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4 changes Nottingham may need to make to avoid more ‘freak’ climate events

Nottingham City Council says it can “only do so much” as it strives to make Nottingham ‘carbon neutral’ by 2028, meaning a lot of the burden lies with residents and businesses. But what exactly will need to change over the next six years? Agenda Editor Joseph Locker speaks to the council’s deputy leader, Sally Longford, and Wayne Bexton, the director of carbon reduction and energy, to find out…

Nottingham City Council says its own operations represent just 3% of all emissions, with a significant portion of the remaining emissions coming from, primarily, its housing stock as well as businesses and transport.

More than 50 businesses in the city have signed to help the council meet its 2028 target, after the ‘Carbon Neutral 2028 Action Plan’ was published in June 2020.

However some of the responsibility lies with the residents of the city, says Sally Longford, who is also the portfolio holder for energy, environment and waste.

She emphasised the changes needed would be small and gradual but, without them, “life as we know it will be changing for the much worse”.

‘We have really poor levels of recycling in the city’

Between 2020 and 2021 Nottingham recycled, reused, or composted just 23.9% of its domestic waste.

And while only 7.1% of the city’s rubbish goes to landfill, with the remainder being incinerated and used to power more than 5,000 homes and hundreds of businesses through the district heating network, councillor Longford says the level remains “poor”.

“We have really poor levels of recycling in the city and there is also a lot of contamination,” she said.

“If it is contaminated it goes to the incinerator. We really need people to stop putting dirty nappies and food containers and things like that in the recycling bin, because a few of those in a lorry can turn the whole lot into a disaster.”

‘We know for a lot of people a car is important, but we do need to gradually make the shift’

The latest Government data shows the city produced just over one million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019, which is equivalent to more than 2.7 billion miles being driven in an average passenger car.

Nottingham has, however, reduced its overall CO2 emissions per person by 52.3% since 2005, which is the highest reduction of any UK core city, according to the council.

Councillor Longford says there is still work to do, and leaving the car at home for an alternative will be encouraged.

“If people think more about how they travel, rather than getting the car out for a short journey, think about walking or cycling and if you are not used to cycling there are classes now that help you, RideWise do regular sessions around the city to help people get on a bike,” she says.

“There is obviously good public transport and even e-scooters that people can use. But they are very Marmite.”



Construction of a new cycle lane continues in Canal Street.

While Nottingham will not need a ‘clean air zone’, with research showing it can achieve the target without one, planners have been designing the city in such a way to pedestrianise an area which stretches from Old Market Square to the railway station in the south.

There will be a cycle lane along Maid Marian Way “at some stage”, with the intention to install further cycle lanes along the main routes into and out of the city.

Councillor Longford said: “We have already pushed cars out of [the Broad Marsh area], we closed Collin Street a long time ago and that is going to be pedestrianised and landscaped, so hopefully from where the new car park is all the way up to the Old Market Square is going to be pretty well traffic free apart from delivery vehicles and that will obviously have a positive impact on people feeling like they want to walk and cycle.

“I don’t want to portray us as being anti-car because we know for a lot of people a car is important, but we do need to gradually make the shift.

“For those people that do need to get around by car there is the move to electric vehicles and public transport. I know that electric cars are expensive at the moment but I know as time goes on we will be able to introduce electric car clubs in neighbourhoods which will mean you won’t need to actually own a car, you could walk or catch the bus down to a local club and borrow the car when you need it.”

Mr Bexton added: “Whenever we are considering this it is not about, obviously in some scenarios you’ve got to, restricting what residents and citizens do it is about making sure the options they have in front of them are a sustainable thing to live in.

“We know people need a car for different reasons and we’ve got to transition to electric vehicles, so there is no point in shutting down infrastructure and having to reinvent it, so we are trying t ensure the long-term vision of the city is that sustainable one.

“When we then need funding we have got a strong position to say, as the leading core city on this agenda, to say to the Government, look, we want to go quicker and faster, arm us with the legislation and financial support and we will make it happen locally.”

‘Simple things like spending less time in the shower, those sort of simple energy saving tips, are going to make a difference’

Much of Nottingham’s domestic housing stock “poses a key challenge” the council says.

It accounts for the largest proportion of CO2 emissions in the city, with many homes typically being poorly insulated.

Many were built before the 1980s and, as a result, require gas or coal for heating and cooking.

Councillor Longford said: “A lot of people have got used to turning their heating on and not worry about it, but that’s all going to change in the next few months and if people put a couple of layers on when they are sitting around the house and turn the thermostat down for a little bit, it is going to save them a lot of money.

“Simple things like spending less time in the shower, those sort of simple energy saving tips, are going to make a difference.”

Nottingham is widely understood to be a deprived area, however, and with the cost of living soaring many people arguably have more pressing priorities than the climate emergency.

Mr Bexton says he does not believe this is “necessarily” the case.

He says the council has so far secured £24.5m from the Government to make energy efficiency improvements to numerous domestic properties, such as installing solar panels on 650 homes for free and carrying out whole-house retrofits of energy-saving measures, which will help bring bills down.

“I think you are right in that people are under incredible strain in the fuel poverty side, that is going to get worse, but we have got a really comprehensive fuel poverty strategy,” he said.

“Where people hit certain criteria, those that are most vulnerable, they can step into our warm homes hub and provide free solar PV and replacement heating systems, insulation, and again we are the leading city in securing grant money to come into the city to help those properties.”

He says 1,500 units are due to be deployed to retrofit homes, both council homes and private properties, over next year.

A ‘low-carbon lifestyle’

“Things will change, but there will be alternatives,” councillor Longford added.

“We have got to make change because if we don’t make change life as we know it will be changing for the much worse.

“We are a city with lots of places already vulnerable to flooding. A couple of years ago we have a freak flood event and particularly a storm that sat over the western part of the city, and people’s homes were flooded that have never flooded before.”

To achieve this she says a “low-carbon lifestyle” can be adopted, which could include having a vegetable-based diet or buying a second-hand bike.

Downloading a new mobile app can help people monitor their activities, such as recycling or using public transport, and by completing these users can get benefits such as discounts at shops.

But is it all viable considering the city council’s financial difficulties?

“We can’t do it on our own, we do need Government funding, but we have been successful so far,” she said.