Alan Carr, Sustainability Adviser at Sustainability West Midlands, Climate London: http://climatelondon.org.uk/articles/empowering-community-led-resilience/
One of the key aims of the Climate UK network
is to provide responses to climate impacts that reflect local
circumstances, local risks and local opportunities.
One of the most
effective ways of achieving this ambition is to help bring together
local people to improve the resilience of their community to severe
In times of financial austerity, communities at
greatest risk from the elements may not always have the help and support
that they need to adequately tackle impacts such as flooding of
properties, snow-clogged roads or swelteringly hot homes.
So it is fundamental that mechanisms are put in place to help
communities help themselves, by working together to protect the most
at-risk people in their area. This does not let responding authorities
off the hook, as they still play a key role in providing community
support. But communities with their own responsibilities can get things
done at the right time for them.
An example of where this philosophy is being applied is in the
village of Bilbrook, located in rural Staffordshire. The village has
been strong at dealing with issues including flooding, fuel poverty,
land degradation and rural isolation, but it is little wonder that
parish councillors and community groups in the village were keen to do
more, to minimise the risk to their residents and improve quality of
Staffordshire County Council and South Staffordshire Council ran a
workshop with the local councillors, community groups, such as Friends of Bilbrook,
and other interested authorities, such as the local fireman, to
identify what the biggest issues are for them and their residents. It
also sought to identify, at grid reference level, where exactly these
issues are occurring; where are the flood hotspots and who are the fuel
The outputs of this workshop were fed into a Severe Weather Action
Plan, which provides a mechanism for community members to take
responsibility for their own issues. You might think that a lack of
resource or funding could render this impossible, but some of the
actions are quick, simple and can be integrated into existing community
- Residents who contribute towards keeping green spaces litter-free
and planting trees having extra responsibility to clean out clogged up
gullies, to prevent surface flooding;
- Residents who are already part of the Good Neighbours scheme now go out and bring in shopping for those people who struggle to walk in icy conditions, and;
- The utilisation of the council’s free Ice Busters scheme that provides grit to the area allowing willing volunteers to treat roads and pavements of vulnerable locations.
The resilience of Bilbrook is now no longer in the hands of others;
it is, at least in part, in their own hands. They have the control and
an enhanced ability to deal with what is thrown at them. And what was one of the biggest successes of the scheme? Instilling
community empowerment and giving those people a connected purpose to
help make their precious environment a more enjoyable place to live.
To find out more about the Bilbrook scheme, contact Alan Carr at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As to London initiatives, the London Borough of Islington’s project on adapting to the health impacts of climate change set
out a strategy for protecting vulnerable people from both heat and
cold, as a research initiative with University College London (UCL) and
local community groups.
This initially involved temperature modelling
work to identify which types of housing and were most vulnerable to heat
and cold. The strategy then examined which residents were most
vulnerable to these impacts, involving social research to identify how
local residents perceived climate impacts. This helped to understand
local perception of the problem, and also increased the teams’
understanding of the networks and teams who were in contact with
Finally, the URBAN HEAT: community-led resilience to urban heatwaves
project aims to directly develop local resilience to heatwaves,
particularly among the most vulnerable, and to examine the ways in which
existing local social networks - for example, those relating to older
people, disabled people, sustainability, faith, residents’ associations -
can support this development.
The project will consist of three case
studies, all focusing on areas of London in which disadvantage is
relatively high and sizeable ethnic minority populations are present:
Dalston in Hackney, Tooting in Wandsworth and Ivybridge housing estate
in Hounslow - the project’s overall goal is to bring community groups
together with local institutions to plan together, and to further
develop the concept of community-led resilience across the UK.