Devolution could help region to tackle the climate challenges, Turner & Townsend roundtable is told
Jonathan Wilson, the managing director of the developer CITU, which is delivering the Leeds’ Climate Innovation District, made a passionate plea for action to create sustainable communities at a roundtable event organised by The Yorkshire Post and Turner & Townsend.
The event, which attracted leaders from the private and public sectors, analysed the role devolution and changes in local government could play in improving the quality of public services and transport systems.
The Climate Innovation District is an energy-efficient development just outside Leeds city centre, where the buildings are engineered to retain heat in winter and remain cool in summer, which means they can be powered by renewable energy.
During the debate, Mr Wilson said the climate emergency could not be pushed under the carpet.
Mr Wilson added: “We need to treat it for what it is, a real emergency. We as a business, with developments like the Climate Innovation District, are creating an exemplar model for housing, place and work.
"We love being part of this conversation and we are proud to focus our solutions and activities in Yorkshire, to enable Yorkshire to be a leader in this, not a follower.
"A sense of 'place' has to start with people and the spaces we design and create,’’ he added. “The community and the mix of demographics and ownership of a place is of paramount importance.
"People need to feel a sense of proprietorship and control but be open to share. We have to be bold, curious and decouple from siloed thinking to progress sustainably."
Oliver Freer, a director in commercial real estate services business CBRE’s planning and development team in Leeds said devolution was a positive move for our region.
He added: “In planning terms there is a need to be more aligned to ensure delivery of key infrastructure and the homes and jobs needed, while meeting net zero target ambitions. This might be best achieved through having a new region-wide planning framework, to deliver the best outcomes for Yorkshire as a whole.
“As a first step, it’s essential that local authority planning departments have the necessary skills and resources available to deliver the plan-making and the consenting teams necessary to meet the growth ambitions to 2030 and beyond.”
“In my experience, the best development outcomes are achieved through positive engagement processes. This is essential in delivering successful development projects in looking to create a sense of place and identity.”
Michael Grace, a director at Turner & Townsend, highlighted the fact that Scotland, which is not as big as Yorkshire in GDP terms, has much more power in terms of devolved government. He said a “sense of place” could be created by developing a safe environment which supported the move to net zero. Nick Jones, who is also a director at Turner & Townsend, highlighted how many of the successful regeneration schemes in the region such as the Piece Hall in Halifax had been brought about by local authorities taking risks. He said levelling up had to start at grassroots level with investment in skills and also action to develop green energy.