Last week The Birmingham Post described how Birmingham City Councillors are burying their heads in the sand over the threat of climate change and the need for a sustainable approach to city projects. Among the most vocal detractors was Coun Len Clark, who dismissed the issue as a "vague theory". Today Chief Reporter Paul Dale talks to Labour councillor Steve Bedser who is pushing for action
The chairman of a hard-hitting inquiry exposing Birmingham's failure to promote sustainability has dismissed his critics as "Flat Earthers" whose views would soon become irrelevant.
Labour city councillor Steve Bedser said he was not worried about opposition to his scrutiny committee report on sustainability and climate change because those who believed there was no problem would soon find themselves in a tiny minority.
An interim report by the committee rejected the city council approach to sustainability as under-resourced, poorly-led and lagging behind other local authorities.
The report:n criticised the regeneration of Eastsiden called for strict sustainability conditions on developersn took the council to task for not using its #900 million a year buying power to promote sustainable goods and services.
However, councillors from all parties criticised the document when it came before the main scrutiny committee a week ago. They refused to back a call for higher expenditure on promoting environmentally friendly lifestyles, with several members warning of escalating costs.
Coun Bedser (Lab Longbridge) hit out at what he termed the "Flat Earth society", adding that the momentum behind sustainability was so great that their views would soon be irrelevant.
He wants conditions on sustainable development to be inserted into the city centre masterplan, which is being drawn up by the council.
Coun Bedser added: "There are large tracts of land in and around the city centre looking to be redeveloped, not least the wholesale markets site.
"When we are looking to redevelop brownfield sites or regenerate existing buildings we should be building in things like energy efficiency of an extremely high standard.
"You would hope to find solar powered water heating where appropriate. You would find wind turbines. You might employ the very latest technology in terms of insulation and thermostatic controlled heating which are not currently mandatory in terms of the specification the planning committee expects."
The lack of any regulation imposing sustainability requirements on developers is likely to be a key feature of ongoing work by Coun Bedser's committee.
Urging the council to "future proof" new development, he warned that two of the largest regeneration programmes of recent times – the Bullring and Eastside – lacked sustainable features.
Coun Bedser added: "If you look at the Bullring, unless it is hiding its light under a bushel, there is no evidence that sustainability was built in from the outset. It is a fantastic building but I am sad that it doesn't send out a sustainability message. How many low energy light bulbs does it have, for example.
"I also remain doubtful about how good Eastside is going to be in terms of sustainability. There are some individuals who are working extremely hard to bring about sustainable development but much of the success has been in spite of rather than because of.
"We need to turn things on their heads. We need to create a culture where sustainability is a given."
Coun Bedser believes that Birmingham's manufacturing genius can be utilised to cash in on the growing pressure across Europe to develop sustainable lifestyles.
The interim report comments: "The environmental economy in the West Midlands is worth about #1.8 billion alone, and Birmingham could be an exemplar of using sustainable development to drive its economy forward.
"There are huge opportunities for the city to have quick wins through innovative showcase projects which could, in turn, influence the mainstream. It is essential to market this as pioneering – that Birmingham is a forerunner on the economic/sustainable development agenda."
Coun Bedser added: "We were pre-eminent at industrial development. Then we moved into economic development at the end of the 20th century.
"We now have to understand that there is a new culture change and we need to move from economic development to sustainable development."