Manchester City Council has advertised for a new Deputy Director of Planning. The advert had one glancing mention of climate change, but did not, oddly, say ‘by the way, in July we announced a climate emergency and if you want the gig, you better fill your interview with dozens of ideas about what the planning department can and must do’. No, it really didn’t. This silence has aggravated people who know about these things. One of them, Dr Anon, has written the following…
The proposed Deputy Director of Planning for Manchester sets us up to ‘continue to do the same thing but expect a different outcome’. The job description (JD) of the advertised role fails to take into account the climate emergency declaration, which gives a potentially Freudian insight into the council. The declaration may be viewed as an indirect recognition of failure in Manchester’s Duty to Protect. This role will guide planning for decades potentially risking doubling down on that failure.
Planning is central to delivering and maintaining a zero-carbon, resilient future. It controls the building stock, its development (corridors), transportation inter-linkages and wider aspects of the environment (impacting issues such as green and blue infrastructure, that should facilitate rewilding and other sinks).
In terms of impact, the overarching role of the planning department is potentially the most significant, of all departments, to the long-term resilience of Manchester. Regrettably, the JD places heavy emphasis on economic growth.
There appears to be a disconnect between the JD and the necessities associated with implementing the infrastructure that is essential to reducing emissions at the pace necessary to have a 50-50 chance of preventing dangerous climate change. This is all too familiar. It must be soul-destroying to many members of council staff.
The council in declaring an emergency now appears to be looking to central-government to save it, when it needs to put in place the structures – in human and other forms – that will deliver on the changes required.
As each climate report emerges we learn that the situation is worse than we previously feared and the global stock of carbon has continued to grow. We, therefore, know that the 2038 target, with the assumptions upon which it rests, like the majority of carbon targets, is going to be rendered inadequate.
The requirement for a safe, clean, vibrant neighbourhoods would seem to be a council’s basic duties. It doesn’t need to be stated but also does not reflect an emergency state. Ultimately this is a JD for a post to facilitate rapid growth to 2025 and to ensure growth is maintained beyond. Growth, in a state of emergency is a-nice-to-have, it cant be the primary focus.
This is a leadership role that, to reiterate, will have implications for decades, it, therefore, requires explicit recognition of the emergency today. The recent IPCC report made clear the need to act by 2030. This has, however, been largely misunderstood. The year 2030 is the point when the structures to deliver mitigation must be in place, not when agreements are reached.
In effect, a central role of any Planning Director should be to facilitate Manchester at least being 100% zero-carbon. This requires a building stock, a transportation network and suitable support mechanisms (energy, waste and water) to be in place. This needs to be long before 2038 and measurements against these are far easier to track than carbon inventories that are produced 2 years out of date.
It is possible, it is necessary – not ambitious (or it isn’t an emergency) – but it requires a different skill-set and vision, to the one highlighted in this JD. Come on Manchester you are better than this!
Concerned, Dr. Anon