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Clean growth is a mechanism for Levelling Up, Mike Emmerich CEO of Metro Dynamics tells Leeds conference.

25 May 2022
Reading Time: 4 mins

In the morning’s keynote at the Beyond Net Zero Pavilion at the UK REiiF event Mike Emmerich, founding director of Metro Dynamics, set the tone for the day by highlighting the price that the world’s population will pay in terms of increased energy and food costs from the war in Ukraine, as the country was a leading provider of wheat, fertiliser and steel.

He highlighted the opportunity that Britain can grasp if the Government can use clean growth as a mechanism to deliver levelling up.

He said the UK’s challenge was to create more streets around the country with more money flowing into them as has been delivered in Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield.  Adding that we needed a stronger central government and more engaged private sector if we’re going to deliver levelling up and clean growth.

Joining Mr Emmerich on stage our UKBCSD chair Jason Longhurst said that the Government needs to work with the private sector, local authorities and education providers to put in place the pipeline of funding and skills to deliver levelling up.

The rest of the day did not disappoint with a variety of challenging and interesting debates including some UKBCSD members and non-members including;

Liz Barber, recently-retired chief executive of site owners Yorkshire Water, told the UKREiiF conference in Leeds during a panel session that the site would include housing that may use surplus heat from the treatment works, environmentally-sound office space for clean growth industries, a vertical farm using nutrients from the wastewater, and a new academy which will teach skills to apprentices across the region.

UKBCSD’s first clean growth testbed project at Esholt in Bradford has been hailed as a key example of building a better future at the UK's flagship inward investment conference.

The 500-acre site - a depreciated wastewater works set in natural woodland - has been billed as the UK's largest clean growth testbed.

Ms Barber revealed that the development was taking a proactive approach to delivering a circular economy, with aggregate from the site's remediation being used to construct a new station at nearby Apperley Bridge.

She said Esholt was an example of partnership working - and reflected the public's increasing demand for sustainability to be built in to new developments.

"Esholt is a fantastic site," she said. "It got sign off in a way it might not have if it had just been another office development.”

Ms Barber was speaking in a session about unlocking positive change for all, at an event in the Beyond Net Zero pavilion sponsored by the UK Business Council for Sustainable Development in partnership with City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council and supported by UKBCSD members, Sir Robert McAlpine and Keyland Developments.  She also spoke of the need for developers - including those who were aware of  their environmental responsibilities - to also rise to the challenge of inclusivity.

Being reflective of their communities was "the least we should expect", she said.

Simon Richards Sir Robert McAlpine, Tina Paillet RICS and Circotrade, Liz Barber retired CEO Yorkshire Water and Sandy Rhys Jones, CIOB

UKBCSD member Simon Richards, sustainability director at Sir Robert McAlpine, also on the panel added that net zero was increasingly becoming an economic as well as environmental imperative for developers.

He recalled an investor telling him that if a development didn't include net zero then "I have not got an asset - I have got a liability”.

Tina Paillet, co-founder of Circotrade - a company that seeks to help constructors do more to reuse materials - warned there was still a long way for the industry to travel on sustainability.

Tina warned about the dangers of producing more carbon through property development and highlighted that cities consume 78% of the world’s resources and that globally a new city the size of Paris is being built every week.

She explained that new laws have been passed in France which state that all new buildings built in 2031 must have a 52% reduction in embodied carbon emissions over today's standards.  Circotrade aims to help businesses bridge this gap by providing re-used construction materials.

In an afternoon session on education, equality and gender, the pavilion heard how education was vital in securing "a world that worked for everybody".

The panel included Neil Pinder, founder of HomeGrown Plus, Nicola Jones, the national Chair of the Association of Women in Property, and Charlotte Bonner, national head of education and sustainable development at the Education and Training Foundation. The session was chaired by Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of UKBCSD member Bradford Council.

Charlotte Bonner Education and Training Foundation, Nicola Jones National Chair Women in Property, Neil Pinder HomeGrown Plus and Susan Hinchliffe, Bradford Council

The afternoon concluded with a challenge session on Accelerating the Clean Growth City District.

In the session another UKBCSD Board member Ashley Dunseath, Director and Head of Masterplanning, Advisory and Economics at WSP, said: “Cities have the largest carbon impact. If we’re going to decarbonise it should be city centric, but decabonising isn’t just about a new way of working it has to be about generating economic growth.”

Ashley Dunseath and Kat Ibbotson, both WSP and Jason Longhurst, UKBCSD and Bradford Council

Dr Kat Ibbotson, a fellow Director of Advisory at WSP, and Net Zero Lead said it’s the assumption that net zero is costly upfront but we need to look at the whole life of costs when making decisions and thinking more broadly than just the cost upfront.

Our Chair Jason Longhurst concluded: “This is the first time in the public sector’s history that we’re investing at such a scale without a common metric.”

He called for the creation of a common metric so that the public and private sector can become more transparent on how they are delivering sustainable development which goes beyond net zero to embody the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.