The regeneration project can be considered an example of environmental micro-management. In the same way that it is possible to cause a change by tackling a major issue across a system, it is also possible to cause a change by tackling a number of minor issues. The disadvantage of tackling major issues is their inertia, which requires more resources and more time to achieve an effect. The disadvantage of tackling minor issues is that their individual impact is more difficult to be assessed within a global frame. In the case of environmental sustainability, however, there is an advantage in solving a problem close to the public. As long as the public realises the benefits of sustainability/restoration policies, small scale environmental restoration projects may win over the public to support more radical policies (on manufacturing, emissions, etc). This is important due to the conflicts between conservation, technology and economics in policy making (Portney, 1992)
In the specific case of this project, there are a number of considerations concerning the environmental benefit of the canal restoration project. It is true that a more or less running course of water (the open canal) is preferred to a more or less stagnant water body (the derelict canal). Stagnant waters may not only look unattractive, but in hot seasons may become a source of disease and discomfort. The Cotswold canals had been abandoned completely from 1941, although some sections had been abandoned in1927 and the last cargo boat passed its summit in 1911. The canal had been built in successive stages, starting in 1757. The climatic point was the opening of the summit of the canal in 1786. Connection from the Severn to the Thames rivers was achieved in 1789. Because of a series of design flaws in the locks, and also because of cracks in the canal bed at the summit, the canal wasted huge amounts of waters.
The above information shows that the Cotswold canal was a disruption of the environment and actually was draining water from some areas, changing the availability of water in the catchment area and the reception area (or wasting it, as was the case at the summit). So, from a direct point of view, the maximum apparent environmental benefit would come from undoing the canal. By choosing adequately the landfill materials used to make sure they are inert (e.g. earth from a construction work) it could be closed. By digging out and building or rebuilding structures, actually pollution and materials to be disposed will be generated. Topping (Turner, 1995) indicates that according to CIEC (1992) the construction industry was responsible by 1992 both of using 50%of all the available landfill volume and of wasting about 10% of all the construction materials used. However, undoing the canals is a negative action course, and the complete undoing would not provide anything remarkable. Landscape management on the other hand falls within EU conservation policies (Lowe and Ward, 1998). On the other hand, policy aspects on sustainability can certainly be developed by supporting the Cotswold Canal Restoration Project.
Weaknesses include the fact that the canal is not going to be profitable commercially and that it relies on volunteer work. This means that the programme may come under scrutiny on the grounds that it will not be able to show benefits, for example, in terms of reduced consumption of fuel for transportation of goods/passengers. The Stroud District Council, in its Thames and Severn Canals Restoration Position Statement clearly states that it expects economic advantages to come from tourism and employment derived from construction and development. It fails to mention the canal as a commercial trade route. Reliance on a volunteer workforce hints to the lack of interest by investors and companies in the project. The environmental aims are minor and may be criticised by environmental action groups. After all, preserving or restoring wildlife is not the same as landscape management. A more potent case of canal restoration is the Rochdale Canal, in Greater Manchester (Manchester Forum, 2001). In this case, the restoration has amongst its purposes to guarantee the survival of one of the largest colonies of floating water plantain (Luronium Natans) which has thrived in this canal during its disuse. This plant is a water weed nearly extinct which is protected by both UK and European legislation. The Rochdale Canal is also home to other rare water weeds like water soldier, fringed water lily and American pond weed. In the Rochdale case a strong case on conservation of biodiversity, relevant to global environmental issues is made (Harris, 2004)The Stroud District Council, in its Thames and Severn Canals Restoration Position Statement fails to mention any specific cases in which biodiversity will be preserved by the restoration project Strengths are mainly two. The first come from the fact that the programme creates a local volunteer work force and therefore identifies highly motivated and environmentally aware individuals who might be committed to other environmental initiatives. This may include either working in other environmental projects, in specific environmental campaigns, or generally supporting sustainability policies and lobbying with the political parties, and the various councils. Raising awareness is part of the EU Environmental Action Plan (EU EAP, 2002) Additionally, this will have an effect which may be considered as environmentally conservative, as it will be restoring a previous, more desirable state of being of the canals and their environment. In the long run, restoring the canal may provide leisure opportunities, a relatively better ecological situation, some level of business, a more appealing landscape, increase the chances of population moving into the area from more saturated parts of the country helping disperse population and its environmental impact and, most importantly, will impress upon the local community of the benefits of environmental restoration projects in general. In the long run, the programme may contribute to create in the wider population a favourable disposition to environmental sustainability policies.
The main issues are economic and social. There is the potential interest of the owners of various stretches of the former canals to retain current property. These include private owners owning parts of the canal which have been filled in, and industrial owners, including water utilities owning stretches of the canals or transport authorities controlling roads built in parts of the canals which have been filled in. However, private owners along the canals are going to benefit from the restoration, as in some points the state of conservation of the canal, with muddy water, weeds, stagnant water does not add to the quality of life of the local population. On the other hand, the aims declared for exploitation by the Stroud District Council are mainly connected with leisure. They intend to attract tourism, to attract population to settle in the area (neighbourhood regeneration as described by Stroud District Council) and to attract contracts for the development of the area around the canal, besides the regeneration of the canal itself. It is difficult to imagine major tensions in connection with said initiatives.
As indicated above, the main concern of the authorities and partnerships involved is on restoration of the canal and its environment for leisure than with a view of recreating a sustainable environment (which would mean a self-sustaining environment, protected to some extent from outside influences, e.g. pollution sources, and therefore not requiring direct action to keep it going, but indirect action to prevent external factors to interfere). With this in mind, and considering that the main purpose of my action plan is to promote sustainability, the logical direction is to use the project as a focus for environmentalist mobilisation. This idea was presented already in Strengths and Weaknesses. It can be further developed by declaring the aim of the Action Plan to create a gathering of environmentally minded individuals, work with them in the Action Plan, probe the inherent weaknesses of the initiative in discussion with them, articulate on the basis of the debate between its members a cohesive action group, and have the action group take responsibility for political lobbying for more effective environmental policies. A motivated action group, aware of the need to break economic growth on a varied evidence of its impact on the environment through poor choice of technological options (Harremes etal, 2002) The key strength of the Proposal Action Plan is that it does not antagonise any of the parties involved during the execution of actions connected with the Restoration of the Cotswold canals. It does not antagonise town councils, the district council, the Cotswold canals partnership or the residents (at least beyond what they may be antagonised by the intent of purchasing from them part of their property of otherwise taking it back from them.
The programme includes as steps procurement of the local government, publicity of the plans, collection of feedback, creation of task groups, generation of a background report, proposition of an action plan, discussion and amendment of the action plan, definition of a road map, identifying contractors and subcontractors, seek funding, whether public funding, industrial sponsorship or private subscriptions. The procedure is straightforward and consistent with practice within organisation ranging from city council to EU research programmes (EUResearch, 2005). The advantage of the specifications points chosen is that they fit well with policies of urban conservation, and therefore can be naturally embraced by the local government as they are identical to their own policies for urban areas. This prevents the possibility of conflicts.
The main weakness of the partnership is that being locally based and on the basis of its inherent weaknesses as a true environmental initiative, it is more likely to be showcased as wasteful or resources which could be allocated to more clearly conservationist policies. Against that criticism, which might come initially from small groups but could later be taken up by larger environmental protection organisations (e.g. Greenpeace) a small and little known partnership has a lower profile upon which to support its rebuttal of criticism. Also, as the local authority has no control on decision making beyond its sphere of influence, it is restricted in its ability to show how it can integrate its initiative within a larger framework of environmental protection activities. On the other hand, the strength of the partnership is based on the closeness of both parties and their awareness, or ability to gain awareness, of the issues involved. Also, the partnership derives strength from the immediacy and direct evidence of any benefits derived from the implementation of the action plan, including the evident improvement in the landscape, and the potential for business and leisure. While the reasons why the wider community may be expected to be committed are described before, the nature of the environmental action plan is synergistic with the broader aims of the local council.
The population can be described in terms of their occupation and the trade sector they work in. There are some 76,000 people aged 16 to 74 years. Those working can be broken down as follows: By type of work Managers Professional Clerical Skilled trades Personal service Sales and customer service Plant and machine operatives Elementary occupations 8,400 6,900 6,200 7,280 3,500 3,200 4,900 5,500 The breakdown suggests that there is a substantial number of people with relatively high income: one third of all people are managers (in fact, managers or senior officials). This breakdown becomes clear when distributing the po9pulation by trade: By activity Real state, renting, business activities 6,400 Wholesale, retail and repair of motoring vehicles 8,000 Financial intermediation 1,950 Agriculture 1,300 Public administrations and defence 2,400 Manufacturing 10,250 Education 4,400 Construction 3,800 Health & social work 5,700 Electricity and water supply 950 Hotels & catering 2,000 Mining and quarrying 140 Transport, storage and communication 2,600 Fishing 15 Other 2,400 It is not difficult to see why the emphasis by local councils is on the leisure potential of the project, and why the true sustainable character in it is limited. The fact that the environmental aspects of the project are weak and the strong influence of officialdom, estate-related business and financial services in the make-up of the community reinforces the case for a soft environmentalist approach focused on creating a committed lobbying group for future action.
As indicated, the action plan is intended to mobilize individuals with a predisposition to work altruistically in activities aimed to the improvement of the environment. The specific points of action, e.g. disposal of litter, elimination of graffiti, gardening are not conflictive with the leading aim to convert the area in a leisure and tourism resort. In this way the group could be formed, initiate its activities and consolidate. Working with companies and the administration will provide the group members with the contacts and hopefully insight of the aims and interests of the various parties, which would be valuable when considering further initiatives on sustainability, in terms of relevance to the various parties, existence of conflicts or possibility of support: companies willing to go green (Sadgrove 1992) Internal debate within the action group should provide it with the opportunity to establish a longer term aim on environmental issues within the region, e.g. availability of technology which may convert the Cotswold Canals in a significant goods transport route with positive impact on issues like greenhouse gas emissions, etc.
. The proposed action plan intends to use the momentum of the Cotswold Canals Restoration Project to create a local lobby of environmentally aware and motivated people to pursue abroad range of initiatives to promote environmental conservation and sustainability
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