sennet,R. (2019) Building and Dwelling, Penguin Random House UK, p.2

[2] Crisp, N. (2020) Health is Made at Home: Hospital Are for Repairs, Salus p.129.

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