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Paul Najsarek: let’s not forget the environment in our drive for growth

Paul Najsarek
  • 1 Comment

Promoting growth has been a major feature of local government’s work throughout my career.

It assumed a special position in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Not surprisingly, in a world where growth at the national level has often been sluggish and the proceeds of growth not equally shared, our effort has focused on attracting investment, building affordable homes and stimulating business and employment. The discussion about business rate devolution and the recent budget projections, which suggest a further long period of wage constraint and lower growth, must further strengthen our resolve.

Perhaps with the notable exception of air quality, the national debate on the Budget, devolution and industrial strategy does not focus on environmental sustainability, except in the hope that cleaner technology may help.

This is very disappointing because any coherent long-term growth strategy must have the environment at its core. Despite our economic challenges, we have growth and high employment and live in a wealthy country by contemporary and historical standards. However, if we look at environmental indicators – be they air quality, climate change, or CO2 emissions – all of them are blinking red on the national dashboard.

We all know an individual local authority can only do so much, but strong environmental outcomes are a vital part of Ealing LBC’s Future Ealing transformation programme. We continue to have an ambitious programme of growth for the borough supported by proximity to Heathrow and Old Oak Common (where HS2 will dock in London) as well as five new Crossrail stations and major improvements to our social housing.

However, environmental quality is embedded in our work. Examples include:

  • We’re bucking the London recycling trend, with our rate rising by seven percentage points in the past year to 51.5%, and we’re looking to introduce commercial waste recycling
  • We’re greening Ealing in terms of improving parks, and planting 20,000 trees across the borough this year alone, with volunteers heavily involved in developing new green spaces
  • We’re changing behaviour so residents shift from car use for short journeys to cycling and walking, thus helping to improve air quality, for instance by offering 1,500 adults or children free cycling confidence training this year.
  • We’re continuing to make the borough cleaner through a combination of tackling rubbish dumping and littering, issuing more than 7,750 fixed penalty notices since summer 2016 and getting citizens engaged
  • We have stipulated that the regeneration of one of our estates, Copley Close, will be a low car use scheme. Every home will have ample cycle parking and our current plans are for residents to get a year’s free car club membership as part of the regeneration, discouraging the need for them to own a car. New homes on Copley are energy efficient with smart meters to help reduce energy consumption
  • The council upgraded its street-lighting technology in 2016 with the aim of cutting our lighting’s energy costs and carbon emissions by half. We are also using smart technology to monitor and maintain street-lighting centrally, reducing its cost even further by cutting the number of call-outs
  • Now in its third phase, Transform Your Space is a special fund that has been helping residents restore unloved corners and bring them back into community life. It has now supported 10 community projects, including a two-and-a-half mile stretch of fruit trees, both sides of the Grand Union canal from Elthorne Park to Southall. The latest projects include the Horsenden Grape and Honey Farm, which successfully crowd-funded £33,000 to turn the idea of producing organic honey for the local community into a reality
  • We have made changes to the main routes into and out of central Ealing, with the aim of improving road safety for all users, in particular pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, and helping traffic to move smoothly
  • We turned waste from the original Wembley Stadium and Westfield shopping centre into a new park, turning materials into new habitats for wildlife and a range of recreational facilities. Four large conical earth mounds along the A40 edge of the site help to reduce visual and noise pollution and provide a unique landmark for the park and the borough.

We know we are only one part of a wider environmental system but we will continue to show leadership on this agenda. It’s crucial that environmental considerations feature strongly in our broader attempts to create an inclusive and sustainable economy.

Paul Najsarek, chief executive, Ealing LBC

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • davy jones

    Well said Paul! But I wonder whether we should not be even more radical and question whether we need more growth at all, or whether the planet can sustain constant growth. Perhaps we should be focusing on improving well-being as our core goal, rather than GDP. Perhaps we should be focusing on redistributing existing resources more equitably. Much research suggests that for most people, more "stuff" does not make them happier. Those with least resources do need more to improve their well-being, but surely redistribution can tackle that.

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