Net zero agenda ‘tremendous opportunity’ for West London

With the UK legally bound to become a fossil-free economy in 30 years’ time, work is underway across the country to decarbonise the way we live, work and travel.

West London councils, as part of their collective ambition for the sub-region to build back better through the West London Alliance, have placed importance on sustainability and a green economy to help drive the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The opportunity to grow back greener will be debated in detail at the upcoming Capital West London Build & Recover Summit, which takes place on 29 September.

Ahead of the summit, Capital West London spoke with David Symons, WSP’s UK Sustainability Director, about how the UK has been making strides in becoming greener, and what opportunities to drive this agenda are available to West London.

Most of the progress seen to date has come through decarbonising electricity and making the way we use energy more efficient, with significant changes to come in decarbonising transport and retrofitting homes and offices.

The change, Symons said, to West London is “massive.”

“We have to effectively retrofit every home in the UK, every business on Park Royal will have to move away from gas, and petrol and diesel cars and lorries will be replaced with clean transport.”

“A fundamental transformation of West London’s economy will be required.  That’s a brilliant growth opportunity for West London councils and its businesses” Symons said.

“From a WSP perspective, it’s hugely relevant for us because projects we’re working on in West London, such as  Brent Cross Thameslink and Old Oak Common station, have a design life of 100-plus years.  Most of the life of the infrastructure and the masterplans that we’re producing will have to work in a fossil free economy.”

WSP’s work is underpinned by a programme called Future Ready – seeing the future more clearly and then working with clients on every project to design for this future, as well as today. And that planning is coming into the spotlight right now, with refurbishments to buildings to adapt to COVID-19 social distancing measures and guidelines ongoing.

Symons said: “We have to be a fossil free economy so if you’re changing out the heating or the air conditioning systems of those buildings, why would you install a heating or a cooling system that will need to be replaced before the end of its life?”

The same is relevant from a transport perspective, as in a little more than ten years, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be illegal. Symons said if developers were drawing up proposals for new offices now which include car parks, they ought to be preparing for an electric vehicle future.

“We’re working with local authorities that have declared a climate emergency. Many are developing strategies around decarbonising buildings and transport through planning policies, and there is some real urgency in those – they are serious, they are here right now.”

Reflecting on the past six months and the coronavirus pandemic, Symons said: “It’s completely changed how we work and how we travel. I think it’s also allowed us to ask much bigger questions that we wouldn’t have dared to before.”

WSP has been in conversations with councils and developers about “locking in” benefits of a reduced demand for transport across London on emissions and changes in how we live and work.

“If you live in West London, there is a tremendous opportunity to revitalise communities because West London’s population historically have been tidal in their movements in and out of central London. People travel to the City or the West End to work, and then come home.”

“If you’ve got people working from homes within West London as well as traveling, that’s a great opportunity to revitalise local high streets and provide a much more cohesive community.”

To find out more about how West London will be looking to grow back greener, book your ticket for the Capital West London Build & Recover Summit now. The virtual summit takes place on 29 September and tickets are just £95+VAT and can be purchased here. For more information on the event, visit www.cwlgrowthsummit.co.uk

Find out more about how WSP is working with clients and communities to act positively on the climate emergency, now and for the future, here: www.wsp.com/en-GB/hubs/decarbonisation

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