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blog: Prevention, Adaption or Mitigation?

Author: Jon Parker

Last week’s extreme temperatures, which saw the UK register 40o for the first time, have put the issue of climate change firmly back centre-stage where it undoubtedly needs to be. Whilst we have had a succession of isolated ‘new high temperature records’ over the last 20 years or so, this is the first real ‘threat to life’ that has hit our shores – and as far as I can tell, very few would argue against this being part of a longer-term climatic effect caused by the extraction and intensive burning of fossil fuels over several decades.

And of course, when we think of causes, then quite rightly it doesn’t take long before transport gets raised as one of the main areas still to be tackled if we are to get anywhere close to our net zero targets. The Governments transport decarbonization plan, and the science that supports it, makes it clear that behavior change and better planning are as important as a shift to electric vehicles (which was also supported in the views expressed of planning and transport professionals undertaken by CIHT, TPS and RTPI).

So, there is much for transport planners to do, above and beyond waiting for technology to try and solve the problem long term – and the wild-fires that were burning across the UK this week point to the need for a multi-dimensional approach which considers prevention, adaptation and mitigation in equal measures. In fact, I would go as far as saying that we need to invest more heavily in the short term in adaption and mitigation measures (resilience), given the lag of several decades in any climatic cooling associated with preventative measures. So, what might these measures look like?...

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I happened to be on a study tour a few weeks ago with colleagues from David Lock Associates, to an exceptional new development on the outskirts of Amersfoort in the Netherlands called Vathorst. A fuller case study write up will follow in a future blog, but one key thing that struck me is that they considered all aspects of prevention, adaptation and mitigation equally, and yet still managed to create a beautiful, commercially thriving and future proofed community:

  • Prevention – the development is cited on the outskirts of Amersfoot, but has exceptionally well-designed traffic-free walk and cycle connections, a dedicated orbital BRT service and a new rail station in the heart of the community
  • Adaptation – the building are designed to maximize the value of the natural watercourses, but equally all windows and entrances are raised at least 1 metre above the water level such that even in exceptional flooding events there is no risk of buildings being damaged
  • Mitigation – the use of natural banks and levees allows the landscape to be preserved and utilised for recreational purposes whilst providing valuable flood prevention measures
Adaption Prevention Mitigation Graphic

It seems to me that if we can follow this model of creating well connected, sustainable, resilient, healthy and commercially attractive ‘vision led’ development in the UK then we will have the best chance of meeting our long-term Net Zero targets, whilst mitigating the short-term impacts that we have already created through global warming to date.

ITP’s transport strategy, policy and development planning teams continue to lead the way with our vision led approach to transport orientated development and we would be delighted to offer advice and support if you have a challenging site that you would like to make more sustainable, or a new site that you aspire to make carbon neutral. Please get in touch….

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