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Featured profiles

Colleagues who are using LES as a best practice model within their organisation.

John Paterson

John PatersonChair of Low Emission Strategies Partnership and Team Manager, London Borough of Greenwich

John Paterson joined the Pollution Team at the London Borough of Greenwich in 1979. He is currently the Team Manager for Environmental Protection, a position that he’s held for 12 years. He has responsibilities across the range of Environmental Protection Services, including air quality, noise, contaminated land and major planning applications.

John was part of the Greenwich team that secured the ‘Delivering Cleaner Air’ Beacon Council status. He has been heavily involved with the Low Emission Strategies Partnership since it was formed by the Beacon Councils in 2007, and was elected Chair of the Partnership Board in September 2009.

Why are Low Emission Strategies relevant at the moment?

Low Emission Strategies (LES) have always been relevant – as much today, as when the Partnership was formed.

Our initial work focussed on reducing transport emissions through the planning system. Here, the difference between low emission strategies and other approaches to air quality assessments is the argument of concentration versus emissions. Historically, air quality assessments have rated the impact of development relative to pollutant concentrations in the surrounding air (which almost without exception are classified as ‘not significant’). The LES approach takes account of the cumulative impact of emissions from a myriad of small/ medium sized developments and sets the ambition to improve air quality, rather than degrade it in small increments.

Following our work on planning, we now have examples of how Low Emission Strategies can be included within transport planning and procurement. For each of these, the focus on emissions allows you to directly assess and manage impacts on air quality, as well as making direct links to greenhouse gas emissions and targets for climate change.

These are difficult times for local authorities, with many facing budget cuts. In future there is likely to be less involvement and financial support from Central Government. At the same time, local authorities have responsibilities to protect air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

There are a large number of local authorities that could benefit from adopting the LES approach, and implementing practical measures to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The LES Partnership can provide cost-effective support to local authorities, by local authorities. We are also producing outputs that are beneficial to a wider audience with an interest in both air quality and climate change.

What do you see as the key benefits of working with the Low Emission Strategies Partnership?

If you’re involved in the Partnership, then you’re not working alone. There’s a support group, made up of a wide range of authorities, with similar experiences. There are opportunities to network and share knowledge. You have early access to information, and the opportunity to shape projects and outputs.

With Greenwich, I’ve been fortunate enough to work for an enlightened authority, which has allowed me to share information and time with other authorities. It has been a pleasure to be involved with the Partnership, and to share in the energy, commitment and enthusiasm within the group.

What would you want to see planners and environmental practitioners doing to support LES?

Over the past year we have run three meetings of the Low Emission Forum, as well as a series of seminars with the Royal Town Planning Institute at various locations around the country. These events have been well attended and brought together planners and environmental practitioners to discuss the benefits of the LES approach. We need people to get involved, talk to other officers, talk to Members, let us know your views. We are running an online survey with the latest newsletter - tell us what you think. We are also looking to set up a Community of Practice via the Local Government Group.

Any advice for colleagues keen to adopt LES in their authorities?

When we started the Partnership, the main obstacle to getting started was difficulty in accessing information. We’ve been working hard to overcome that through the tools that we’re producing and the case studies and examples that we’ve been involved with. Check our website for information, or get in touch with us. There are a lot of people with similar experiences who have developed strategies for their areas. Pick out the information that is relevant to you and take it forward in your area.

How do you see the future of the LES Partnership?

This is an exciting time for Partnership. We’re coming to the end of the Phase II Programme and will have a range of tools and outputs ready to distribute, and some good news stories to tell through the Regional Groups Initiative.

I’d like the Partnership to move forwards, refresh the board and get some different perspectives. The Low Emission Strategies concept isn’t the finished article. There are a number of directions that the Partnership could go in, and a lot of local authorities that could benefit. Much hinges on finance. The Partnership is funded until September 2011 and we will be seeking additional funding and reviewing our options in the very near future.

We have come as far as we have through enthusiasm and support from partner authorities. I would encourage anyone that is interested in becoming involved with the Partnership, either with specific projects, or at a board level, to get in touch with us.

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