Welcome to the latest Our Heritage 2040 June Newsletter.
We’re conscious we haven’t been in touch for a while, although there has been plenty going on behind the scenes. It’s now six months since COP26 in Glasgow, two years since this project began and sadly, a year since Robert Phillips, our colleague and the instigator of Our Heritage 2040 died. And of course, we’ve seen the start of a war in Ukraine which has sent the price of energy and food to record levels.
Alok Sharma, the cabinet minister who led the UK-hosted COP – although admitting that events have changed the global outlook drastically in the six months – hopes that “current crises should increase, not diminish, our determination to deliver on what we agreed at COP26, and honour the Glasgow climate pact.”
As a group, we have been building considerable momentum around a number of exciting and important initiatives, all focused on helping achieve the Net-Zero goal. This newsletter gives you a quick update on what we’ve been up to, and how best you can get involved. What started as an exercise in engagement between stakeholders around the development of Sizewell C has developed into a more ambitious project – exploring long-term, transformative ideas for East Suffolk. We are still, of course, awaiting the planning decision about Sizewell C which should now be delivered in July.
Currently, four pilot programmes have emerged from the original working group (more may follow) and are now being incubated by various members of the group – around Arts & Culture; Nature; Eco-Tourism; and Localism in the Supply Chain. These ideas respect the delicate balance between the celebration and protection of The Heritage Coast and the opportunities afforded by the “energy innovation economy”. They build on the original vision of the Our Heritage 2040 project – articulated in the September 2020 publication and subsequent roundtables.
As we move into this new phase, we will focus on building out these pilots to move words into actions, build exciting partnerships and coalitions around our shared values.
Arts & Culture
Probably the most advanced of these is Arts and Culture. We aim to create a partnership between arts organisations and Sizewell C to deliver a programme of work which is sustained in its long-term engagement with the diverse communities within East Suffolk, Ipswich, Lowestoft and beyond – with an added focus on meaningful social cohesion and integration of the Sizewell C workforce.
Suffolk has an incredibly rich history of arts and culture. However, the arts (and artists) have been battered by the economic shock of COVID, and its subsequent lockdowns.
Research into engagement with the arts shows positive impacts on individual wellbeing, including outcomes such as increased confidence, social connectivity and life satisfaction. There is also evidence of positive effects on community wellbeing, including outcomes on social relationships, sense of belonging, pride of place, ownership and collective empowerment.
Access to these benefits should be available to all. While Suffolk is often characterised as being affluent, sleepy and beautiful, there are also ‘hidden needs’ (from isolated and rural communities) which are becoming ever more apparent. Post-pandemic and particularly considering the current cost of living crisis, these are becoming deeper and more entrenched. There is notable and rising socio-economic deprivation, with 20,000 children living in poverty, and 47% of neighbourhoods having grown in deprivation since 2010; all within a wider context of wealth disparity, with Mid-Suffolk ranking in the top 20% of social mobility in the country.
It is essential that arts organisations and artists are provided with the support they need to thrive – contributing to the heart, soul and vitality of local communities, cultivate and retain local talent, and make culture accessible to everyone.
The plan for this pilot is to develop programmes created with and for these communities, convening spaces for participants to share their experiences through storytelling in all its forms, without prejudice, with joy and in a way which is truly transformative. An announcement on next steps and partners is expected later on this Summer.
On Nature in 2019, the UK Government declared a climate and biodiversity crisis – and followed up in 2020 committing to protecting 30% of the UK’s land for nature by 2030 and to reducing CO2 emissions by 68% by 2030 based on 1990 levels.
With respect to nature, this intent is now reaching local communities. In 2020, Suffolk County Council agreed a Biodiversity Motion, which states that “This Council, resolves to implement a biodiversity strategy setting out how to increase Suffolk’s biodiversity, halt the loss of habitats and species, and reintroduce declining species in suitable locations.”
To achieve these goals in Suffolk, everyone has a part to play – rural and urban communities; investment, energy and infrastructure; planning and regulation; politicians and civil society.
Leiston is on the edge of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a plethora of rare and unique species of bird, animal and plant. Leiston and East Suffolk face the same climate crisis as the rest of the UK, likewise the same biodiversity crisis.
Nature matters, not only for its own sake but also for our own. As many of us have discovered during the Covid-19 pandemic lock-down, nature also provides an escape, something beautiful that can nourish our wellbeing, both physically and mentally. Nature helps us be more resilient, for example to floods or coastal sea-level rise. Nature attracts visitors and supports our tourist economy. Put another way: a healthy planet underpins a healthy society, and a healthy society is a prerequisite for a healthy economy. More nature in Suffolk will help our health and wealth.
This pilot programme aims to work in partnership with Net Zero Leiston (NZL), WildEast and others with a shared set of common values to:
- Understand and address biodiversity issues across Leiston and East Suffolk
- Improve access to nature for local communities
- Support Leiston’s ambitions to become the UK’s first Net-Zero town.
- Improve community mental health and wellbeing through dedicated nature-focused programme
- Create 30% protected land for nature by 2030 route map for Leiston
- Work with the independent Environmental Charity that would evolve from the decision on Sizewell C.
Sizewell C has signed a “Deed of Trust” with East Suffolk Council and Suffolk County Council, if it is consented, committing £78m of funds for the setting up of an independent Environmental Charity. The explicit aim of this charity is to promote, for the benefit of the public, the conservation, protection and improvement of the physical and natural environment. £1.5m would be made available from the start of construction, with a phased committing of funds annually.
This would provide a funded avenue for pilot schemes such as this to achieve its aims and objectives.
Tourism is hugely important to the local economy, however, the Suffolk Heritage Coast is currently not maximising the potential of Eco- (and particularly Cycle-) tourism.
The potential is considerable:
- The flat topography, AONB and coastline are ideal for the cycling family/leisure/holiday market
- The growth in use of e-bikes broadens this potential further
- There are currently limited defined routes with inadequate signage
- Suffolk has a unique opportunity due to suitable topography and historic coastline for visitors to “Cycle the Heritage Coast”
This pilot programme aims to work in partnership with local groups with a shared set of common values to provide major benefits and stimulus to Suffolk’s Eco-Tourism. An increase in this sort of tourism would create business opportunities, cycle hire, cafés on route
These ambitions will be achieved via a mix of long and short-term initiatives to include (among others):
- Enhancing the cycling infrastructure of the area
- SZC proposals provide safe off-road passage to cyclists from Sizewell Gap to Eastbridge Road, maintaining and enhancing connectivity along the coast from Aldeburgh to Southwold
The Sizewell C Deed of Obligation commits to:
- A Public Right of Way Fund of £2.5m and Leiston Cycling and Walking Contribution of £728,185
- B1122 Repurposing Scheme (to be implemented post completion of the Sizewell Link Road). This scheme will provide further connectivity along and across the B1122 for cyclists and other non-motorised road users. This would complement the existing Quiet Lanes initiative
- Delivering a highway improvement scheme within Leiston to restrict through traffic from the town centre and enhance the road infrastructure to improve safety and amenity for cyclists and pedestrians
- The aim is to develop clearly defined cycle routes of varying lengths on a broad scale with signage and direction. Both circular routes and point to point. There is also the possibility of repurposing the disused railway line between Leiston and Aldeburgh to be used as part of a circular family trail.
Locialsim in the Supply Chain
Finally, the local supply chain. We attended the recent meeting in Lowestoft which was standing room only. It was addressed by Ashley Shorey-Mills, the head of supply chain engagement at Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and Steve Carroll, the senior supply chain lead at Sizewell C. They reminded the audience of the scale of employment and business opportunities:
- 2,600 workers will likely come from the local area during peak and are aiming to enable 1,500 apprenticeships
- £125m a year during construction and £40m a year during operation will enter the local economy
- 900 highly skilled staff will operate Sizewell C once operational
- East of England companies have so far won contracts worth over £1bn at Hinkley Point C and are well placed to work on Sizewell C
- Almost 2000 East Anglian companies are already registered on the Sizewell C supply chain portal
Our key ambitions for this pilot include:
- Encouraging Local Involvement – to encourage as many East Suffolk companies and coastal companies to be involved in, and benefit from, the Sizewell C supply chain – including the indirect benefits to businesses e.g. visitors to the area during construction and beyond
- Emphasis on Local Produce – encouraging local and healthy produce – including “field to plate items” in the Sizewell canteen
- Social Cohesion & The Visitor Economy – creating meaningful and valuable connections and experiences between visitors and transient workers with the local food and drink economy – encouraging return visits
- Skills & Local Indirect Employment Opportunities – educating and upskilling businesses to ensure access to the supply chain pipeline
We’re waiting for July when the planning decision should come through. But, in the meantime, if any of these important areas interest you, please get in touch.
As we said right from the start, Our Heritage 2040 is an “open mic” enterprise.
The Our Heritage 2040 Team