I am regularly asked by children and adults alike, as a councillor and as a built environment professional, “what is the single most important thing that Brighton and Hove is doing to tackle climate change?”
It is a difficult question to answer because if I broaden the question to include reducing inequality and poverty (things the city is not doing), then then answer is applying for grants from government.
This applying for grants is neither innovative nor is it forward looking. Everyone is doing it.
When I’m asked if the city is doing better that other towns and cities because it has a Green administration, I struggle to give a positive answer. This one is also a “No”.
We only need to look at the Conservative-run Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole which scored a brilliant A from the Climate Disclosure Project earlier in the year. That was when Brighton and Hove under the Greens first managed a D and then a mere B on the second attempt.
As a city planner, I have argued, on these pages when writing about Toads Hole Valley, how embracing low-carbon master planning could deliver big carbon savings and healthier, more attractive places to live with minimal impact on cost of building and delivery.
This is not how the city does its planning. We do not engage master developers nor lobby our landowners in the city for higher quality and better standards.
This is both a failure of planning but it is also a failure on the part of the council’s senior leadership whose job it is to represent the city, be present in all the important gatherings, especially the ones the city hosts, and to lobby investors for investment rather than apply for government grants when we do not have sufficient project managers on the books in the city to manage and deliver these projects after we get the grants. The council excels at wasting money as documented elsewhere, eg, home to school transport.
Brighton and Hove recently hosted the South Coast Development conference whose content and its conversations only served to remind us of the opportunities that there are on the south coast and also some of the challenges that we face.
The built environment industry looks set to play its part in driving and supporting development and economic growth in the region and it’s a role that we need to take on whole heartedly and collaboratively as a city for this to work.
This means that when senior officers speak at these events they stay on to speak with investors and their own communications specialists (like the ones doing the eastern seafront).
And that the council’s political leadership should do more than merely turn up and sit at the very back of the room checking emails before leaving after a few minutes.
Senior political and technical leadership has a job to do for the city and that is to host, navigate and empower some useful relationships that will bring investment to the city. This leadership is not delivering at the moment.
As an aside, putting a water fountain right in front of the entrance to Brighton station in the path of commuters moving in and out of the station should not be the best we can do. The city and our residents deserve better.
Councillor Samer Bagaeen speaks for the Conservative group on climate change and the Carbon Neutral Member Working Group.
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