Day Two Highlights - Category C


What the judges said:

“It is not surprising, given the rising evidence of climate change and its impact through adverse weather events and changes in biodiversity that this competition should show a focus on reduction in the carbon footprints of communities. What is surprising is that many communities, even the smaller ones are concentrating on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to a net negative position. In other words with reduction in their carbon footprints and mitigation and offsets, they are planning a net zero greenhouse gas impact through their own activities. It leads one ask, will the most potent response to climate change come at the local government level.”

“Many of our communities are taking the “clean slate” approach to planning for their communities. Instead of going to the community with a draft plan developed by the bureaucrats, they are going to the community and asking for the 10 most significant issues to addressed and then building a strategic plan around these.

“In considering healthy lifestyles today, many communities are turning their minds not just to the usual health epidemics of obesity, diabetes and heart disease but towards less tangible elements that affect a community’s psychological wellbeing, mental illness, perceptions of community safety and crime as well as access to education.”

Norwich, UK: Popn 132,000

A Britain In Bloom Urban Regeneration category winner in 2008, the Norwich delegation was keen to underline Norwich’s credentials as a dynamic city with a prosperous and growing economy which at the same time places high value on sustainable environmental management.

The judges heard that Norwich has long led the way in “green” planning – in 1985, the city council adopted a green plan aiming to protect and enhance the landscape setting of the city. This was the first such plan in the UK and focussed on involving the local community in carrying out a programme of landscape improvement and generally raising awareness of environmental matters.

As well as having responsibility for 17 conservation areas, the local authority cares for more than a quarter of a million trees and has ambitions to make Norwich the capital city of trees within the UK. The city is the only one in the UK with a national park within its boundaries.

The East of England is the driest part of the UK and the City Council has worked to produce clear guidance for planning officers – the first in the country to do so. Among a range of progressive planning policies, the LivCom judging panel was told that all new developments must be powered by renewable energy.

Among recent successes, LivCom heard that Norwich was short-listed in the race to become the UK’s City of Culture in 2013. Norwich has the second highest proportion of people travelling to work by walking or cycling – 32% - in the UK and three new pedestrian and cycle footbridges have been provided to boost this traffic. Tram trains are also being considered.

Questions from the judges panel included asking the Norwich delegation to explain how its deals with trade and toxic waste and light pollution in the city centre along its maze of paths.

The panel heard that there were programmes for trade and toxic waste – these include an exchange of waste between different businesses. Toxic waste is taken outside the city to a registered facility but a recent initiative included decontaminating an area of toxic soil with the use of bacteria.

The cultural of the city and health of the population, specifically measures to deal with obesity, were also put under the spotlight.

Caguas, Puerto Rico: Popn 142, 733

The Caguas team described the city’s mission to “provide people with access to quality services in a creative and effective way through the optimal use of available resources and the active participation of its citizens” saying that “civic participation” is crucial to its success. At least 40% of the city’s strategic objectives derive from the priorities articulated by the barrios (wards).

The delegation told LivCom jury that there had been a significant improvement in the quality of life for citizens over the past 13 years. This includes a dynamic public works programme, transportation improvements, new recreational areas, arts and cultural endeavours, sustainable economic development, new employment opportunities and steps to protect and preserve the environment.   The initiatives had been led by the city’s late mayor William Miranda-Marin, credited with transforming the city and described by President Barack Obama as “mayor of a municipality that became a model of innovative government and citizen participation”.

Plans to put Caguas firmly on the map include a major public artwork in the form of a sculpture, the iconic Taino Woman figure, at the north gateway to the city, a new city hall and civic plaza and a riverside park. The Caguitas River Lineal Park has been created along the banks of the River Caguitas, one of the city’s most important waterways. It serves the practical purpose of defining the limit of urban development, protects the river from new construction and serves as a flood-prevention buffer for the urban areas. The park connects residential areas, commercial centres, schools and other local parks as well as cultural amenities such as museums and restaurants. The first phase has already been completed at a cost of $7.5m and three more phases are planned in a scheme which will cover 10-square kilometres.

South East County, Gran Canaria, Spain: Popn 121,880

Located in what was once described as the “poverty triangle”, the south east county of Gran Canaria is now in one of the more developed parts of the islands, despite challenges from the global economic downturn.

The South East County delegation told the LivCom jury that improvements had come through co-operation between the community’s leadership and residents and that the “stigma” of living in the area had been replaced by new civic pride and prosperity.

The LivCom panel heard how rapid growth (164% in the past 40 years), new housing and adverse climate conditions in recent years had damaged the natural landscape – the coastline areas had been badly affected but new measures had been introduced to protect the environment.

Alternative energy is a major growth area for the region with wind farms and solar energy a major feature. Photovoltaic solar panels have been installed on the roofs of every public building. At each entrance, monitors show visitors how much energy is being produced as well as CO2 emissions saved.

The region is also pioneering the use of wind power to run its desalination plant – when completed it will be the first facility of this kind to work at industrial scale exclusively on wind power.

Questions to the team from the panel included on public housing provision;

Village of Schaumburg, Illinois, USA: Popn 75,936

Still described as a “village”, LivCom judges heard how the community of Schaumburg has grown rapidly from a small farming community of 130 residents in 1956 to a bustling suburban community with 75,936 people covering 19 square miles. Born from the agrarian roots of German immigrant farmers, the town has retained its links with the natural landscape. The community’s 113 parks and open spaces totalling more than 1,100 acres were given as an example of this along with the town’s success in the Governor’s Hometown Award in 2006 and its status as a “Tree City”. A substantial section of the town’s submission to LivCom was devoted to environmental best practices. As well as a Biodiversity Recovery Plan, the village sanctioned a Comprehensive Green Action Plan in 2009. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is seen by the community as a key challenge and responsibility.  The first step has been to establish a community energy profile with a CO2 baseline that will be used to benchmark and establish goals for emissions reduction.

By encouraging utility companies to move to green power, the village hopes to reduce harmful emissions created by burning coal. The community has developed a renewable energy code for residential and commercial development and this was adopted in the summer of 2010. Carpooling, cycling and local and regional public transport schemes are all encouraged and the village promotes fuel efficiency in all community-owned vehicles.

Recycling initiatives have also been key. The Schaumburg team told LivCom that in May 2010, more than 63,000lbs of electronics, 1,135lbs of batteries and 158 pairs of spectacles were collected and 6,000lbs of paper documents were shredded and recycled.

Wicklow, Ireland: pop 126, 194

While dominated by the Wicklow Mountains, County Wicklow also has 66-km of coastline and is renowned for its shingle and sandy shoreline including two blue-flag beaches. In 2009, the council established a Green Team to co-ordinate and deliver an improved environmental performance. Key work undertaken has included a review of waste management, water usage, an energy audit, a recycling and waste audit and a paper procurement audit.

The LivCom team heard that a two year waste prevention project was completed in 2009 looking at prevention of waste in the convenience food retail sector. Key results included a 28% drop in backdoor waste and an increase by 24% in recycled materials – these included a scheme to separate coffee grinds as a soil enricher. This is used by local garden and allotment groups and today more than 50 tonnes of coffee grinds are recycled in this way.

Audits across the county had shown that food waste accounted for 50% and 70% of total waste. Research showed that technology for onsite composting is highly developed for the householder and large businesses but there is a lack of appropriate technology for small businesses with quantities of food waste in the range of 50-150kg per week. As a result, worm composting schemes have been developed in conjunction with a local company, Earthworms Unlimited. Wicklow has continued with waste reuse demonstration projects in recycling centres and “reuse in the garden” planting demonstrations.

The council boasts five recycling centres with two education centres, a network of banks and has mobile collections for geographically isolated communities. LivCom heard that up to 3500 cars a week use the recycling centre in Bray alone. There are 54 recycling banks, five full recycling centres and 10 mobile recycling units across Wicklow which has the status of most recycling-friendly county in Ireland.