Newcastle is a forward-thinking city.
In 2012 it experienced a significant flood that affected more than 1,000 homes, disrupting metro, bus and national rail networks, with a knock-on effect on the region’s economy. This impact, coupled with research showing the city will see increased amounts of severe weather in future, led to a consensus that the city needs to be better prepared.
This work is happening despite the council being in a tough spot. To balance its budget, it has identified spending reductions of £90m over the next three years. This comes on top of reductions of £150m between 2010 and 2015. While some might wonder why the city has been so proactive in its approach to climate change in this context, it soon becomes clear it is part of a much more strategic approach.
In the past two years the council has voluntarily signed commitments with the government and the European Commission providing political ambition and a strong framework for action.
This is starting to bear fruit. The recently-approved local plan includes policies on green infrastructure and climate change; Climate Just data will give developers the local context to think about the best way to climate-proof their buildings. The council has worked with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership to embed climate resilience and develop regional investment in blue and green infrastructure; understanding relative enhanced exposure to rainfall and heat will help target investment.
While this will guide future action, Science Central – a 24-acre city centre development designed to provide space for residential properties, businesses and scientific research - is leading the way. The first building on the site, The Core, has already installed England’s largest green wall. As well as helping managing rainfall and heat, the wall enhances property values, improves air quality, lowers energy use, and stores carbon.
Another great example can be seen in Gosforth. Here, the council is working alongside Northumbrian Water and the Environment Agency on a £5.5m sustainable urban drainage scheme. As well as reducing flood risk to up to 100 properties, this partnership scheme will better support biodiversity through increased wetland habitat and improve the quality of the local golf course and local views. Here, Climate Just signposts where communities could become more involved in the management of such schemes in future.
It is clear the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s work has helped the city understand that climate change will affect everyone differently. The city is targeting resources more effectively, securing better value for money, and increasing resilience to climate change.
Kit England, policy and communications business partner, Newcastle City Council