The Big Challenge: Mission to keep Sheffield green

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Sheffield is a great place to live and would be even better without litter, graffiti and bins on the pavements!

I sold my bicycle within six months of returning to live in Sheffield in 1972, but greatly admire my cyclist friends for coping with the hills. It’s good to live in the little-known but attractive and convenient Birkendale Conservation Area, only a mile from the city centre, and handy for the tram.

Air quality is back high on the agenda with vehicle emissions as the main culprit

Our house dates from 1840, we have a cellar in lieu of a fridge and wash clothes by hand in our lovely Belfast sink.

Each morning (except Sundays) I am out with my litter-pick around the Upperthorpe Road shops, tidying up a bit of the city.

‘Beanies’ in Crookes Valley, and ‘Beeches’ in Walkley are superb local shops and I’m very proud of ‘Our Cow Molly’.

As a geographer and town planner, I am a ‘places’ person. I’m sure that people are shaped by their environment. Everyone deserves clean air and green space. Good urban design lifts the spirits.

I’ve been a Methodist local preacher for 53 years and am convinced that appreciation of and care for creation is an essential part of Christian faith and practice.

Climate change is the most important issue facing humanity. It calls for measures at every level from individual to international to prevent catastrophe.

That’s why in 2007 I joined Sheffield Campaign Against Climate Change which broadened to form Sheffield Climate Alliance (SCA) in 2011.

I’m also on the Sheffield Diocesan Environment Group and the Sheffield Methodist Circuit’s Justice and Peace Group.

Local churches are being encouraged to change to green energy providers. There is scope too for generating solar energy: as most churches are aligned east-west, there is usually a long stretch of south-facing roof!

I’m delighted that the Beacon Methodist Church at Broomhill, where I worship, is making substantial energy savings with its solar panels. The main denominations are taking a lead in divesting from fossil fuel companies.

SCA seeks to inform and engage people about effective actions to reduce carbon emissions. Writing to councillors and MPs is important. Our Climate Jobs Group has produced ‘A Sustainable Vision for Sheffield City Region’ as a response to ‘A Better Future Together – A Prospectus for Sheffield City Region’. Surprisingly, the original report nowhere mentions climate change, while claiming to look 25 years ahead.

Although a modest increase in initial building cost would mean greatly reduced running costs, few new homes are built to minimise carbon emissions. It doesn’t make economic sense!

The City Council needs to re-embark on a win/win programme of insulation and adaptation of the existing housing stock, so reducing carbon emissions, heating bills and hospital admissions.

Air quality is back high on the agenda with vehicle emissions as the main culprit. The mooted adoption of a blanket 20 mph limit on all but arterial roads will help, but we need to get people out of their cars and on their feet or in the saddle – especially for short journeys. I’ve started challenging drivers who don’t switch off their engines when stationary.

Fracking’ is on our doorstep, with planning applications in Marsh Lane and Harthill. and permissions in North Nottinghamshire.

Strong co-ordinated local opposition is raising awareness of this as a climate change issue. Shale gas is a fossil fuel – we need to leave it in the ground.

The prospect of associated HGVs bringing water and chemicals to the drilling sites and then carrying waste polluted water away, probably to Blackburn Meadows, should be ringing alarm bells in the city itself.

SCA is trying to ensure that there are strong policies on fracking in the Sheffield Local Plan now being finalised.

If I could wave a magic wand I would overturn the current government pro-fracking policies and reinstate support for solar farms, onshore wind farms and tidal barrages.