Sustainability in monmouthshire

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Monmouthshire

Monmouthshire is a small rural county in the south east of Wales. It is the seventh largest county in Wales and currently has a population of 92,800 people. Even with its huge population it is considered one of the least densely populated areas in wales, as most residents can be found in the main towns of Monmouthshire such as Abergavenny, Monmouth, Usk and Chepstow. [1] To be considered as sustainable countries and governments must ensure that they live in a way that is environmentally sustainable or viable over the long term, to live in a way that is economically sustainable, maintaining living standards over the long-term and to live in a way that is socially sustainable, now and in the future.

Social Sustainability

Social sustainability is just one element that governments and communities must consider and work towards to have a more sustainable system. To achieve a socially sustainable system there must be fairness in distribution and opportunity, adequate provision of social services, including health and education, gender equity and political accountability and participation. Wellbeing can often be thought of in terms of health, education and social services, it is the interaction between people and everyday experiences of place. Wellbeing links with traditional measures of the quality of people’s lives and measures more gentle characteristics such as feeling and experiences. Wellbeing is most commonly understood as a holistic conception of positive human functioning. The Wellbeing of future generations act (2015) has paved the way for Governments and local councils to develop sustainably. The act is about improving social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. The act requires Monmouth County Council to think more about the long term, to work better with communities and people and look to preventing problems for the future. The council have developed a corporate business plan that will run from 2017-2022; the plan looks to develop education, health and social services in the area, while facing the battle of having the lowest amount of funding per person of any local authority in Wales – £989 compared to an average of £1,320. The Council are already on track to achieving their goals. In education 67% of pupils achieving 5 GCSE’s grade A* to C, which is the highest in Wales, stability in education for the majority of looked after children has been provided by the council, only 8% of children experienced a change of school. Within their plan of lifelong well-being, 73% of adults can live independently following reablement, which is above the average in Wales.[2]

Housing is another component of social sustainability and is a key component of the UK’s welfare state. The relationship between housing and society are mutually co-dependent. Over recent years in Wales, we have seen the rise of housing associations; these are non-profit third sector organisations, who are responsible for providing social housing. Housing associations were numerically insignificant in the UK throughout the 1970s; there was no indication that they would rise as local authorities had previously overshadowed them. The local authorities owned around six million dwellings and appeared to occupy an impregnable position as the dominant suppliers of affordable rented housing. Monmouthshire County Council has made substantial progress in providing more affordable homes for its residents. The 2016-2017 annual report of the Councils Local Development Plan 2011-2021, states that the council has approved proposals for a total of 484 dwelling units, of which 93 (19.2%) are for affordable homes. The Former Paper Mill, Sudbrook has 212 dwellings including 20 affordable units; while Coed Glas in Abergavenny, one of Monmouthshire’s more densely populated towns has 18 affordable units [3]. The Monmouthshire Housing Association are also working to help provide affordable rural housing. They are working with the rural housing enabler, giving support to other housing associations, the Council and the Welsh Government. The rural housing enabler helps to develop local partnerships, identify possible development sites and to assess local housing needs, which in the long-term will result in the development of affordable housing for much needed communities[4]

Environmental Sustainability

“Environmental sustainability: A state in which the demands placed on the environment can be met without reducing its capacity to allow all people to live well, now and in the future.”[5]

Environmental sustainability is a key priority for Monmouthshire as is apparent in the Monmouthshire Local Development Plan Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment[6]. One key project in terms of environmental sustainability is the £4.5 million; whereby funding has been awarded to Monmouthshire in order to develop the Oak Grove Solar Farm in Crick. This will be used to power 1,400 homes, this is a landmark project that can hopefully be used to attract the interest from other organisations looking to invest and/or fund in the creation of producing more sustainable sources of energy within Monmouthshire[7]. Made in Monmouthshire is another strategy adopted by the Monmouthshire community to allow local produces to be more easily sold to the public. It is a marketplace for farmers and producers to promote the sale of their products through the Facebook page they have created. Furthermore, Made in Monmouthshire is featured at events throughout Wales. Both of these points are significant indicators that Wales, as can be seen from the Well-being of future generations (Wales) act 2015 [8]. Furthermore Monmouthshire are dedicated to prioritising environmental sustainability. Robert Goodland (1995) allows a justification to be produced about the development of a solar project such as the Oak Grove Solar Farm this can be determined as he states that Humanity must control its natural capital and furthermore means that we must hold waste emissions inside the range of the natural capacity. This in turn translates very well into the Monmouthshire solar project as it is also predicted to save over 2,000 tonnes of CO2 annually and in doing so will lessen the requirements for electricity to be produced through other non-sustainable methods. Another approach to environmental sustainability that can be effective is grass root community-led programs that can produce inspirational views of the alternative futures available. Monmouthshire has recently (as of 2016) show progress towards this movement as a Monmouthshire partnership between different groups (community groups, renewable energy companies and the county council) has been formed in order to raise awareness for environmental issues that are affecting Monmouthshire, they have raised awareness through different events known as energy days [9]

Economic sustainability

The geography of economies is unlike traditional economy, it is concerned in the in the space of economy; this is how space can affect firms, organisations and individuals and their future actions. The changing spread of economic disparity is present and is due to many factors such as but not limited to natural resources, proximity to water sources used in the past for trade and climates. This sort of economic disparity is seen throughout wales, as of 2015 the unemployment rate was estimated at 5.9% of the economically active population [10] which was at 5.0% in the U.K [11]. Within Monmouthshire, as of 2015 unemployment was at 5.5% (Bryan J. and Roche, N. 2015) and though it is higher than the U.K’s average it is still lower than the Wales average. One significant reason that Monmouthshire’s average unemployment rate is lower than the Welsh average can be attributed to the Adventa Program which provides funding of between £5,000 and £150,000 to small, local businesses [12]. This in turn allows for businesses to be opened and thus provide jobs where they would otherwise not be available. This is an effective tool in improving economic sustainability as an economy is to improve, losses must be made in order to have a stronger active economic population to be able to provide for those inactive which thus have opportunity for higher educations and furthering the cycle.

Cultural Sustainability

Cultural sustainability in Wales is a key part of defining what it means to be Welsh and how Welsh people live. It also tells the story of how some traditions have arrived and how others have changed over time. Cultural sustainability is important throughout Wales as a whole but there are ways Monmouthshire are really embracing the Welsh culture and are keeping it alive. Cultural sustainability is how different cultures preserve ideas, beliefs, and the challenges that face this. It is also how the culture has stayed the same or has been modified to suit the changing times and changing needs of society.

Monmouthshire county council have derived a plan on how Monmouthshire is going to be more sustainable in many areas such as economically, environmentally, but particularly culturally. The well-being of future generations act was introduced in 2016 by Monmouthshire county council and it includes seven aims to keep Wales and Monmouthshire sustainable with the intent to provide better well-being for future generations. The one aim that relates the most to cultural sustainability is ‘A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language’. This aim will help to bring the culture back to Monmouthshire and Wales and to increase the amount of people living in Wales who speak the Welsh language. In 2014, only 11% of the people living in Wales said they could fluently speak Welsh. This is a considerably low number of people and the well-being of future generations act aims to significantly increase this. The ways this could be achieved is to encourage schools to teak Welsh as a primary or secondary language to all of the students, to create social groups of Welsh speakers who are willing to teach the language and to provide online courses that are easily accessible. It is said that Welsh people who cannot speak Welsh do not feel as typically Welsh as those who do speak the language. By increasing, the number of people who speak Welsh it will correspond with how Welsh they feel in terms of culture and identity. The Welsh language is slowly dying and each year less and less people can speak Welsh fluently. To prevent the language from being completely unused, it should be taught more and practiced more across Wales.

Monmouthshire also has a vast array of historic sites and museums on offer for the public to view and educate their selves on the history and culture of Wales. Cardiff was built on the thriving coal industry in Wales, and part of the industrial revolution in Wales was due to the use of iron and nickel in infrastructure. In Chepstow stands the Old Wye Bridge, which was one of the first bridges ever to be built with iron and nickel. Although it is just a bridge, it holds a lot of history on how civil engineering has changed over the last two hundred years. This bridge has a lot of historic culture linked with is because when it was built in the 1800’s it was the early days of using iron and nickel and is one of the oldest bridged ever to be built of these materials. Because of this finding and the bridge still standing, Wales as a whole was able to use this technique in other places to improve transport links. This would have massively helped the coal trade, as safe bridges that would be able to survive constant use would have made moving coal around South Wales a lot easier and more efficient. As an effect of this finding, the Welsh economy was able to boom and bring trade to the bigger cities, and even creating the cities, as we know them today. This small bridge in Chepstow holds a lot of historic culture and shows how the culture was able to change and evolve creating busy cities and great transport links.

  1. "Monmouthshire single integrated plan 2013-2017". http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/documents/866/APPENDIX2SIP%20MCC%20Draft%20v3%20Final.pdf. 
  2. "Council Performance - Monmouthshire" (in en-US). Monmouthshire. http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/improvement. 
  3. [https://democracy.monmouthshire.gov.uk/documents/s10053/1b%20Appendix%201%20-%20LDP%20AMR%202017.pdf "Monmouthshire County Council Adopted Local Development Plan 2011 - 2021 Annual Monitoring Report"]. https://democracy.monmouthshire.gov.uk/documents/s10053/1b%20Appendix%201%20-%20LDP%20AMR%202017.pdf. 
  4. Admin, Verseone. "Affordable Rural Housing - Monmouthshire Housing" (in en). http://www.monmouthshirehousing.co.uk/affordable-rural-housing. 
  5. "Environmental Sustainability Definition from Financial Times Lexicon" (in en). http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=environmental-sustainability. 
  6. Monmouthshire Local Development Plan Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment (Bristol: Peter Brett Associates, 2014)
  7. "£4.5 million for Monmouthshire solar farm - Monmouthshire" (in en-US). Monmouthshire. 2017-03-20. http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/2017/03/20/4-5-miliwn-fferm-solar-yn-sir-fynwy. 
  8. "Welsh Government" (in EN). http://gov.wales/topics/people-and-communities/people/future-generations-act/?lang=en. 
  9. "Monmouthshire Energy days 2017 Evaluation". http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/app/uploads/2017/07/Energy-Days-2017-Evaluation.pdf. 
  10. "Key economic statistics -- December 2015". http://gov.wales/docs/statistics/2015/151218-key-economic-december-2015-en.pdf. 
  11. "Public sector employment, December 2015". https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/publicsectorpersonnel/bulletins/publicsectoremployment/december2015. 
  12. "Welsh Government" (in EN). http://gov.wales/topics/environmentcountryside/farmingandcountryside/cap/wales-rural-network/publications/adventa-monmouthshire-food-works-final-evaluation-report/?lang=en.