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Top 10… green places to live

Rebecca Campbell

30th March, 2012

From great public transport to carbon reduction initiatives, the UK’s towns and cities are making strides towards becoming greener places to live. Rebecca Campbell takes a closer look at the most impressive

According to property website, Right Move, 800,000 people are planning to move home this year. Along with finding out where the best schools are and how safe the area is, movers are increasingly looking at the green credentials of their potential new home.  So where are the UK’s greenest places to live? For the last four years, Forum for the Future has conducted a survey ranking the UK’s cities on their environmental performance, focusing on quality of life, future plans and environmental performance. By taking these three factors into account, working out which areas prioritise the planet is made simple.

When looking for a new home, public transport is one area that eco-minded homebuyers should assess, according to Sian Berry from the Campaign for Better Transport. ‘I think people are more likely to use public transport the easier it is [to access]. Things like walking and cycling safety are other factors that people will decide on in an area when it comes to determining distances between residences and work places.’ When looking for a green place to live there are several sub-categories to consider. Under environmental performance you should look for biodiversity, air quality, recycling and a town or city’s ecological footprint. Quality of life indicators include employment rates, quality health and education services and the availability of green space, while future proofing should include measures to reduce climate change, boost local produce and improve recycling schemes. So where are the greenest places to live? Start with these:

Newcastle
Twice ranked as the most sustainable city in the UK by Forum for the Future, Newcastle is a spot that doesn’t probably spring to mind when it comes to green living. With aspirations to become the UK’s electric car capital, the city council has started installing 580 vehicle charging points in the city, making an unlikely contender for the title of the UK’s most eco-friendly. It also aims to become a low-carbon economy and hopes to reduce carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020.
What’s around? The historic heart of Newcastle is Grainger Town. Built between 1835 and 1842 by builder and developer Richard Grainger, highlights include Grainger Market, Theatre Royal and the bustling Grainger Street. The cultural capital of the north east, the city was awarded third place in the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Destination Awards for European nightlife behind London and Berlin.
Average house price: £156, 203

Poundbury, Dorset
The brainchild of Prince Charles, Poundbury started life as an innovative experiment in 1993. Due to be completed in 2025, the eco-friendly village will eventually cover 400 acres and be home to 5,000 people, increasing the population of Dorchester by 25 per cent. The number of houses is expected to grow to 2,200, creating 2,000 new jobs. The idea behind Poundbury is to build a community of businesses, shops, public spaces and affordable housing all within walking distance in order to reduce dependence on cars.
What’s around? Local author and poet Thomas Harding was from nearby Dorchester and his childhood home, which is owned by the National Trust, is open to the public. Dorchester is a good place for walking and includes routes such as the Thomas Hardy Walk, the Town and River Walk and the Gallows Walk.
Average house price: £261, 573

Brighton
The constituency of Britain’s first Green MP, Caroline Lucas, Brighton has cemented a reputation for eco-friendliness thanks to its excellent public transport and focus on seasonal, locally produced goods. But despite improvements in the energy efficiency of its housing, the high-consumption lifestyles enjoyed by Brigtoners could put the environment under pressure. Happily, the city council has begun to address this issue and is making provisions to install e-bikes this year, improving sustainable transport.
What’s around? Brighton’s iconic landmarks such as the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Pier attract millions of visitors every year, who also make the most of the city’s gorgeous golden sandy beaches. It’s also known for its vibrant art scene, celebrated at the yearly Brighton Festival.
Average house price: £273, 165

Richmond upon Thames
Situated in southwest London, Richmond upon Thames already has 11 Green Flag awards for its parks. In 2009, the borough was presented with a three-year, £4.2 million sustainable transport programme to help change the way people travel. New facilities include 450 new cycle parking spaces, two new routes and cycle training sessions.
What’s around? Whether it’s the theatre or national parks, Richmond has plenty to offer. Situated close to the River Thames, many of its restaurants and cafes overlook the river, while a weekly market provides fresh produce. In town, Richmond Park offers the chance to get back to nature in the company of the park’s 300 red deer and 350 fallow deer.
Average house price: £565, 817

Liverpool
Historically a part of Lancashire, the city of Liverpool is one of the oldest cities in the UK with areas of the city granted World Heritage Status by UNESCO in 2004. Between April 2010 and April 2011, a ten per cent increase in the number of cycle trips was reported in Liverpool. This is thanks in part to Liverpool City Council’s Go Green Transport campaign, and the council was also the first in the UK to be awarded the Carbon Trust Standard in recognition of its efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of its 500 buildings. The council has also made strenuous efforts to reduce energy consumption and to supply locally sourced produce where possible.
What’s around? As an international hub known for its music, producing pop greats such as The Beatles and Frankie Vaughan, Liverpool is an important culture centre. As a result, the city centre is home to more galleries and museums than anywhere else in the country, except London. Highlights include the Tate Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery and the Ceri Hand Gallery.
Average house price: £132, 772

Bristol
Bristol has kept its place in Forum for the Future’s top five since 2007, and topped the list in 2008. In June, Bristol will be hosting the Big Green Week (9th to 17th), which will celebrate the innovative steps the city has made towards becoming a greener place to live. Among the achievements is a 65 per cent rise in rail journeys over the last seven years and becoming the UK’s first ‘Cycling City’ three years ago.
What’s around? Fans of graffiti artist Banksy can trace his origins to his hometown of Bristol where his earliest works remain hidden around the city. Steeped in history, the city boasts numerous museums including the Edward Jenner Museum  (he discovered the cure for smallpox) and pioneering edifices such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Also worth visiting are various live music venues in the West End and Harbourside.
Average house price: £207, 669

Plymouth
32 per cent of Plymouth is green space and it’s all protected by the city council’s ‘Green Infrastructure’ plan. The objective is to make sure that any developments are sustainable and have a minimal impact on outlying areas, including the wonderful Dartmoor National Park. The city is aiming to increase recycling rates by 40 per cent over the next four years and 50 per cent by 2020. Plans to expand allotments by 100 plots are underway to get more people growing their own.
What’s around? Plymouth’s history dates back to the Bronze Age but its arguably best known for being the base of Sir Francis Drake, who led the British Navy to victory over the Spanish Armada. For those seeking entertainment, Union Street is the place. Whether you’re after culture or just a place to sit back and enjoy a pint, this is where to find it.
Average house price: £156, 258

Derby
The 20th largest UK city, Derby has made strides towards a greener future with campaigns to boost recycling and improve public transport. The recycling rate stands at an impressive 44 per cent (and growing), while Derbyshire County Council has announced ambitious plans to reduce carbon emissions by a quarter by 2015 and is hoping for a funding bid of £5 million from the Department of Transport to develop its sustainable transport network.
What’s around? Situated in the East Midlands upon the River Derwent, Derby is a vibrant city with a rich heritage. Home to Rolls Royce, Florence Nightingale and the engine that powered the Spitfire as well as a World Heritage Site; Derby has plenty to see and do. Derby is also famous for its gothic, neoclassical cathedral - the smallest Anglican cathedral in England.
Average house price: £137, 554

Leicester
One of the oldest cities in the UK, Leicester came second in Forum for the Future’s ranking, and has made great improvements in its approach to environmental protection. From managing its biodiversity well to reducing its carbon footprint and producing the lowest amount of household waste per capita in the UK, Leicester has made a name for itself thanks to its pioneering attitude to green urban management.
What’s around? Leicester has a fascinating history that dates back to at least 2,000 years. As a result, it boasts and eclectic range of architectural styles and periods, including the haunting ruins of Leicester Abbey and St Nicholas Church. Modern landmarks include the Curve Theatre and City Gallery.
Average house price: £141, 059

Sheffield
Sheffield may be best known for its industrial past but the city’s green planning is putting it ahead of the environmental game. Quality of life has risen in the city thanks to improvements in bus and tram services, while the city centre has been opened up to pedestrians. ‘Sheffield is My Planet’ is a website launched by the city council and designed to give residents easy ways to reduce their carbon footprint while raising awareness of climate change.
What’s around? The city was shortlisted for the UK City of Culture Award in 2010 due to the high number of art galleries, museums and sporting venues but was narrowly beaten to the top spot by Derry. The city benefits from plentiful green spaces and is bisected by the Trans Pennine Trail.
Average house price: £153, 237

 

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