IN recent weeks, with temperatures in England running 3 to 6 °C above average, this is becoming a significant period of drought.

It has enabled the conditions for the extensive moorland fires on Saddleworth Moor and also Winter Hill, in the latter case being helped along by some idiot.

In the bare blackened peat, fissures will develop which, with later rainfall, will only erode and degrade the moorland further, creating a long-term impact.

This hot weather may not, yet, be directly linked to climate change although it typifies the risk.

So make no mistake, those apocalyptic looking clouds heading the skyline above Bolton last week portend the shape of things to come.

In 2003, the heat wave across Europe caused the premature deaths of up to 70,000 people.

In planning our towns we shall have to be rather cleverer than any arsonist.

Our towns desperately need to start on the transition to becoming climate-change adapted.

This is partly why, in 2016, the Bolton & District Civic Trust promoted its Cheadle Square & Moor Lane low-carbon VISION of green infrastructure integrated with modern sustainable commercial and residential development, over the three-hectare site.

The other reason was, as a report last week underlines, that the centres of towns and cities need far more quality commercial employment space beyond the current emphasis on retail.

A 2015 Bolton economic report identifies a NET daily commuting outflow from Bolton of some 8,500 people.

Workers who live in Horwich, where Chorley New Road and the M61 link road are choked at peak hour, have a high proportion of technical and managerial jobs, but these are mostly not in Horwich.

We need to strive more to have local jobs for local people.

Last week also saw a report from UNICEF (The United Nations’s body) into the UK air quality, which stated that 4.5 million children here are subject to poor air quality.

Part of the reason for this are the high levels of commuting because jobs are not near to where people live and people choose their vehicles over public transport.

Bolton suffers from this, as does the whole conurbation of Greater Manchester, as Manchester sucks in employment.

But the recent boost of jobs in Manchester, through its drive on a concreted and high-rise centre, is fast loosing the city any claim to be a ‘green’ centre.

There is an opportunity for Bolton to shape a different future for its town centre and other district centres.

The recent town centre development framework had little to say on green infrastructure and nothing to say on the need to embark on adapting Bolton for the climate to come.

Our planners need to be striving for zero carbon development, now.

For Bolton town centre, achieving a high quality built environment with integral green infrastructure should be the goal.

It the response needed for the shape of things to come, for our future generations.

Richard Shirres


Bolton & District Civic Trust