This report is an excellent example of what the SDC can do to support government. It builds on the experience of numerous case studies which demonstrate the wide range of sustainability benefits that can be achieved from retrofitting and upgrading our infrastructure. The Commission believes that this necessary process can be done in a way that achieves multiple benefits; generating jobs and skills, reducing our carbon emissions and waste and at the same time engaging with communities in a way that ensures that they are part of the process of achieving a better quality of life for themselves and those around them. It is too good an opportunity to miss.
Chair, Sustainable Development Commission
Enabling communities to renew their neighbourhood property and infrastructure is the most cost-effective way to ensure our villages, towns and cities are fit for the future and create the conditions for people to thrive. The Future is Local points to the UK seeing unprecedented levels of engagement from residents, investors and the businesses in the supply chain in an urgently needed boost to economic activity delivering a long-term benefit for these communities.
Managing upgrade works on a neighbourhood basis can encourage greater participation and cut costs by 20-30%. Releasing this capacity will help deliver the scale and speed of change needed to meet the economic, carbon and resource efficiency targets our future depends on.
In examining individual behaviour change implicit in a shift to sustainable living, the gap between intention and action is well documented. Individuals feel constrained by the physical systems that they live and work within – the existing buildings and streets, utility pipes and wires, and the hardware of provision of local services, from bins to bus stops. This local infrastructure, existing in different forms in every neighbourhood as it was invested for different needs over its history, impairs people’s quality of life and ill- equips them for the increasing priority of living sustainably.
The Future is Local presents evidence that there is a major, unrealised opportunity in the UK to unlock this issue by focusing on the optimum scale for addressing these infrastructure reinvestment needs: the neighbourhood.
At neighbourhood scale:
• Engagement of residents can be secured through governance approaches promoting local ownership and high levels of take-up of retrofit measures most appropriate to each community and providing the supply chain and investors with a viable scale of project and structure of partner;
• Technical resource- and carbon-efficiency measures become feasible at whole-street and neighbourhood level that simply don’t stack up at individual home scale, including most low-carbon/renewable energy technologies and transport;
• Access to private investment is increased as neighbourhood scale provides ‘critical mass’, enabling scarce public money to be more effectively leveraged.
This report’s recommendations focus on the practical, the ‘how’ of managing upgrade works on a neighbourhood basis: building capacity at local level, developing and sharing best practice nationally and facilitating engagement by supply chain businesses, funders and policy-makers wishing to see communities successfully taking ownership for changing the place they live.