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Neighbourhood approach to renewal can cut costs and improve Welsh communities

6 July 2010

Groundbreaking projects to improve communities in Wales have been singled out by the SDC in our new report 'The Future Is Local'.

  • Report reveals potential to cut costs of improvements by 20-30%
  • SDC highlights Welsh retrofit projects

Groundbreaking projects to improve communities in Wales have been singled out by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) in a new report which highlights the cost savings and other benefits of taking a neighbourhood approach to improvements including energy efficiency, transport, and green spaces.

‘The Future is Local: Empowering communities to improve their neighbourhoods' finds that enabling communities to lead local renewal projects with a neighbourhood-wide approach is the most cost-effective way to ensure our villages, towns and cities are fit for the future.

The report concludes that empowering communities to prioritise, finance and deliver necessary local  works in an integrated way - from improving home energy efficiency to upgrading green spaces and installing flood defences and renewable energy sources - will save money by taking advantage of economies of scale, attract higher levels of participation and reduce disruption by tackling works together.

The report warns that failing to upgrade our local infrastructure will have a negative effect on all areas of life, hampering our ability to deal with climate change, future housing and transport needs, ill health and unemployment.

Around £380million of energy is wasted in the Wales every year because of homes that are poorly insulated, have inefficient or poorly controlled heating systems and use electricity unnecessarily. Substandard housing can also lead to poor health, estimated to have cost the NHS in Wales millions. Evidence also shows that lack of access to green spaces and safe walking and cycling routes contribute to high levels of obesity and mental ill health.

Peter Davies, SDC Commissioner for Wales, said:

"People want to live in places that feel safe, homes that are affordable to heat and neighbourhoods that are resilient to extreme weather. And we know that access to green space, good transport links and safe pedestrian and cycle routes can improve our health and well-being and even our employment prospects. An integrated approach, rather than focussing on one issue such as climate change, gives local people more opportunities to get involved in neighbourhood improvements - and that involvement will also increase the long term benefits..

 "There's a clear need to improve our neighbourhoods in Wales. If we fail to act, we could face massive costs in terms of traffic congestion, treating poor health and dealing with the effects of climate change. At a time of tight finances, tackling whole neighbourhoods in an integrated way offers a cost-effective solution."

 "Our report highlights work already under way in some communities in Wales and we will be working with the Welsh Assembly Government and the Centre for Regeneration Excellence to ensure that every neighbourhood can benefit from joined-up improvements."

Examples of successful neighbourhood partnerships already improving their communities cited in the report include:

  • The Cardiff Partnering Scheme, which improved the energy efficiency of approximately 100 social and private sector homes and five blocks of flats. The partnership found that a neighbourhood project would be at least 20% cheaper than doing individual installations.
  • The Heads of the Valleys Low Carbon Zone, a regeneration strategy which creates jobs and cuts carbon emissions through upgrading existing housing. The Welsh Assembly Government's Arbed scheme, a key part of the work, is being replicated in regeneration areas in Mid, North and West Wales.

» Download the Executive Summary of The Future is Local (also available in Welsh)

» Download the full report

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