More than 100 representatives from local authorities and sustainability organisations across the UK and Europe attended the Energising the Sustainable Economy in Cities summit, held in Sutton recently.
The summit, hosted jointly by Sutton Council and the Covenant of Mayors Office, brought together sustainability experts from a number of pioneering cities including Vienna, Glasgow, Copenhagen, London, Ljubljana, Peterborough, Gothenburg, Manchester, Almada and Brussels to share strategies and case studies.
The summit focused on opportunities for cities to grow the sustainable economy – delivering greater economic prosperity along with social and environmental benefits.
The delegates were welcomed by the Leader of Sutton Council, Cllr Ruth Dombey.
Cllr Dombey said:
“We are incredibly proud to be hosting this event because of our long-held belief in the importance of sustainability and sustainable living, and because we recognise that every gesture, every life choice that we make, has an impact on others and on the world we live in.
“Tackling climate change cannot be tackled by one city, one region or one country alone. Joint commitment to this challenge is vital and is one that I am determined we will maintain.”
She then set out a number of the borough’s achievements in the past three decades, including the building of BedZed in Hackbridge, the UK’s first zero-energy housing development, how sustainability is at the heart of Sutton’s planning system, its commitment to being a One Planet Borough and how Sutton is developing a decentralised energy network to heat new homes in the borough.
Niall Bolger, Chief Executive of Sutton Council, said:
“We have got a longstanding commitment to our community in terms of our engagement with residents in pro-environmental behaviour and through providing the best-possible service to ensure that they live sustainable lives within their communities.
“To make sure we get sustainable growth, we need sustainable entrepreneurism, enterprise, creativity and ideas about how we make it happen and bring it to life for more of our communities.”
Sutton is aiming to become South London leader on the sustainable economy through innovative projects including a Green Economy Innovation Centre and a cross-borough sustainable energy programme.
During the seminar’s afternoon workshop representatives from local sustainable organisations shared their sustainability accomplishments.
David Sanders, Commercial Director of Croydon-based clean cold technology company Dearman, said:
“We have 70 people working here in Sutton, and received £16m of new investment earlier this year to allow us to bring the first application of our technology to market. It will also enable us to establish initial UK-based manufacturing activity, and to achieve widespread international commercial deployment, while continuing to invest in research and development and demonstration of our core technology and subsequent applications.”
David Sevier, Managing Director of Sutton-based company Carbon Cycle, was very optimistic about growth and opportunities for cleantech and circular economy businesses in Sutton and south London. He said:
“Sutton has spearheaded an effort to encourage the development of the circular economy and cleantech. For those of us who run businesses and who are involved in developing cleantech targeted for the circular economy this is a sensible move.
“It is very likely we are going to see in the years ahead reduced economic growth as our economy is mature but there will be substantial growth in the cleantech sector as we move towards a more sustainable future. This will create large economic opportunities for companies, regions and investors.
“South London and Sutton are smart to see this and to encourage growth in this area. Cleantech is notorious for having long timelines from initial work to arriving at market. It can take over 10 years in many cases, but it is clear that in the future it will become a vital part of the economy.
By fostering its development, seeds are being planted for a long-term healthy economy.”
Architect Bill Dunster OBE, Principal of Wallington-based company ZEDfactory, told the delegates that its zero energy bills home built at the BRE innovation park in Watford proved that low-carbon sustainable homes are economic to deliver now. He said:
“By sticking to a consistent agenda and trying to work towards climate neutral, zero carbon/zero waste development solutions for over 20 years, ZEDfactory has refined and simplified the construction techniques it pioneered at BedZED, achieved significant economies of scale, and developed new products that result in zero-carbon homes that are capable of no net annual energy bills and beautiful, healthy and durable places to live.
“The reduced costs of smart grid localised energy storage, building integrated photovoltaics and energy efficient building fabric can now compete favourably with the rising cost of grid energy from centralised sources. The first zero energy bills home has now been built at the BRE innovation park in Watford, and over 200 homes in the South East are being delivered over the next two years.
“A super-affordable ZEDpod starter home placed over existing car parks is also under construction, and we have funding to build these for rental at no cost to a local authority. Thousands of homes can be provided over existing car parks without any scarce building plots being required. Why should the public put up with anything less than a zero-bills home?”