There is a huge amount of interest across the community in environmental sustainability issues and that has been longstanding in Brighton and Hove.
I think the council has gone through various ways of trying to look at how it addresses the issues of sustainable development and climate change in a way that works.
It wants an approach that fulfils the obligations the UK national Government has been entering into, but does it in a way that it can make work with council finances. Each generation has been trying to find solutions which are not only good for the planet but are also financially sustainable.
It is about councils wanting to do the right thing, but trying to make sure they can make it financially sustainable within the legislation and with the buy-in of the local community.
One of our challenges recently has been that if we want to really decarbonise our city we want to try to harness the energy, enthusiasm and interest of our local community, but we also have to think about the way we work at scale. A significant part of this strategic work is being progressed through the Greater Brighton Economic Board – a partnership between representative local business organisations and local authorities that includes Brighton and Hove as instigator, alongside Adur DC and Worthing BC, Lewes DC, Mid-Sussex DC, Crawley BC, and Arun DC.
Also included are the two Brighton universities and the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership. That board has set up an infrastructure panel to look at how we can work at scale. We are looking at two areas – water and energy. The infrastructure panel is chaired by Ian McAuley who is chief executive of Southern Water, but he has also been able to draw in partners from UK Power Networks. What we are trying to do is look at water consumption.
What Ian would say is that we are as stressed a water area as parts of California and the Middle East – partly because of the climate and partly because of the population size. The current national average consumption per person per day in England and Wales is 140 litres per day, and in this part of the world we are already achieving 120 litres a day. We are looking to see if we can bring our water (usage) level down yet further.
But that means we have to look at something communities and businesses can buy into and that we have a strategic plan for bringing that about within a five to 10-year horizon.
Geoff Raw is chief executive of Brighton & Hove City Council