What would make Harrogate District a better place? Harrogate Borough Council want to know the answer. They have recently had an independent consultant running workshops across the district asking residents for help in developing a ‘place story’ and brand for the district.
I went along last week to hear what others had to say.
George Pye, from “Thinking Place”, explained the consultation process and how it could help if a community had a shared story and sense of place. I found myself asking “What are our objectives? Are we trying to make Harrogate a better place for residents, or just “sell” our district to visitors and investors? Does more growth make us happier?”
What became evident at the ‘place story’ consultation is that Harrogate as a place is endowed with many assets. It was very easy for the assembled residents to roll-out a host of things we love about our District: the people, the countryside, the independent shops, the cultural activities. I could go on, and you can probably make your own list very quickly too.
George, reminded us that this is not the case for many towns and districts. I caught myself thinking of all the moaners in our District and wondered if they would prefer to live in some of the places George mentioned who are asset poor!
This week I will be attending the first meeting of the Harrogate District Climate Coalition, representing Zero Carbon Harrogate. This new body has been set up by HBC following on from the Council’s decision in May to commit to becoming carbon neutral. Businesses, utilities, local authorities, voluntary bodies and climate adaptation experts are all represented with the aim of bringing influence and action across all sectors, as we enter a decade of ‘make or break’ for the transition to a low carbon economy.
This transition is a defining moment for the District. As one of the residents at the consultation put it, “Responding to climate change is an opportunity to make the District a better place”.
A place where fuel poverty has been reduced; new ‘green’ jobs created; homes are fully insulated; locally generated renewable energy is used to meet our energy needs; new homes across the district are built to zero carbon standards to avoid needing future retro-fitting, and a viable public transport system is integrated with pedestrian networks and connected cycle routes to release some of us from the burden of private car ownership, and improve our air quality and health.
The District should provide a greater sense of place, with residents’ ‘home zones’ free from traffic, where support is provided for our farming communities adapting to the changing seasons and extreme weather and where woodlands are created for carbon capture and wildlife, enabling us to reconnect better with nature.
Some of these things will be influenced by the new Climate Coalition, others will need national government action and the upcoming general election provides an opportunity for us all to influence our future place.
Whilst there are many issues that draw our attention at elections, all the main political parties have put forward stronger carbon reduction policies than ever before, in response to the climate emergency and I would urge you to read these carefully and consider which are likely to take us forward sufficiently, over the five-year term of office, once elected.
This time we must focus on our national responsibility to decarbonise our economy. Waiting until a 2024 election will be too late. Use your vote to make Harrogate District a better place by securing a sustainable future.