The Camden New Journal reported on 10 May of an Eco War breaking out in the borough. We’ve taken the bait and dived in to the melee.
The supposed war concerns plans by the Council’s Sustainability TaskForce to revolutionise energy supply and demand in the borough, by supporting local energy generating stations in housing estates.
But at the same time the Council’s Planning Department has refused a local resident planning permission to put solar panels on his roof, because his house is in a conservation area, where the look of the houses must be maintained at all costs.
IT’S not often we can take heart from war breaking out, and yet here we are in Camden with different groups vying to be the greenest! (Eco War Declared, May 10).
Camden Friends of the Earth supports Councillor Alexis Rowell’s intentions to push Camden into the forefront of green councils. We support what is called de-centralised energy generation. This includes the combined heat and power systems for housing estates that Cllr Rowell mentions.
What we believe is more important, however, is a move away from dependency on other people to supply energy, and a positive move towards each home producing its own energy.
We recognise that there are barriers to changing our energy use habits. Cost is one: solar water heating, solar cells and rooftop wind turbines can be expensive.
But one of the biggest barriers is the planning system. There remains a tension between the policies that protect London’s best architecture, and the more important and urgent need to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
When we think of the tension between conservation and tackling climate change it is often incumbent on groups like ours to frame the issues non-politically. In this case: do your readers want old, inefficient, but nice looking houses with unadorned, uninsulated roofs greedily using energy, while householders swelter in another summer scorcher, and find that crops have failed again raising prices for staple foods like potato (and coffee for most Londoners), that there is a drought order in place for the fifth year running, and water is being tankered in to London?
Or, do we allow householders to sensitively adapt the look of their houses, even in conservation areas, to fight against this future?
You quote Cllr Rowell’s plans to supply an eco-audit for each of Camden’s homes. This service is already available – the council has been funding it for years.
If you call 800 512 012 the North London Energy Efficiency Advice Centre can guide you through the easiest and most cost effective options.
Co-ordinator, Camden Friends of the Earth