Saturday 6 October 2012

retroblog #6: taking control

I enjoyed reading Simeon's reports from Freiburg, earlier this year;  partly because they showed what can be achieved in terms of making a city a rewarding place to live in but also because Simeon is one of the younger members of Transition Norwich and it is good to see someone from his generation taking an interest in town planning.  By coincidence, last Wednesday, Charlotte reposted  a blog of mine in which I bemoaned the lack of local interest in the massive developments being planned all around us.  Well there is good news and bad news to report.   

First the bad - on Tuesday, South Norfolk exhibited their plans in the village and the picture shows the attendance of males by age group - hardly anyone under the age of 40 showed up (much the same for females).   The session ran from 15:00 to 19:00 so most people could have dropped in.   

But there is good news - of a sort.   On Wednesday I was one of a handful of people to take a look at the plans for the next phase of developments at the Research Park and I'm pleased to report that my suggestions for a cycle path  have been incorporated pretty much exactly as I suggested.   I can't say that this is purely as a result of my efforts but I can say that I've not met anyone else who has made as much of a pain of himself over the last few years to the planners (who have reacted in a friendly way and told me where best to apply pressure).  I'm well aware that all this development has huge environmental costs and that my fellow bloggers would much rather none of it happened at all - as do I.   We are certainly not going to stop something if we don't make ourselves heard but my experience is that we can at least influence the developments if we make some modest efforts to take control of our own futures.

How to make a city green... and purple, and yellow, and blue 
 by Simeon Jackson on May 24th 2012
I have recently been in Germany, in the town of Freiburg.  I'm pleased to say that Freiburg does have a Transition Initiative. I didn't get a chance to meet them, but, as far as I'm concerned, I didn't need to, because the town itself spoke to me of the concern that the residents have for the environment, and for the people who live there, using the resources they have to make the place ever more sustainable.

Over the next few days, I will be showing you a few photos that I took there, of each aspect of the sustainability in their lifestyles that I think we should admire and replicate.  The first, literally greening their town.

Who wants to guess what the building ahead is? "Surely it's a hill, not a building," one person replies. "Well, its obviously housing," pipes up another. Well, here, I'll put you out of your misery... it's a multi-story car park.  Yes, it has steps running up it, yes it has housing on top, yes there are planters up it and climbers all the way up the walls (see next photo), but it is a car park, trust me.  This is the pedestrian entrance, obviously.  The cars enter the other side, off the main road which is sheltered from the pedestrian area by... the car park! This next photo is from halfway up those steps.

Literally just round the corner, we see this:

Wisteria trained up the walls of the buildings and over the street adds purple to our green, adding not just nature, but a beautiful canopy for the street, which, unlike trails of fairy lighting, offsets rather than burns carbon. We should have more Wisteria in Norwich, in my opinion. There's some that grows up my parent's house and occasionally we have to cut back before it starts trying to climb into the roof, but I don't think I've seen any in Norwich itself!

Finally, let's just pop down the road to a major shopping street, where we come to a rooftop garden above a shop.

Who'd have thunk it? And even if you don't consciously look at it, just the presence of it brightens your day and makes you feel more connected with nature.

Tomorrow, we're going to observe Freiburg's transport. :)

All photos by the author.  Feel free to use under creative commons share-alike.

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