Friday, June 26, 2009

In the foothills

We had what I thought was a very successful meeting of Darlington Assembly today, focussing on the green agenda facing the Borough.

About 100 people were there, mostly representing a myriad of organisations from across the town.

An early presentation was given by Adrian Hilton, the Regional Climate Change Co-ordinator based at the North East Assembly. Adrian spelled out just how climate change, happening now around us, could accelerate and alter life in the North East forever, whether as a result of higher temperatures, flooding or storm surges.

The Minister of State Ed Milliband MP had wanted to attend, but unfortunately had to pull out - he sent a personal message to the Assembly which was well-received. Our local MP Alan Milburn came too to add his thoughts to the proceedings, and launch the Greener Darlington awards, of which more anon.

The most valuable section was devoted to practical examples of how organisations are doing their bit to cut CO2 emissions and help lower the worst predictions for global warming. Alistair Mackenzie, the parish clerk at Sadberge talked about the energy saving project in the village which has changed residents' patterns of use for the better. An environmental engineer from Cummins explained how the local company has made a real dent in their carbon emissions, and energy bills too. And there was a lovely presentation from schoolchildren at Harrowgate Hill Primary school about their work, which has earned them a coveted green flag.

In my 15 minutes, I tried to give a sense of where we all are in the Borough at the moment on the sustainability agenda. We have the plans and the strategies, but by themselves, they simply tick boxes. Having a strong and vibrant Local Strategic partnership, under the leadership of chair Alasdair MacConachie is a huge boost (in evidence from the Assembly today).

All too often, thinking about climate change leads to feelings of despair - turning round the metaphorical supertanker seems impossible for a mere individual, so why bother? Yet in Darlington, we are making real progress, as evidenced above. And local council schemes like the Local Motion project, or the new household waste contract, or the Green Fair, or the work we are beginning to reduce the authority's carbon footprint, all will make a real difference.

To mix my metaphors, as a Borough we have a mountain to climb to play a full and active part in the international drive to limit climate change. We have made progress however, and are (at least) in the foothills. We should feel good about that, whilst not minimising the scale of the task ahead. There was plenty of food for thought for all the attending Assembly members after today's event.


Aeres said...

Hi Nick,

As you've mentioned the Local Motion here could I perhaps direct your attention towards something that seems to be a bit of a contradiction in this respect?

I live in Harrowgate Hill and, in common with many others use the A1 quite regularly for work, etc. For as long as I've been driving I've always come off the A1 at junction 58 and turned past Burtree Caravans to head down Burtree Lane and into north Darlington.

Now, however, I'm sent on a 2.8 mile detour all the way to the Swan House roundabout before doubling back on myself to get to Burtree Lane. Alternatively, I suppose I could head up to junction 59 instead but this is also a longer route (as well as having to go through roadworks which seem to have been there for years now!)

I'm guessing that there was presumably some sort of safety reasoning behind this - but if so, why could there not be traffic lights instead?

The reason I tie it up to the Local Motion project is that (and I'm going to take wild guesses here!) lets say 500 cars have to take this detour every day - that means an extra 1400 miles a day or over half a million miles a year extra as a result of this road rearrangement.

As I say, there may be a very good reason why this was done - I'd hope that the environmental consequences were taken into account though, particularly as the council seems so determined for its residents to 'do their bit'.

Aeres said...

Oh, and one final thing - it must be killing the business of Burtree Farm (as well as the caravan shop and the pub). Maybe as a fellow chook-keeper you might have a bit of solidarity with them? ;-)

tree hugger said...

I said ages ago those business's would be suffering!

I for one would like to see some actual proof of all this so called greenhouse effect not just EU scaremongering over landfill fines pushing the debate by fines rather than physical evidence as some scientists still disagree!

I personally think we should all do our bit but looking at some recent lies we should all be more sceptical of just what the Gov. tell us.

Anonymous said...

The gap at Burtree was closed for safety reasons because there was a lot of crashes with motorists from the A1 crossing over into Burtree Lane and colliding with speeding traffic coming up the hill towards Burtree.

I must admit I found it annoying when the cross over point was closed and had to do a detour into Aycliffe to get back into Darlington.

Chris Close said...

I was an invited member of this audience and the positive factor just was not there.

Milburn could not even be bothered to turn up on time.

Chris Close said...

And he also left early but frankly on that score, nothing new about that but it was a shame because although the Friends of the Earth might disagree, some of it was interesting and informative.