Whether it’s improving energy efficiency, putting in flood defences or working on green spaces, community-wide initiatives save money, time and reduce disruption.

These also improve the chances of tapping into funding through grant schemes and smart finance.

These are the key findings of a new report from the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), The Future is Local: Empowering communities to improve their neighbourhoods.

UK homes produce more than a quarter of the country’s carbon emissions.
The cost of retrofitting them to meet the 80% carbon reductions required by law by 2050 is estimated at a minimum of £210 billion.

The scale of the task means cost-cutting is a major issue. The report says neighbourhood schemes not only cut costs by 20% to 30% but also can encourage wider participation with individuals prompted by the actions of their neighbours.

The report gives examples such as Blacon in Cheshire, where a programme focusing on the area’s energy, green space, transport and social enterprise is expected to deliver carbon reductions.

It is also expected to bring new life and investment into an area of significant deprivation and the Heads of the Valleys Low Carbon Programme in South Wales, a regeneration strategy now being replicated across Wales.

The programme creates jobs and cuts carbon emissions through the upgrading of existing housing.

The report recommends government enacts policies to make it possible for local communities to derive long term benefits from low carbon energy infrastructure, such as new housing or wind turbines in their area and that local authorities should be able to borrow against Feed-in-Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive income streams.

It also says that the widely-reported Green Investment Bank should allow neighbourhoods to access funding for community-wide energy efficiency schemes.

David Gibbs

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