Durham has been crowned the UK’s greenest city out of 59 cities across the UK by the Solar Centre.
The Solar Centre used government data to judge on ten areas, with Durham winning with an overall score of 7.77 out of 10, having reduced carbon emissions by 47 per cent since 2009.
Brian Davenport, Director of The Solar Centre, told The Telegraph: “We are pleased to see how well some cities are doing towards helping the environment and the tireless work Durham and other areas are doing is so important to the health of our planet”.
The results are reliant upon government records, but there is some scepticism among local Durham environmentalist groups.
Durham got full marks for air quality, despite the council having previously identified Durham City to have dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide, which have breached national and European quality standards.
The council currently operate a continuous air quality monitoring system to regulate pollution levels throughout Durham City.
For traffic congestion, Durham received a strong score of 8.95. This is especially controversial following Durham County Council’s recent proposal to build a bypass through Durham, the plans for which were only rejected after an 18-month long campaign from local residents.
“It’s a very interesting result, but it seems to me to mask the real detail of the problems we are facing.”Jonathan Elmer
Jonathan Elmer, who is a parish councillor in Durham and the most recent Green Party election candidate, suggested to Palatinate that this ranking didn’t show the full picture, and more progress was needed.
“There’s been no effort on the part of the county council to push for the construction of buildings that are particularly energy efficient, so from a building and transport perspective, that doesn’t weigh up – we still run diesel buses through the centre of the city.
“The cycle network is dangerous to use. We have a huge problem with a loss of green belt due to development. From a waste management perspective, we’re in the lower half of the country, performing pretty poorly. A lot of these reductions are simply a result of collapsing industry, so we do less.”
He continued: “We need more sustainable public transport; we want developers held to much better standards of energy efficiency. The scale of expansion by the university needs better management. “It’s a very interesting result, but it seems to me to mask the real detail of the problems we are facing.”
“Where are the nature reserves and car charging points in Durham city centre?”Amy Campbell
Councillor Elmer has worked as Sustainable Development Manager for the City of Durham Council and is a consultant ecologist.
Amy Campbell, Environment Officer for Hild Bede SRC, also expressed caution over the result: “Where are the nature reserves and car charging points in Durham city centre? If they didn’t do any interviews with local people, it seems unfair to compare Durham as a tiny city to major cities.
“We need to consider how far individual local businesses have progressed with reducing emissions. We need to see whether the council is working with small businesses to set climate objectives”.
The report is available on the Solar Centre’s website. Swansea came in close second, whilst Perth was judged to be the UK’s least environmentally friendly city.
Image: Caitlin Kinney