Speech on Castle Mall 5th December 2013

Speech made to the 5th December Planning Committee on the proposed changes to the Castle Mall entrance:

Thank you, Chair.

We have already heard comments about the design of this planning application, and I could add to that, but I’d prefer to point out a couple of other considerations that are not fully covered in the report.

The National Planning Policy Framework puts great weight on what is termed ‘the presumption in favour of sustainable development’. Exactly what this entails remains vague, but this design is not sustainable, whatever definition you use.

Aluminium as a material is not sustainable.  Although it is recyclable, it uses so much energy during initial extraction and processing that even taking a typical recycled content (33%) into account, aluminium is still many times worse than other materials in terms of its CO2 emissions.  8.24 kg of carbon are released per kg of aluminium produced. Even glass, which is by no means the most sustainable of building materials, sits at just 0.85 kg CO2/kg. Marble, from this point of view, is even better, at just a little over 0.1 kg CO2/kg. [Data Source: Inventory of Carbon & Energy, University of Bath]

Do the benefits that this proposal bring justify the environmental cost of the use of aluminium as its primary material?

Well, is it really necessary that aluminium is used?  Aluminium is a very strong and lightweight material. This makes it ideal for things like car frames, where the reduced weight may save more energy in the long run than in production.  This argument does not apply here.  Is its strength being taken advantage of? – no.  It’s only supporting itself for no more benefit than to supposedly ‘look pretty’.

Is there an alternative?

Any other material would release less carbon, even if used in exactly the same way. But then ask yourself – is this development really necessary at all?

I’m sure the applicant will justify his position as a benefit to investment in the local economy and jobs.  But the truth is that almost all the money going into this project won’t ever be seen by local people.  The London-based investors pay their London-based property developers to employ London-based architects (plus a token local “historic advisor”), but I’m sure they’ll use a Norwich-based aluminium manufacturer.  Oh wait, there aren’t any aluminium factories in Norwich.

So the only potential benefit from this scheme would be a trickle of extra shoppers to the Castle Mall dazzled by the attractiveness of this new design.

“Sustainable Development”? I’ll let you be the judge.

Because I had declared an interest, I was not involved in the decision of this item, but the planning committee resolved to defer the application so that a more appropriate design could be brought forward.

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One Comment

  1. David Grundey
    Posted 9 February, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Thats good
    Here in Northumberland the planning committies never comment or tell the developer to go back to the drawing board. councelors do not see that as there job. Materals are not discussed and the word sustainability does not seem to be understood.

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