Rushmoor Climate Change Consultation

Last night I went to a climate change consultation with my local Rushmoor Borough Council.

40 local residents were invited down to Aldershot on a cold February night to discuss the borough's policy and, arranged into small groups, we brainstormed Rushmoor BC's plans for the environment and the future.

Of course, the number one topic raised was the issue of climate change itself. Currently, if you spend a lot of time in the media, the subject of climate change seems to be getting a real kicking. The Climategate affair, involving the leak of data from the University of East Anglia on the eve of the Copenhagen summit, followed by the controversy over the predictions of retreating Himalayan ice and now Sir David King's attack on the IPCC mean that a lot of scepticism is creeping in and, last night, a few dissenting voices were heard in the room.

The important consensus though was that climate change is happening. It's not just global warming or global cooling, but variations in "local" climate all over the world and, whether it's man-made or natural, it's best to prepare for it.

So, that first hurdle over, Rushmoor BC presented their plans for the next 20 years. The big issue locally is the Aldershot Urban Extension, meaning that our neighbouring town of Aldershot is to be the subject of a 4,500 home expansion. Whilst brownfield sites are preferable for new builds, it seems inevitable that so many more homes will be needed and the council will have to develop a new "town" of so many houses.

This will surely impact upon on our small Borough which is already a busy commuter area (with great links to London and the south coast via train and motorway). The plans are to lessen the impact of any new development, and Rushmoor BC made bold statements to meet and exceed environmental building standards by an additional 15%.

That prompted questions of "are the current environmental standards stringent enough?" meaning that beating them by 15% is a fairly easy task plus that age old question of "the council says it will meet & beat standards but will it actually do it?"

Many ideas were bandied around in our group with a lot of focus on restoring localisation, creating closer community, water run-off into the River Blackwater etc. Plus there was great interest in the proposed new power plant, powered, presumably, by local waste and providing heat & energy. The notion of creating an "eco town" was popular with the notion that Rushmoor could be as well-regarded as the city of Brighton which is always thought of as one of Britain's greenest urban places.

The usual topics of individual wind & solar power arose with ground-heat pumps and green roofs being thrown in for good measure.

Overall, a wealth of ideas were explored and there seems to be a consensus that the majority of people were in favour of bold steps in order to make the borough a greener place in terms of planning over the next 20 years or so.
The Natural Environment
The second part of the night revolved around Rushmoor's natural environment. Surrounded by military land, we are blessed with a fairly natural environment that is protected by its ownership under the MOD.

The consensus was that we should not only protect every single piece of green environment that we have around here but that we should also restore and improve upon it. Natural and man-made attrition of the trees in the borough is something close to my heart as I've seen numerous trees come down locally over the years, never to be replaced. Do we get an organisation like the Woodland Trust involved to help us re-green Rushmoor?

Cycle paths were mentioned again as local citizens expressed a desire to expand cycle routes and to encourage more use of cycles in the borough. One resident even complained that where he locked up his cycle in the North Camp part of town they had removed the cycle racks and never replaced them!
There was a very healthy discourse over the evening and a number of people felt as though this was just the first of many discussions regarding the environment in Rushmoor. The many notes that were made were taken away to be digested by the council and they will have much food for thought.

Some great ideas came out of the meeting and, for starters, I would like to see the replacement and replanting of more trees, an extension of cycle tracks and a push to get more people cycling, loft insulation for all, better buses and routes and a green roof initiative.

Every piece of green and MOD land must be fought for and preserved and the inevitable expansion of Aldershot MUST be sustainable, green and a benefit to current residents not a detriment.

Finally, I'd like to see flights to Farnborough Airport capped as they are. I've seen no major benefit to the local economy from the planes flying in and, working near the airfield, the avgas fumes are unpleasant and unhealthy, not to mention the M3 motorway and the ridiculous "sound barrier" erected for residents who brought houses right next to the M3 but complained it was too noisy! (irony?) Thanks to them the sound bounces off the wooden fences and pollutes an even greater area.

Let's hope Rushmoor Borough can only get safer, greener and cleaner.