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Archive for the ‘2007’ Category

I am all for fairness and social equality but do we really believe that everyone has vision and that the most downtrodden of society are the group to turn to when we are looking for inspiration to take the liveability and housing agenda forward. Creative minds are most certainly not restricted to the middle classes but how can we expect people who have been given shit housing and shit places for years to imagine utopia . But that is exactly what is going on up and down the country. In return for “regenerating” (how I hate that word, it just rubs in how rubbish we have been in the past) run down estates and paying for it by increasing density and offering housing for sale, the existing residents are being courted through ridiculously lengthy periods of public consultation and asked to come up with how they want to live.

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Cycling has become my way of getting some sport into part pf my working day. But I am still in the minority. Why are we being so slow in at making our towns and cities more cycleable and walkable? We keep being told about a British obesity crisis, many of our cities roads are clogged up 7 days a week, car exhausts are blamed as a major contributor to breathing related afflictions, the race for oil is littered with turmoil, and then there is that behemoth of a story, the world’s very existence as a climatically stable place is being threatened by our carbon emissions.

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The Thames Gateway conference has just taken place. An annual event that celebrates (if that’s the right word)  everything that’s going on in terms of development in this place called The Thames Gateway. Ten days before the conference the national press had been reacting to the Public Accounts Committee report on the Thames Gateway criticising the government’s spending and lack of an overall plan for the Thames Gateway project with headlines like “Road to Nowhere”, “MPs ‘calamity’ warning over Thames Gateway” and “Government accused of mismanaging Thames Gateway”.

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The media may have temporarily moved on to the global credit crunch, or the debate over the economic contribution of immigrant communities but climate change is still the most  pressing economic challenge to the UK’s long-term economic competitiveness. And much of the battle with Climate Change will be fought on the home front – in the nation’s sitting rooms and kitchens. Tough decisions and difficult changes in behaviour are required if we are to meet the UK’s current target of a 60% reduction in green house gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050. Even more so if we are to achieve an 80% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050 as recently suggested by the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank, as the Government’s Climate Change bill passes through its second reading in the House of Commons.

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I don’t want to sound like a hippy but the best kind of new energy we can embrace is that which comes from a creative mind. It’s a pretty confusing world that we live in. There are die hard environmentalists who believe in reducing their carbon footprint and waste to as near zero as possible by doing away with life’s simple luxuries like toilet tissue and by semi starving themselves into a state of listless stupor. But I believe that a sustainable, low environmental impact future will come from “creative  energy” individuals who value life’s luxuries and use their creative minds to find sustainable  low energy solutions. The world is not going to go back to a subsistence economy, my guess is that the majority would choose to live for today rather and join the climate naysayers rather than take a radical step backwards. Society  has to remain a capitalist and thus a consumerist one and become sustainable. Its not an impossible ask, this generation can be exalted, remembered and leave an impact as epoch making as the Victorians with their Industrial Revolution. The  once derelict Victorian canals and old textile mills and workers terraces that the new urbanites are colonising are a sign of an age of progress and investment and also a sign of current societies ability to re use and re invent.

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Talking Shop, Drapers.

Taking stock of animal welfare.

The fashion industry is fickle. We know that. But even with the ebb and flow of seasonal trends, there are some things that remain fixed: the significance of consumer spending, for one, and the significance of consumer attitude is another.

We also know price, quality, design and comfort are all intrinsically important to the buying public. But so too is society’s tolerance of, or opposition to, certain practices. Animal cruelty, for example, is rightly abhorred by most people in the UK.

Knowing this, it’s unsurprising that an RSPCA commissioned poll this year showed 93% of consumers won’t wear real fur. So why it is so visible again – not just appearing as coats, but also as discrete trim and even forming pom-poms on boots? Retailers who stock fur seek not just the backlash from animal rights extremists, but risk offending most people. And who can risk offending 93% of their customer base?

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I’m staying at our home at The Staiths for a few days and am having a ball. Newcastle Gateshead has got so much to offer, its come on so much as a place in the past decade and I am so proud to have been involved in one aspect, The Staiths that has brought a great place to live to a much maligned district, Dunston.

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