Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A Turquoise Thames?

Stephen Glenny - Consultant

The Thames has been many colours over the years, but can it be turquoise?

Temple recently discussed using the Thames more effectively.In this blog, we use our concept of Turquoise Cities to assess TfL and the Mayor of London’s River Action Plan. The Turquoise Cities concept addresses the blend of four elements needed for a sustainable city: liveability & usability, water & climate resilience, harnessing environmental systems and being innovation enabled.  We previously applied this concept to assess London's draft Infrastructure Plan for 2050.

Overview of the River Action Plan

The River Action Plan for the Thames was published in February 2013. It outlined improvements to river services between now and 2020 with the aim of increasing passenger journeys to 12 million and ensuring that Londoners and visitors make the most of the river. £10m has been allocated for delivery of the actions (approximately £1.4m a year).
The plan gives actions in four key areas: better piers; better information and integration; better promotion and better partnership working. Three main delivery phases are identified:

  • 2013-2014: improved pier management, signage and integration plus new promotional activity;
  • 2014-2015: completion of physical works to expand the capacity of key piers; and
  • Beyond 2015: occupation of new riverside developments.

Initial signs for increasing the use of the Thames for transport are good: there were record passenger numbers in 2013/14 and significant growth in both River Bus and River Tours services. However, what is the longer-term future likely to hold?

The Turquoise City Assessment

So is the River Action Plan strong on strategic intent and deliverability across the four elements needed for a Turquoise city? The overall rating is illustrated on the grid below and it shows that the strategic intent could be much stronger in all four elements. It also suggests that the actions needed to address water and climate resilience and the harnessing of environmental systems will be hard to deliver. 

Let’s take each area in turn.

Liveable & Usable: Making places more enjoyable, safe and inviting to live and improving quality of life.

The River Action Plan clearly states that it wants to improve piers as places for people to enjoy, attracting more visitors to the riverside and onto boats. The plan gives actions such as exploring “high-quality public realms including small river plazas, seating, weather protection and other such facilities that make piers more attractive as public places.”

It is also recognised that better information and integration contribute to the user experience. To address this, plans are afoot for seamless interchanges through clear wayfinding and signage of routes between piers and other public transport networks.

Discussion of how the Thames and the riverbanks could be enhanced beyond the piers is not covered, as the document is purely focused on transport, limiting the potential actions. Recent plans have been released by the River Cycleway Consortium for an 8-mile floating bicycle path on the Thames: Though the benefits of this scheme compared to the level of investment involved may be questioned, proponents would argue that London needs iconic ideas such as this to ensure it remains a world city.

A similar level of ambition could be included with this action plan. As the plan acknowledges, making the riverside an enjoyable environment and destination for locals and visitors will help to grow the use of the Thames for transport.

Water and Climate Resilient: Reducing vulnerability of people, infrastructure and assets to extreme weather, exacerbated by climate change.

Very little mention is made of climate resilience in the plan. This may be because the Thames benefits from the Thames barrier, which is predicted to provide sufficient protection from tidal surges and river flooding until at least 2070. Putting aside nightmare scenarios of extreme flooding, increasing the use of the Thames could help to alleviate the impacts of climate change on other public transport; it could act as a useful alternative transport route if other methods are affected by localised flash flooding or overheating.

Harnessing environmental systems: Use of Green and Blue infrastructure for provision of ecosystems services in an urban setting.

While the use of the Thames for transport is a form of harnessing an environmental system, the idea of including environmental systems and the services they provide is not included in the plan. The inclusion of Green Infrastructure and Sustainable Urban Drainage within designs for pier and nearby enhancements would be a good place to start. These provide rainwater attenuation, biodiversity in an urban environment and local air quality benefits.

Incorporating environmental systems into the infrastructure of the Thames has been in the news recently with plans for a ’garden bridge’ spanning the river near Temple station.

Innovation Enabled: System of systems approach to design and integration of connected assets and infrastructure.

The plan’s discussion of innovation covers wave-and-pay payment technology; integration with other modes of transport, such as hire bikes; and provision of real time information for passengers termed ‘iBoat’. These data will be made available for third party developers to use for app development.

The plan also mentions that TfL will encourage boat operators to adopt eco-driving techniques and explore innovative technology, such as hybrid engines to reduce emissions.

The actions covered in the plan are a good start but could be more ambitious to help deliver an innovation enabled transport system. For example, incorporating innovations such as renewables (e.g. Solar PV) into the piers and boats would reduce emissions, operating costs and make river transport more affordable, while greater application of an “internet of things” approach could provide further benefits.

Only when river transport services are fully integrated with the rest of London’s transport system will they be able to realise their full potential. This will require more strategic intent across wider systems than a piers and passenger numbers focus.


Would a broader River Action Plan, including transport as a key element, be a better way to provide leadership on the use of the Thames?

This Turquoise Cities assessment is intended to help focus productive dialogue on how the plan could achieve even more. The remit of the current plan is necessarily narrow in focus: produced by TfL, it focuses on transport improvements only. There is certainly a case for including this plan as part of a more ambitious River Thames Action Plan, looking at what can be achieved on and alongside the Thames to make it an innovative, usable, resilient and integrated part of the city. The success of events such as the Totally Thames Festival demonstrates that there is an appetite for making the most of the Thames. If the River Action Plan can help to harness this, then maybe one day we could see a metaphorical Turquoise Thames bustling with Londoners and visitors on its boats as well as its banks.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Building relationships to deliver projects

Tanya Burdett - Environment, Planning and Community Engagement Manager / Temple Associate and Vikki Hilton - Director, Hilton Associates

Successful engagement requires many things, but ultimately it’s about building relationships, trust and respect. To achieve this, we need to engage in a way that is clear and consistent; accessible, timely, shows care and allows for feedback. Our communications should also be relevant, comprehensive and truthful. This may sound a lot to take into consideration, but worthwhile if one is to forge strong relationships with our ‘community’, whatever that community may look like. 

These have been key success elements for most projects, large and small, that we, as Licensed Trainers in the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Foundations course, have been involved in throughout our collective 50 years of experience. In many cases communities can be treated as a nuisance factor. Yet flip that view around, and one can see some real benefits to engagement. Numerous studies by UK organisations (such as Involve) and others (for example the Kettering Foundation), provide evidence of the benefits (and costs). All we need to do is take some time to get to know the communities we work within and our key stakeholders who we rely on for delivery. 

There have been numerous times when working with engineers, designers, scientists, technical professionals, project managers and builders that the discussion of ‘building’ comes up. We’re all building something – some, tangible physical infrastructure; others, technical solutions and scientific programmes that advance our health care, environment and economy. When discussing objectives of any project and what we as a project team want to achieve as public participation practitioners, we will often talk about ‘building’ relationships. 

Ultimately we are  striving to provide quality – in engagement, training, capacity building, and in sharing best practice. IAP2 is a vehicle for this through the annual Core Values awards issued to demonstrate and celebrate good practice. 

We'd welcome your views and experiences on building relationships with stakeholders in the comments box below, for example: 
  • Can we really build meaningful relationships with stakeholders that prevent issues arising in the development process?
  • Does ignoring your stakeholders really save you money in the long run?
  • How can you involve stakeholders in a meaningful way without adding vast amounts of time and cost to your delivery programme?
Collectively Tanya and Vikki bring together a wealth of experience in promoting effective engagement strategies, from working on large infrastructure projects with government organisations and the private sector in the UK and overseas as well as with NGO’s and marginalised groups. Come join them in learning more about effective engagement strategies in the IAP2 training offered in London 1-5 December. 

Developers face changes in air quality policy

Alaric Lester - Principal Consultant and Enan Keogh - Senior Consultant

The Mayor of London has been busy on air quality this year, not least because of the start of infraction proceedings by the European CommissionAlso aside from TfL’s consultation on proposals for a London Ultra-Low Emission Zone and Boris’s making an appearance at the Environmental Audit Committee in September, the Mayor has published two supplementary planning guidance (SPG) documents that may have substantial implications for developers.

Sustainable Design and Construction

The Sustainable Design and Construction SPG, published in April, includes guidance that formalises the requirement for developments with more than ten dwellings to be air-quality-neutral. For some years there has been a concern that, while smaller developments do not themselves lead to significant air quality effects, incremental additions to the air pollution load serve to delay wider improvements in air quality. There are now emissions benchmarks in the SPG that must be met, covering fixed plant (boilers and CHP) and road traffic associated with the development.

The air-quality-neutral assessments themselves are straightforward and do not add much cost to an air quality assessment or environmental statement chapter. Our experience so far suggests that mitigation of emissions that do not meet air-quality-neutral benchmarks will prove more problematic. Even with ultra-low-NOx boilers or tight controls on private car use, developments may still find themselves exceeding benchmarks. In one recent case, even though transport emissions just exceeded the benchmark and were based on a transport assessment that combined a number of worst-case assumptions, the Local Planning Authority (LPA) still wanted additional mitigation. We anticipate additional effort in negotiating appropriate planning conditions that will be acceptable to the LPA and the developer.

Dust and Emissions

Also published in 2014 was an SPG on the Control of Dust and Emissions During Construction and Demolition. This document builds on the GLA/ London Councils 2006 best practice guidance, The control of dust and emissions from construction and demolition and BRE’s Control of dust from construction and demolition activities. It also draws heavily on the Institute of Air Quality Management’s 2014 Guidance on the Assessment of Dust from Demolition and Construction. The SPG will influence construction practices in London.

Of immediate concern for developers in London, the GLA is seeking to control emissions from non-road mobile machinery. Major developments using non-road mobile plant machinery will have to meet emissions standards as defined in EU Directive 97/68/EC.

From 1st September 2015, in Greater London non-road mobile plant within specified power outputs will be required to meet Stage IIIA of the Directive as a minimum, and Stage IIIB within the Central Activity Zone or Canary Wharf. This means that most contractors’ plant will need replacing or to be retrofitted with emissions abatement equipment which means higher costs.

There is, at least, some concession for smaller operators; in outer London, emission standards will only apply to major developments. These emissions standards will apply to all construction projects, regardless of whether they started in advance of this date. The GLA recommends that developers begin immediately to put processes in place to ensure that their supply chain can meet the standards. It is acknowledged that it may be currently cost-prohibitive for some plant to meet the standards and the GLA will publish a list of plant that will, for a time, be exempt from the policy.

From the 1st September 2020, the emissions standards will apply to all construction sites in London, as well as being more stringent than the 2015 requirements. Developments in Greater London will need to achieve Stage IIIB standards, while those in the Central Activity Zone and Canary Wharf will be required to meet Stage IV as a minimum.

In addition, the SPG highlights the introduction of an ultra-low emissions zone in Central London in 2020. This will require all vehicles to be either zero or ultra-low emission and will affect any construction vehicles accessing sites.


With adequate preparation, these SPGs will be perfectly manageable for developers and their contractors. They will though mean some additional cost and effort.  Leading companies in the sectors affected will plan ahead and also take the opportunity to promote and espouse their developments’ green credentials.

For more information on Temple's Air Quality services, please contact Alaric Lester at

Noise nuisance and its impact on quality of life and health

Dani Fiumicelli - Technical Director

It is often perceived that the control of noise nuisance is an issue which sits outside the normal planning process. However, when considering new development (either noise generating or sensitive to noise) nuisance needs to be actively considered particularly as legal precedent means that there is no legal defence of claiming the noisy land use was there first. Therefore, the potential to cause noise nuisance by emitting noise or bringing receptors to an existing noise source are legitimate grounds to refuse planning permission.  In turn it follows that it is in the interests of developers of both noise generating and noise sensitive development to identify and minimise any risks to their schemes due to noise nuisance.

There is general agreement that nuisance is incapable of an exact quantified definition.  But this flexibility is a key strength for the legislation, as the core principles of nuisance can be applied to almost any situation. This enables a single legal concept and simple short legislative measures to apply to a wide range of situations and to be ready to tackle unforeseen and unforeseeable problems.


The negative side of nuisance is that there is no clearly defined means of measuring it. It is often said to be subjective and those accused of nuisance can feel aggrieved that they have no clearly defined simple benchmark, like a speed limit, that can be used to avoid being subject to legal action or having permission for a development withheld.  But in fact, whilst nuisance can be assessed qualitatively, it is an objective standard e.g. it only protects the ordinary reasonable use of land and those of normal sensitivity; it reflects the nature and character of a particular locality and minor infractions cannot be a nuisance. In presenting a nuisance case to a court, defending accusations of nuisance or appraising the risk that nuisance might arise, there is therefore a role for quantified measurable evidence. For example, to support the argument that the noise was likely to be having an effect that the ordinary person would find hard to tolerate; or, going the other way, to demonstrate that the noise was unlikely to have been intolerable to an ordinary person.

Noise sensitive receptors and future occupiers

As well as considering noise nuisance, planning policy means that developers of noise generating and noise sensitive development need to consider the impacts of noise from their scheme on the quality of life and health of existing noise sensitive receptors; and the impact of existing noise sources on the quality of life and health of future occupiers of their schemes.  The standard here is different to nuisance; and normally the standards applied for planning purposes will avoid nuisance. Analogous to nuisance, current noise and planning policy doesn’t provide any detailed decibel based noise limits; instead qualitatively defined concepts such as Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level and Significant Observed Adverse Effect Level apply. The means the practitioner has to carefully select and justify the guidelines and noise limits they use to assess a scheme on case by case basis.

Practical advice to resolve noise nuisance risks

Temple has a long history of dealing with noise nuisances including being technical advisers to the Government on nuisance policy and advising many local authorities and those accused of being responsible for nuisance in individual cases. Temple also has a comprehensive track record of advising developers on noise generating and noise sensitive development in order to secure planning permission or parliamentary approval of a scheme. This all puts Temple at the forefront when it comes to the translation of legislation and policy into clear and concise practical guidance and advice aimed at identifying ad minimising noise risks to a scheme.

For more information on Temple's Acoustics services, please contact Dani Fiumicelli at, alternatively contact Simon Perry at

Transport: the Developer’s Master Key

James While - Account Director

Recently, I attended a lively debate delivered by Bill Hughes of Legal and General Property Fund. An astute leader within our industry, Bill was passionate about long-term investment and long-term return. He was asked, from the floor; "what, for you, is the absolute key to unlock the latent potential of any given urban site?"

The answer was warming "It’s all about having a sustainable and effective transport infrastructure," he opined. "That gives me long term surety of growth and the ability to maintain and expand the fortunes of the development."

Wise words indeed, but is this a model that works well in the confined spaces of the UK? The method of using private landowners to build infrastructure at a loss to open up land for development is not a new phenomenon. In 1912 private landowners in over 10 US cities built inter-urban rail lines to open up land for development that generated enormous profits, which easily covered investment and operating costs (Source UC Berkeley ITS). This is a process that is heavily used in parts of Asia, but does it work in the UK and can the increase in land values, due to improved infrastructure, be enough to pay for the cost of installing and maintaining the infrastructure?

It is a paradoxical question; indeed the classic chicken and egg conundrum. However, evidentially, the W12 area of London has shown increases in property prices in excess of 28% year on year from 2005 - 2014 (source: Hometrack). Energised by the Shepherd’s Bush Transport exchange and catalysed by the inward investment of Westfield, that enclave of West London life is arguably THE place to be right now, a classic lesson in speculative transport investment netting huge development benefit.
And let’s not denude the strategic planning that showed the foresight to make this work. Duncan Bower, Westfield’s Development Director, was at pains to point out that anything other than a robust public transport system would have created road havoc within Shepherd’s Bush and he proudly points out that 81.3% of all Westfield visitors don’t come by car.
However, is enough being done to catalyse further development?
There are three key questions we need to consider:
  1. Should the government or developers fund infrastructure on a site prior to developing houses, so that the infrastructure is set up to facilitate the maximum rate of house building?
  2. The Mayoral CIL and LA CIL goes someway to pay for the cost of infrastructure, but is it enough - do landowners need to take more responsibility to ensure that the infrastructure is in place before new properties are built?
  3. Can a finance model of providing a developer with an in-kind contribution in the form of a land grant, giving the developer exclusive development rights for the land above and adjacent to the station it has provided, work in the cities of the UK?

We can’t answer those questions ourselves, but they are all key considerations for any developer working within the geographical confines and financial constraints of the UK’s major cities. The absolute key is a joined up approach; thinking, planning, infrastructure, development and, most importantly, common purpose. Only then can we see more of the successes that Bill Hughes has delivered across the Legal and General Portfolio and the community impact of Westfield’s sensational vision for West London.

For more information on Temple's Planning services, please contact Mark Furlonger at, alternatively contact James While at

Monday, 10 November 2014

What constitutes a ‘world city’?

Emma Devenport - Consultant

To mark the UN Habitat World Cities Day on 31st October, Temple staff held a lunchtime discussion around the topic of what makes a world city and the challenges world cities face. Before the session, when I imagined a world city, I’d thought of it as one that is diverse, connected and a major hub for financial and business activity such as London, New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo. However, I now question whether a world city should be largely defined based on trade and economic terms alone; or whether a stronger emphasis on social and environmental factors is needed? And if a large city (by population and GDP) is multi-cultural and diverse, does that make it a ‘world city'?

There are various indices of liveable cities with The Economist’s ‘liveability index’ being one of the most widely recognised. The liveability index ranks cities based on healthcare, safety, education, infrastructure and environment, factors that should also be accounted for when defining a world city. The Economist ranks eight of the ten most liveable cities to be in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, with the remaining two in Europe (Vienna and Helsinki). The index tends to rank higher for ‘mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density’. This may explain why densely populated cities such as London and New York, or cities within developing countries such as Delhi and Rio de Janeiro don’t necessarily get a mention. This alone suggests that those ‘world cities’ should focus on improving their liveability to bring better quality of life to their populations.

It is clear that cities within developing countries face bigger challenges, particularly where there are large disparities between rich and poor, compared to those in the developed world. On World Cities Day UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, identified the need for tackling common challenges that cities across the world face, including congestion, inadequate housing, lack of access to healthcare and other basic services and an increasing lack of space, through ‘strengthening resilience, ensuring basic services and designing safe public streets and spaces’. The World Health Organisation (WHO) expects global urban population to grow by approximately 1.84% per year between 2015 – 2020. As the world’s population is increasingly becoming city-dwelling, there is a clear need to start solving the real challenges that Ban Ki-moon identified and improve the liveability of cities particularly through innovation and technology.

The concept of ‘smart cities’ focuses on the need for the right technology and good city governance to improve everything from infrastructure to healthcare. Without continued innovation, technological improvements, and appropriate planning and design, cities will struggle to remain world cities. The challenge is to deliver this transition using technology and innovation to improve liveability and ensure increased resourced efficiency to improve quality of life in even the most densely populated cities.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Improving our understanding of community engagement on infrastructure projects

Jenny Stafford - Principal Consultant

At Temple, we believe engaging early with stakeholders to identify local benefits reduces the cost of implementing infrastructure projects, sometimes quite significantly. Our approach is to involve communities in decision making and ensuring local benefit as far as possible (rather than simply informing or consulting on proposals).

We presented some of our thinking about this at a recent CIRIA event on community engagement on infrastructure projects. One of the tools we use is our Controversy-Local Benefit matrix for infrastructure projects, see below. The matrix provides a broad categorisation of projects by levels of controversy and local benefit and makes it easy to see why more controversial projects, either locally or nationally, and those bringing low levels of local benefit are challenging in terms of community engagement. Recognising this, finding ways to reduce impacts – sometimes through the process of considering different options – and increase local benefit (see graph below), helps move projects towards the top left quadrant i.e. those that are more straightforward to engage on.

 Controversy-Local Benefit Matrix. The position of example projects in the matrix reflects Temple’s views but the precise location of the projects in a quadrant or between quadrants is open to debate.

Good engagement can increase benefit and reduce controversy 

Another key message at our CIRIA event was the wide variety of reasons why engaging early adds value: early community engagement builds trust, eases the process overall and reduces costs. This front loading of engagement is the same principle as that adopted by the BREEAM Communities assessment process which demonstrates the importance of early engagement in informing design. It is less expensive to engage early with the costs of doing so increasing during the development process, particularly during the approval or consents stage when there may be legal costs to such engagement and less opportunity to make changes which reduce impacts or increase benefit. 

The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) identifies a spectrum of participation or engagement ranging from informing and consulting with the public to involving, collaborating or empowering. Use of approaches and techniques further along the spectrum see greater levels of involvement and participation and, as a result, increasing levels of public impact and likely benefit.  At its simplest therefore, the IAP2 spectrum suggests that finding ways to better involve the community will be a more effective way of ensuring local benefit and gaining acceptance.  

A final key point about controversial projects is something that may surprise many technical specialists. It might be anticipated that it is important to share technical details when undertaking public consultation on controversial projects. However, what is most important is being able to relate to the views of individuals or empathising, gaining their trust and demonstrating commitment to listening to their views, according to work done by Vince Covello on risk communication. These factors are far more important than sharing their technical expertise about the project itself. In lower concern situations – or less controversial projects - sharing this technical expertise has a greater role to play, see below. 

Temple Group is hosting the IAP2 Foundations in Public Participation course in London, 1-5 December. Click here to find out more and register.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Wild Development - A talk by Jon Riley of The Ecology Consultancy

Jonathan Say, Consultant

On the 15th of October 2014 Jon Riley, of Temple’s sister company The Ecology Consultancy (TEC), gave an interesting and informative briefing on wildlife and development.

The talk began by looking at construction impacts on wildlife. TEC have significant experience in this area through their work on projects like the construction of the A120 in Essex, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the East London Line (Underground and Overground). Jon shared his wealth of insights on issues such as direct habitat and species loss, fragmentation, disturbance, introduction of invasive species and landscape design and management.

Jon covered the major legislation relating to ecological assessment, an area that TEC has extensive expertise in, given their involvement as expert witness for projects like the Local Plans for the London Borough of Lewisham and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. This section was peppered with interesting examples of protected sites and species related to the many projects Jon has been involved with. I was saddened to hear of the decline of the UK and European protected white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) in the south east due to invasive species introduction and associated diseases (crayfish plague). It highlighted the great importance of using ecological experts to limit the impact of major developments, as the removal of a single species can have huge impacts to wider ecosystems. The example of the decline of bumble bees in the UK, due to impacts such as changes in agricultural technique, shows the potential implications to human life of a single species loss

The presentation illustrated both UK and European legislation, the interrelation with the UK planning system and covered the specialist area of protected species licencing and ecological surveying which is a discipline in which TEC are greatly involved. For example, on HS2 Phase 1 Environmental Impact Assessment (London to West Midlands) TEC have undertaken over 600 surveys to date this year!

Jon highlighted the potential cost of getting it wrong. A successful prosecution for a wildlife offence may lead to a £5000 fine or six months’ imprisonment per offence, which in the case of a bat roost is clearly a substantial impact to any project. This again highlights the importance for developers to utilise competent ecological consultants like TEC in order to avoid these impacts.

Finally, Jon covered the fascinating area of creative ecology or habitat enhancement and how projects can have positive ecological benefit if competent ecologists are engaged to plan out these potential habitats. This covered green roofs, green walls, integrated nesting sites, vertical beaches (very relevant to enhancement along the Thames wall), green bridges, grassland creation and much more. TEC, together with our associated company the Green Roof Consultancy (GRC), are leaders in the field of habitat creation. Notable examples include Canary Wharf’s green roof strategy and Barclays Headquarters in London. GRC were the authors of the Greater London Authority’s ‘Living Roofs and Walls – the technical report to support the new London plan’.

Clearly TEC are leaders in the field of ecological assessment, and together with Temple and the Green Roof Consultancy, we can offer a range of high-level expertise in environmental and ecological consultancy, planning advice and habitat creation relevant to wildlife and development.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Proportionate EIA – a Temple approach

Tom Smeeton - Principal Consultant/ Peter George - Technical Director

Research by IEMA has indicated that the main text of many environmental statements run to more than 350 pages, while those relating to nationally significant infrastructure projects are often nearer double that figure. Furthermore, EIA can often be seen as a regulatory hurdle required for development consent rather than a vehicle to achieve truly sustainable design. So how can proportionality be achieved at key stages of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process and what are the perceived barriers to delivering an effective, concise and proportionate EIA?

In our recently published article in the environmentalist, Pete George and I seek to answer some of these questions. Some of the key themes are summarised below.
Many EIA environmental statements (ESs) have become large, information repositories and feedback from stakeholders reveals that this can lead to a perception of impenetrability which can often make them inaccessible to the reader. Reasons for the ever-expanding ESs seem to vary but can include:

  • the fear of challenge or the risk of litigation;
  • a temptation to scope in topics with little consideration of whether the anticipated impacts are significant;
  • legal teams insisting an expanded scope;
  • a normal or traditional approach scoping in the environmental topics normally associated with a development rather than the specifics of what being proposed;
  • inflexible guidance documents and a lack of professional judgement; and
  • failing to recognise that scoping is a dynamic process which should be continually reviewed.

As a result many ESs become less effective at communicating a clear, concise message to inform interested stakeholders and decision makers. It is accepted that the non-technical summary (NTS) should be the first point of contact for many stakeholders (technical or otherwise) but even NTSs can become a listing exercise of significant effects with little rationale given for the conclusion.

Effective scoping has to underpin a proportionate approach to EIA, whilst also increasing efficiency and reducing the potential for unnecessary work and creating value for our clients.

So what about proportionality in the application of design and mitigation? The design and mitigation response should also be proportionate and based on the scale of anticipated impact to effectively mitigate, without entailing excessive costs. In our experience an iterative approach using emerging results of the assessment backed up with experienced professional judgement has delivered demonstrable value and efficiencies whilst also achieving successful consent and a more robust sustainable design for our clients.

The traditional model is to undertake EIA at key points in the design – for example, when the design is sufficiently developed to understand the effects of the development on the environment. The design needs to be sufficiently “fixed” for its impact to be assessed effectively. However, this approach can result in the mitigation being “shoe-horned” into an advanced and inflexible design.

We have found a more integrated approach, which embeds the environment professional in the design team is more beneficial. This approach can truly integrate the initial environmental findings and the approach to mitigation into the design. In this way, environmental assessment is not viewed as a process that merely reports back at the end of the process, rather, EIA is considered as a fully integrated and iterative process that is interdependent with the evolution of the design.

The EIA coordinator has a central role in the development cycle and they must be able to communicate effectively with stakeholders, the design and wider project teams. This relationship is crucial to avoid and reduce the project’s effects on the environment, whilst also ensuring that the mitigation response is proportionate and integrated into the design.

The benefits of having an embedded EIA coordinator in the core development project team, include:

  • better communication within the project team of environmental impacts;
  • better understanding of the key issues relating to the environment;
  • design management – a thorough understanding of the environmental implications of design decisions;
  • design advice – an ability to influence the design and advise on emerging results of the assessment; and
  • impartiality – an ability to challenge conventional thinking or status quo design assumptions.

We have found this approach has delivered demonstrable value to our clients whilst also gaining consent and successful outcomes for their developments.

The implementation of the new EIA Directive has a requirement for the EIA manager or coordinator to be an “appropriate person”. Whilst it is uncertain how this will be interpreted or defined, Temple’s EIA coordinators are experienced professionals with relevant professional qualifications – such as registered EIA practitioners, MIEMA and Chartered Environmentalists.  Temple is also one of the founding members of the IEMA Quality Mark registration. As such, Temple is well-placed to respond effectively to the changes associated with the implementation of the new Directive whilst also delivering consistently successful outcomes for our clients.

The full article can be found on the following link can be found here. N.B. please note you will need to be an IEMA member with a username and password to access the article. Alternatively, you can take a free trial.

For further information on how Temple can successfully deliver EIA in relation to your development opportunities please contact the below:-
Tom Smeeton – Principal EIA Consultant  02073943700
Peter George – Technical Director 02073943700

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Understanding people helps deliver technology benefits

Martin Gibson - Head of Operations

As those of you who have known me for a while will know, I have a phrase “it’s the soft stuff that’s hard”. It is quite easy to make a case for using technology. You can find the costs and calculate the payback time to make a credible case. When it comes to changing behaviour, however, things get a lot trickier. It is hard to calculate the costs of changing behaviour or the outcomes from doing so. It is also a long and complex process to change people’s behaviour.

In the light of these difficulties, we in business often simply opt for technology solutions and ignore the behavioural side of things. A recent study shows that the same seems to be true for the academic research community. Having an interest in all things sustainable, my eye was caught by the article ‘Energy studies need social science’ by Benjamin K. Sovacool (Nature 13 July 2014, Vol 511, p529).

The article points out that to secure a low-carbon future, we need to alter both technologies and behaviour. However, energy research literature focusses predominantly on technological solutions. Most articles (85%) focus on energy production systems. Behaviour and energy demand was investigated in less than 3% of the 4,444 articles covered in the research.

Sovacool makes a strong argument that the focus on technology means that engineers and economists are ignoring behavioural aspects of energy use and therefore miscasting decision-making and action. He believes that researchers in the energy field need to learn from health and agriculture by bringing together social and physical scientists. He notes four worrisome trends in energy research:

  • Undervaluation of the influence of the social dimension;
  • A bias towards science, engineering and economics over social sciences and humanities;
  • A lack of interdisciplinary collaboration; and
  • Under-representation of female and minority group authors.

These findings have strong parallels in the business community. Many business people operate in silos: people keep things within their department when it would be better to work with others across or outside the company. Although there are some notable exceptions to this and a trend towards more collaborative working, silos still dominate. It will take some time before the benefits of collaboration that should arise from using approaches such as those in BS 11000 become commonplace.

For those of us working towards more sustainable business, the message is clear: don’t get stuck in silos. There is a need to make sure that technological solutions are balanced with social and behaviours ones. Technology will open up opportunities but we need to understand human behaviour to deliver them. If we are to deliver on sustainability, we need to consider the complex interactions between technology and the people that use and benefit from it.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

How to expect the unexpected: Ciria’s ‘Infrastructure risk and resilience to natural hazards’ event

Genevieve Oller - Marketing Executive

On 18 September I attended Ciria’s infrastructure risk and resilience to natural hazards event, chaired by John Beckford (UCL) and including a host of speakers from the Cabinet Office, TfL, University of Oxford, John Dora Consulting and contributions to the panel discussion from Arup (who also hosted the event).

Tom Sutton of the Cabinet Office did a fantastic job of setting the scene on how the government currently thinks about and assesses risk to infrastructure. Whilst the event’s focus was on the risk of natural hazards, Tom reminded the audience that risk also extends to terrorism and an ageing population, amongst other factors. He made the point that if it’s happened somewhere once, it can be predicted (i.e. the data will exist) and someone somewhere will have already done the research. John Dora, another speaker at the event and a Temple associate, made the point that around 10 years ago research found that manhole covers in London were going to explode out of the ground, on account of historic under ground cabling and an increase in rainfall. Fast-forward a decade and the newspapers are full of stories about random manhole explosions, but how random were they?

Helen Woolston of TfL gave a highly engaging talk about their current asset management programme, which extends to 2031. She brought home the complexity of the job at hand, with many assets coming from the Victorian period. It was a reminder that in practice, whilst the research is out there to plan for future asset management, is it possible to implement it within such an extensive scheme?

John Dora of John Dora consulting’s solution for resilience of the UK’s infrastructure was ‘no regrets’ construction, therefore having resilience as a major aspiration from step one. This is something that is true of Temple’s working processes, through our work that embeds sustainability from the earliest possible stage of planning, leading to high CEEQUAL and BREEAM scores. John dug a little deeper by stating that one of the key things to obtaining this was education. He mentioned that only a very small number of engineering courses offer interdependency thinking as a module.

The event posed and answered serious questions about resilience of infrastructure to impending natural and man-made risks. It was interesting to find that things that seem so certain can have predictability to them if the research finds it’s way to the right people, but how does that happen? John stated that organisations such as Ciria and Engineering the Future could be the drivers of change. In the panel discussion several speakers mentioned the need for government to take notice, and that it is often once stories have hit the press that they do so (the case with the manhole covers). However, before there is a drastic change to how our media operates, perhaps it sits with individuals to properly circulate the key research papers. Temple is an advocate of sharing information; we hope that we can be a small part of this proposed solution.

Ciria’s next event is run in conjunction with Temple and is on the theme of community engagement, find further details here.

Monday, 29 September 2014

The sustainability of the financial system

Robert Slatcher - Principal Consultant

Everyone is very familiar with the three pillar concept of sustainability (environmental, social and economic). Given that the three pillars are intrinsically inter-connected it does raise the question as to why the economy is the often overlooked pillar.

Despite the recent financial crisis and subsequent global recession, there has been very little focus on the world economic system in the context of sustainability. Perhaps this is a consequence of the complexity of finance, and the fact that although we play an integral role within it, we very rarely see the inner workings or wish to understand how it all happens. It is much simpler to comprehend the process of exhausting non-renewable fuels or the concept of global temperatures increasing and affecting the climate we experience, than abstract concepts relating to the movement of money and wealth generation.

However, when the very basic principles of our economic systems are interrogated, it is possible to see a system that is at odds with the fundamental concept of sustainability.

How is money created?

To explain this requires a quick crash course in finance (a detailed description is provided by the Bank of England). Money is created by banks, initially by central banks (e.g. the Federal Reserve in the US or the European Central Bank) through various mechanisms. Once created, this money can be loaned out, and when loaned out it is done so with an attached rate of interest. This money usually goes to commercial banks to be loaned out again to individuals and business with an attached rate of interest. Commercial banks can also create money as they can issue loans to a greater value than the monetary reserves they hold. As such, a bank could loan out ten times the value of money they actually hold in reserve. The issues this can cause were covered in a 2013 comment piece in The Telegraph.  Once created, a loan counts as money, therefore banks can generate money from the reserve they hold - this is known as fractional reserve banking.

Now, if there is a finite pot of money in the world and the money originally generated by the central banks had a rate of interest attached to it - where does the money come from to pay that interest? The answer is nowhere, only banks can create money. So, to pay the interest, more money needs to be created. The amount of additional money required is made greater by the fact that commercial banks can create more money and more interest debt from the original pot of money. This reduces the value of money already in circulation and doesn’t solve the problem, as the newly created money also comes with interest. Fractional reserve banking is a very efficient method of creating additional money and therefore interest debt from an initial smaller pot of money.

So the basic principle of our global financial systems is a system that is always in debt and, as there is never enough money to pay the interest on debts, there will always be financial inequality. Somewhere someone is bearing the brunt of that shortfall.

Sustainable Growth

It is generally acknowledged that growth is essential but it should be sustainable. In other words, growth needs to happen at a rate that our global resources can maintain. However, in order to service an unrecoverable debt associated with interest on money generation, our rate of growth is focussed on servicing that debt. As such, our concept of growth is driven by the measure of financial sustainability rather than environmental and social sustainability.

Given this conflict between the three pillars, shouldn’t a greater focus be given towards economic sustainability? After all,  the inherent flaw in the economic  system is arguably a major barrier to achieving social and environmental sustainability?