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Stroud District Council Working with the Transition Town

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					Stroud District Council: Working with the Transition Town
initiative on adaptation

Summary
A Global Changes Think Tank was created in October 2007 to help the Local Strategic
Partnership (LSP) to consider how they should respond to the climate change
adaptation agenda. It is made up of LSP Members, Transition Stroud and Council
officers.
The Think Tank has been a success. The interim Sustainable Community Strategy has
strong climate change adaptation and peak oil elements and the Core Strategy
Consultation Paper has also been heavily informed by the outputs from the Think Tank.

A key innovation in the work has been involving Transition Stroud. Transition Stroud,
part of the global Transition Initiatives movement, is a network for local people and
groups working on the transition to a locally based low carbon lifestyle.

They have built up wider confidence and credibility with the LSP and the Council during
the course of their involvement with the Think Tank. As Barry Wyatt observes, “from a
policy point of view, being able to tap into a valuable local resource and using their
skills and knowledge to drive that agenda has been invaluable. They have helped to
inform big questions for the Sustainable Community Strategy and the Core Strategy,
provided a grassroots driver and given the Council a huge mandate.”

Background
Stroud District is set in the Cotswolds, well known as an Area of Outstanding Beauty,
and is situated among valleys, vales and wolds. The District Council is one of six district
councils located within Gloucestershire, a county which in 2007 suffered from the worst
recorded flooding in British history.

Climate change has risen up the agenda of Stroud District Council (DC) in recent times.
It was clear from the Council’s consultations in its Environment Strategy and 2007
budget survey that climate change was a key issue for local people and businesses. As
such, one of the commitments within the Strategy was to raise the profile of climate
change with the Stroud District Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) and within the
sustainable community strategy.

Being a district authority, the Council itself is not signed up to NI188. The County
Council, however, is signed up to NI188 through its Local Area Agreement, and Stroud
DC has played a leading role in taking forward county-wide efforts on adaptation. It sits
on a county-level Adaptation Task Group and has sponsored a ‘More Resilient
Environment’ programme which, according to Peter Wiggins at Gloucestershire County
Council, “helped to build good capability and capacity across the County.”




                             Stroud District Council: Working with the Transition Town initiative on adaptation 1
The Global Changes Think Tank
The response to the Environment Strategy’s commitment to engage the LSP on climate
change was twofold. First, a Climate Change Panel was created to look at mitigation.
Secondly, an LSP think think-tank – the Global Changes Think Tank - was set up to
look at adaptation.

The Think Tank was created in October 2007 and, as a result of the involvement of
Transition Stroud, its remit was expanded to consider the twin impacts of climate
change and peak oil. 1 It is made up of LSP Members, Transition Stroud and Council
officers. Others are invited to Think Tank meetings and to provide evidence.

The work of think-tank has focused on the impacts of climate change and peak oil on
a few key areas:

    •   Producing a general framework for addressing the impacts of climate change
        and peak oil
    •   The role of land use planning
    •   Housing
    •   Transport
    •   Food

For each topic, the Think Tank has used a five-step process – involving an inquiry
session, a preliminary report and consultation – before arriving at a final report.

For Nigel Riglar, Strategic Director at Stroud DC, the creation of the Think Tank has
been invaluable: “We needed a mechanism to get the LSP to focus on the big future
issues. They were not going to do this in 2-hour quarterly meetings so we needed
something more flexible where time could be taken to consider issues that would
inform the sustainable community strategy and, more
latterly, the Core Strategy.”

To this end, the Think Tank has been a success. The
interim Sustainable Community Strategy has a strong
climate change adaptation and peak oil elements.
These include, for example, commitments to ensure
that the Local Development Framework will help to
protect agriculture for local food production and help it
to adapt to the impacts of climate change and peak oil.

Figure: Front Cover of the Core Strategy
Consultation Paper, 2009




1
  The term ‘peak oil’ is generally used to describe the point in time when the maximum rate of
global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline.




                                Stroud District Council: Working with the Transition Town initiative on adaptation 2
Equally, Core Strategy Consultation Paper has also been informed by the outputs from
the Think Tank. According to Barry Wyatt, Strategic Head of Development Service, the
reports from the Think Tank have acted as an “invaluable evidence base” for the
development of the Core Strategy. As a result, questions about how Stroud should
adapt to climate change are threaded right through the consultation paper and Barry is
confident that these will lead to really progressive policies and actions when the Core
Strategy is published.

Involving Transition Stroud
A key innovation in the work of the Global Changes Think Tank has been involving
Transition Stroud. Transition Stroud, part of the global Transition Initiatives movement,
is a network for local people and groups working on the transition to a locally based low
carbon lifestyle.

Nigel Riglar welcomed their initial involvement, particularly Transition Stroud’s focus on
peak oil: “Councillors who might quibble over the science of climate change find it
much more difficult to do so with peak oil and on the whole the solutions to both perils
are the same.”

Transition Stroud have certainly proved their worth. They have built up wider
confidence and credibility with the LSP and the Council during the course of their
involvement with the Think Tank.

Having been active and valuable participants in the first four Think Tank inquiry areas,
they were asked to lead on the development of the food report with great success in
the eyes of the LSP and the Council.




                                     Figure: Stroud Farmers Market. Local food
                                     production and consumption was a key issue in
                                     Transition Stroud’s food report. (Source:
                                     Shaping the future of Stroud District: key issues
                                     discussion paper, 2009)
                                 Furthermore, as Barry Wyatt observes, “from a
                                 policy point of view, being able to tap into a valuable
                                 local resource and using their skills and knowledge to
                                 drive that agenda has been invaluable. They have
                                 helped to inform big questions for the Sustainable
                                 Community Strategy and the Core Strategy,
                                 provided a grassroots driver and given the Council a
huge mandate.” As a sign of how successful the relationship with Transition Stroud has
been, they may now be invited onto the LSP itself.




                            Stroud District Council: Working with the Transition Town initiative on adaptation 3
Lessons learned
Transition Stroud’s relationship with both the LSP and the Council has been developed
slowly. “One step at a time to build understanding on both sides”, explains Nigel Riglar.
The Think Tank was seen as the smoothest way of getting Transition Stroud involved in
LSP and Council thinking. Working with the LSP through the Think Tank has helped to
break down the differences in culture and values. To initially involve Transition Stroud
more directly with the Council or the LSP would have been challenging.

For some on the LSP, there has been a steep learning curve. Some of the ideas
Transition Stroud have introduced – peak oil – were very new and different. Many,
however, have now begun to take their learning back into their own organisations.
Stroud College, for instance, has been developing a training course on installations on
housing stock of micro-renewables as a result of the awareness raised through the
Think Tank.

What about other councils who would like to do the same? Barry Wyatt advises them to
“get your Transition group involved at the early stages, at the evidence gathering
stage. They need to be part of the policy development, and you need to help develop
the capacity on both sides. The benefits of doing so can be huge, we have a great
mandate now to take forward some really major actions.”


For more information:
Global Changes Think Tank
Stroud District Council’s ‘Environment Strategy 2007-2027’
The interim Stroud District Sustainable Community Strategy
The Core Strategy consultation ‘key issues discussion paper’, Spring 2009:
Transition Stroud
Transition Towns wiki

Contact:
Barry Wyatt, Strategic Head (Development Services), 01453 754210,
barry.wyatt@stroud.gov.uk




                            Stroud District Council: Working with the Transition Town initiative on adaptation 4

				
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