The 2012 RTPI Scotland Annual Conference Towards a Low Carbon Economy: What Role for Planning? was held on 6 November in Aberdeen.
It was sponsored by Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Architecture + Design Scotland, Halliday Fraser Munro, Paull and Williamsons and Scottish Government
It looked at planning's role in the transition to a low carbon economy.
Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) kicked things off saying that the scale of challenge we face is great. She is convinced that planning has a hugely positive role to play. Kate outlined the different policy drivers which drove change at different levels including Kyoto, the Climate Change Act, the National Planning Framework, Development Plans and community action. She outlined work being undertaken by TCPA including the GRaBS project which was developing practical tools on planning for climate change and the Leadership for Action & Planning Project (LEAP) which shares knowledge across European partners at political, official and community levels. She said that we had to focus on adaptation given fluctuations in growth of climate change.
The next speaker was Maitland Mackie, the Chair of Mackies of Scotland. Maitland outlined how he felt that planners have a huge chance to democratise and decentralise the ownership of the energy industry through their important role as part of civic society. He urged planners to develop long term strategic objectives, rather than focus on the short term and NIMBYism. Maitland also made the point that we were currently working in the context of limiting climate warming to two degrees but we are already on a path that will see a rise of four degrees.
Margaret Bochel, Head of Planning and Sustainable Development at Aberdeen City Council outlined how the Council was committed to reducing emissions and were using Development Plans to help achieve this. She outlined work undertaken through the Trinity Group which examined the impact of buildings standards on the viability of development. It concluded that the most effective way of taking this forward was to require developers to make contributions when building new housing which would go to an energy fund to retrofit existing stock. It was felt that retrofitting will be more effective given that 78% of homes that will be in existence in 2030 are already built.
The case for creating effective frameworks to help plan for energy was made by Keith Winter from Fife Council. He outlined how Fife Council has developed its own renewable energy routemap which has helped them to deal effectively with applications for renewable energy developments. The Council has a target of 2000 green jobs by 2020 and aims to create opportunities such as new jobs, investment and CO2 reduction. Keith also described how Fife was using its industrial legacy to their advantage in taking forward renewable development but said that there was an ongoing need to develop skills on renewables within staff.
Designing for the low carbon economy was the topic of Kevin Murray's presentation. As Director of KMA and Chair of the Academy of Urbanism, Kevin, urged people to learn from other parts of Europe, such as Freiburg where there is over thirty years of experience in building low carbon communities. He outlined how design can give positive choices to people to travel differently and how it can promote health benefits. Kevin pointed out that designing low carbon places involved creating a cultural shift which focussed on peoples' lifestyles. He discussed the concept of creating 'neighbourhoods of short walks' and said these they were not compatible with large out of town retail centres.
RTPI President Colin Haylock continued the theme of design and culture change by outlining work he has been involved in in developing a low carbon community in Gateshead. Colin discussed how they had wanted to create 'lifetime neighbourhoods' where you could move around community as your lifestyle changed though time. This had involved creating space for local food and opportunities for sustainable water, green spines and heritage. He also asked if we can we look at assessing the success of development in different ways through measuring health and happiness in low carbon developments?
After lunch the focus turned to looking at what a low carbon economy could look like at different scales. Bill Dunster of Zedfactory looked at the neighbourhood level. He felt that there is a lack of thinking in UK about the metabolism of neighbourhoods, as they were living places which changed over time. Bill discussed mainstreaming design principles and the need to think about when specific technologies were appropriate. This has been done in his Bedzed development in South London which incorporated technologies and been designed to provide maximum natural light and heat. It has also introduced the concept of integrating living and working.
Diarmaid Lawlor, Head of Urbanism at Architecture + Design Scotland discussed low carbon towns. He argued that before taking any development or planning forward, there was a need to remember that places have assets that you can build upon, including people, skills, land and buildings. Diarmaid emphasised that towns champion social spaces, a point that we need to hold on to as we look at their future. He also stressed the need to invest in innovation and skills and to use these to integrate our approaches.
The concept of 'growth corridors' was then outlined by Belinda Miller, Head of Economic Development at Aberdeenshire Council. Belinda talked about Energetica, an energy technology development corridor in Aberdeenshire. This public-private partnership is currently looking at planning and design; infrastructure; supply chain; lifestyle and marketing and communications. She said that it was important and useful that that Energetic is in National Planning Framework 2 and the Structure Plan.
Geoff Duke, Director of the Scottish Cities Alliance discussed the role of cities in supporting a low carbon economy. Geoff outlined the Cities Strategy objectives of attracting investment, economic activity and job creation. He discussed the important role for the 3rd National Planning Framework (NPF3) in promoting cities and how work was ongoing exploring new models of infrastructure investment, sector mapping, investment tracking and promotion. Key priority projects are digital connectivity, smart ticketing, the Green Deal and city investment.
The final speaker was Derek Mackay, Minister for Local Government and Planning. The Minister said he wanted to ensure planning system played a 'can do' role in move towards low carbon economy. He re-asserted his commitment to a plan led system, supporting development delivery, improving performance and the importance of place. The Minister said that the low carbon economy will be prioritised in NPF3 and the document has role in defining the geography of this. He said that Scottish Government will show leadership and wanted to work in partnership with others to take forward planning reform. In doing this he wanted to work with the profession and respected and valued its role in creating a low carbon economy.