Postcards From The Future
What does a low carbon future look like for the Harrogate District?
These imaginary postcards give an insight into what everyday life might look like in the year 2035.
OUR FOOD AND DRINK
There is a thriving food culture, with many restaurants and cafés using mainly locally sourced ingredients and products, including Harrogate Spa water, beer brewed in Masham and Tadcaster, and wines from UK producers.
Vegetarian and vegan menus are popular whilst ‘fast food’ is a thing of the past, helping to lower obesity levels in the district by more than 70% over the last 20 years.
Supermarkets stock mostly seasonal, local produce and have links to local farms throughout the District. Sainsbury’s for example has partnerships with farms near Boroughbridge, Dacre and Ripon, supplying vegetables, dairy and soya produce. Food past its ‘use by’ date is recycled as animal feed and ‘best before’ dates are a thing of the past, which has helped to reduce food waste rates to less than 5%.
Government grants allow farmers to manage their land to support biodiversity. Bees and other insects are doing really well, safeguarding natural crop pollination. We eat less meat now and lower livestock levels have helped to reduce run-off pollution, making water courses and lakes wildlife havens again.
Food costs are higher now, as a result of farmers being paid a fair price and the impact of global climatic change but locally sourced food is more affordable and the lower proportion of meat in our diet means the weekly spend on food hasn’t changed much.
OUR HOMES AND BUILDINGS
Energy bills have fallen and fuel poverty has been combatted thanks to comprehensive, energy efficiency retrofitting of the District’s buildings, which now use solar thermal, air and ground source heat pump systems, as their main form of heating.
With a high demand for skilled people working in heating technologies Harrogate College has become a regional centre for training and several specialist companies have established zero emissions factories in Pannal.
All new homes are built to ‘Passive House’ or equivalent standards, which means everyone living in new settlements, like Green Hammerton, Beckwithshaw and Clotherholme Ripon, has homes that are warm with low running costs, regardless of whether they are privately owned or in the social and rented sectors. Research by the Harrogate and District Clinical Commissioning Group has shown the health benefits from warmer homes, particularly for those with long term health conditions and the elderly.
The construction industry now has an understanding of the embedded carbon in construction materials, for both new build and retrofitting. The ‘house’ factory at Flaxby has been a UK leader in using ‘natural materials’ including wooden laminates to replace steel and concrete.
The Harrogate District has an above average spend on electrical items but these are now very energy efficient and most operate with ‘flexible demands’ (such as freezers and heat pumps) so they use electricity at times when prices are low on the local grid.
The town centres are vibrant pedestrian areas, with large numbers of shoppers and a wide variety of successful retail businesses. Parked cars are a thing of the past in most central streets, with the park-and-ride facilities around Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon offering effective options for drivers.
The blanket 20mph speed limit in towns helps motorists, pedestrians and cyclists to co-exist in harmony.
Through traffic is restricted in residential streets, allowing community spirit to thrive and helping to lower traffic accidents, as well as crime rates. Bus routes avoid any traffic congestion there is and provide direct access to town centres and most urban locations. In rural areas where there is no convenient bus route village car clubs and shared taxi schemes are popular.
Most children travel by bus, on foot or by bike using the network of safe pedestrian routes and segregated cycle routes. Adults also make short domestic journeys on foot or by bike - electric bikes are popular. As a result fitness levels have improved, obesity rates have dropped and there are fewer people with chronic heart conditions.
Commuter journeys are limited to those who have no work-from-home option. The majority of vehicles are electric, with remaining fossil fuel cars subject to the clean air tax.
The revolution in transport has seen an improvement in air quality, a reduction in traffic noise and an increase in tolerance between road users.
All energy now comes from renewable generated sources. Most electricity is generated within the Borough from solar; wind; a bit of hydro (on the River Nidd) and bio-gas from agricultural and food waste. Cryogenic electric storage plants, located around the District, also provide electricity to the local grid.
Where additional energy is required it is imported from the wind power stations off the Yorkshire coast.
Pretty much everything has gone electric; cars, heating, cooking and all the industrial energy used. A lot of our electricity is now produced from housing and business developments, like those in Flaxby and Green Hammerton, which were built to maximum generating capacity using solar roofs and walls, wind turbine ‘trees’ and ground and air source heat pumps for their heating. They are all now built to ‘passive house’ standard, which means they consume hardly any energy and can sell residual electricity into the local grid.
Each home has its own battery facility to store electricity generated from the building. Thin and light Laminate Solar PV (Photovoltaic) technology is now used on all roofs, the colour and texture options available allow it to be matched to local architectural styles, such as slates in Nidderdale and tiles in Ripon.
The increased use of clean energy has seen a reduction in respiratory problems, while better insulated homes and workplaces, combined with more efficient locally generated power, has seen a reduction in energy bills. There has also been a rise in the number of new jobs created locally in energy installation and maintenance.
There has been a huge increase in tree cover within Harrogate District, thanks to the Northern Forest Project which is now well advanced with two thirds of the planned 50 million trees already planted.
Our part of the biosphere is well on the way to being healthy again.
Actions really began to galvanise from the early 2020s, after widespread acceptance of the dire findings in reports in 2019 from UN agencies
like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and the UK’s Committee on Climate Change.
As well as helping to manage the risk of flooding and improve air, soil and water quality, these trees provide great benefits for residents' mental and physical well-being. The extensive woodlands have become popular visitor attractions, with many facilities and infrastructure that help make it easier for people to re-connect with nature. In this regard several organisations, such as the Woodland Trust and the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, have invested much effort, and the forest school movement has really come into its own too.
Re-wilding has taken place with the creation of new wildlife habitats, and species, flora and fauna, long extinct regionally, have been re-introduced. This has not only helped bring back a healthy environment, but the re-introduction of species also now draws visitors.
Timber markets have grown considerably as the use of wood - a renewable resource - has seen an upsurge in use across building and energy sectors. This has in turn led to significant job creation, in local communities such as Summerbridge and Flaxby, where sustainable raw materials and building components are produced.
The peatlands on the moors in Upper Nidderdale have been restored and now have protected status, helping to store carbon, reduce flood risk and improve water quality. The burning of heather has also been prohibited, which has further improved air quality and aided peat management.