Community Planning: Opportunities Listing
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Things communities can do to make neighbourhoods better to be in and more sustainable (i.e. produce less carbon).

Intended as a checklist to stimulate creative planning. Entries are summaries and provide links to further information or examples.

If you know an opportunity that should be listed here, or want to suggest changes to an existing listing, please go to the suggestion form and submit details on the template provided.

Opportunities A-Z

(To print out a selection from the list click the chosen entries checkbox and then click on any of the printer icons or click here to print all)


Last updated on:12 September 2011


There are increasing opportunities and new reasons for revitalizing under-used allotments and creating new ones as important features of low carbon communities. 

From supplementing the meagre income and diets of the 19th century urban industrial working class, allotments reached peak production in the 1940s with "Dig for Victory". But in the 1950s greater affluence and convenience shopping resulted in declining popularity and a residual stereotype of the retired white male tending his vegetables - some allotments became under-used and neglected. Todays renaissance is driven by the increasing popularity of ‘local, healthy food’ (not least to reduce the carbon footprint of food consumption) a growing acceptance of the need for exercise and demand from ethnic minorities and women with different allotment cultures.

Local councils in England and Wales have a statutory obligation to provide allotments. There remains a danger of losing plots to development, especially where land values are high. But many local authorities are now producing formal allotment strategies as part of their food strategies. 

Bike hire
Schemes which allow people to rent a bike when they need it rather than having to own one. Ideally allow people to return to a different location. The internet makes it possible to have intelligent schemes which track bike availability. Boost for cycling. 


Biogas plant
Creation of gas through composting food and garden waste. The gas can be used to fuel vehicles or be converted to electricity. Neighbourhood scale plants can significantly reduce landfill and create energy.
Biomass boilers
You can reduce your fuel bills and your carbon footprint by using a wood fuelled heating system. A standalone stove burns logs or pellets to heat a single room, but some can also be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating as well. A boiler burning pellets, logs or chips can be connected to a central heating and hot water system. 
Households can save up to £390 per year. It’s a low carbon option. The CO2 emitted is the same amount that was absorbed as the plant was growing. As long as new plants absorbing CO2 replace those used for fuel, the process is sustainable. Producing the fuel generates carbon emissions (cultivation, manufacture and transportation) but as long as the fuel is sourced locally, these are much lower than the emissions from fossil fuels. Also, burning wood can reduce waste sent to a landfill site.  

Biomass power
Bio-power, or biomass power, is the use of biomass to generate electricity. There are six major types of bio-power system: direct-fired; co-firing; gasification; anaerobic digestion; pyrolysis; and small, modular. Most biopower plants use direct-fired systems. They burn bioenergy feedstocks directly to produce steam which is usually captured by a turbine. A generator then converts it into electricity which can be used to heat buildings. These are known as combined heat and power facilities. For instance, wood waste is often used to produce both electricity and steam at paper mills. A small, modular system generates electricity at a capacity of 5 megawatts or less for use at the small town level or even at the household level. 
Car club
Scheme which allows people to use a car when they need one without having to own one. Also called car share, car club. Mostly operate like a car rental business but with varying levels of service and cost. Usually have a membership system to ensure people are licensed and taxed. Saves money and energy.
Carbon Neutral Neighbourhood
There are increasing opportunities to eco-retrofit neighbourhoods to make them low carbon and eventually carbon neutral. Many community groups are getting started with the idea of reducing their community carbon footprint and a lot of established groups are adding an eco-dimension to their wider activities. The neighbourhood eco-agenda tends to focus on the four pillars of community resource efficiency. But other dimensions are important, especially in the longer term. The following list of entries in this section will key you in to the information you need to get started on the road to a carbon neutral neighbourhood:

Community resource efficiency
Community energy efficiency
Community energy generation
Community waste management
Community water management

Other carbon reduction measures:
Community bio-diversity
Community (low carbon) transport
Green training and job
Local food and edible neighbourhoods

Community composting
An essential building block for the achievement of zero waste and low carbon communities. Community composters are a diverse range of mainly small not-for-profit organisations and individuals who share a passion for making and using compost to deliver a combination of environmental, social and educational aims. At one end of the scale are individuals working within schools or on allotment sites or promoting home composting. At the other end are social enterprises with local authority contracts providing kerbside collection services. Governing principles in common:
  • Local communities are involved in managing the organic waste they are producing and using; 
  • The organisations are governed on a not-for-profit and locally accountable basis.
Community Composting reduces waste going to landfill or incineration and thus  CO2 emissions, turns waste into a resource which reduces peat use, provides jobs, training, education and volunteering opportunities.

Community gardens
Community gardens have features in common with, but are much more than, allotments. They provide a variety of communal outdoor recreational and learning opportunities, especially for families with young children living in flats with no gardens. Activities can include shared food growing (with greenhouses and beehives) and  community composting, but also  a variety of holiday, after-school and weekend programmes for parents and their children. Using a multi-purpose ‘community garden building’ locals can learn how to cook healthy food, enjoy a local food festival and benefit from training and volunteering opportunities. 
Community heating
Community heating is where a number of buildings or dwellings are heated from a central source via a network of heat mains. Heat can be supplied to the scheme from conventional boilers, renewable-fired boilers, or can utilise the waste heat from power generation; known as combined heat and power (CHP). A community heating scheme may also provide the facility for air conditioning via an absorption chilling plant. They vary in size and can consist of individual tower blocks, a university campus, hospital site or an area of a town or city undergoing area regeneration. They can also encompass the whole of a city.
Community recycling

Many community groups are increasing their efforts to reduce, re-use and recycle the waste from their neighbourhoods. The initiatives include community composting, local food projects, furniture recycling (including WEEE & electrical appliance refurbishment), scrap stores and waste exchanges, and recycling banks/bring sites. These activities both reduce community carbon footprint and create community carbon enterprises which generate ‘green jobs’. 

Community renewable energy
The term community renewable energy generally means locally owned, locally sited renewable energy (electricity and/or heat). Definitions of community energy or community renewable energy tend to include community engagement that reaches beyond a simple investment or shareholding relation. Community energy tends to mean some form of control by community owners of the project, through a co-op or as landowners in a pool, as owners in a small enterprise, or as residents and homeowners who live with and work with the installation daily.
The rehabilitation and refurbishment of older housing with the specific aim of reducing carbon emissions and/or fuel poverty by delivering high energy efficiency standards and by including micro-generation installations. Can save money for householders and reduce carbon footprints. There are four key pillars of resources efficiency in homes:
  • Energy efficiency – the first priority, through insulation, draft reduction, new windows and modernized boiler;
  • Energy generation – generate and sell green energy using solar thermal panels, photo voltaic panels and ground/air source heat pumps;
  • Water efficiency – reduce consumption by fitting low water use showers, grey water recycling and rainwater harvesting;
  • Waste management – reduce, reuse and recycle your household waste.
See entry in this section under these pillar headings.

Energy efficient homes
The most cost-effective way of cutting fuel bills and reducing carbon emissions from your home is to make it as energy efficient as possible by: 
  • Upgrading insulation using a lightweight material that reduces heat flow
  • Roof insulation
  • Ground floor insulation 
  • Cavity wall insulation or wall cladding (if the house has solid walls)
  • Reducing drafts which cause heat to be lost
  • installing a more efficient, condensing boiler – one that captures more heat from its fuel than a conventional non-condensing boiler.
  • Installing high performance windows that minimize heat loss e.g. through an insulated frame, a low E rating, an inert gas filled cavity, triple glazing or any combination.

Energy generation
It is increasingly practical for households to generate and sell green energy. ‘Micro-generation’ is the production of renewable energy through small scale installations, especially in homes, but also in schools, community centres, churches, mosques and other community buildings. Once you have made your building as energy efficient as possible you can install one or more of the following technologies to generate green energy to further reduce fuel bills. Sign up for a ‘feed-in tariff’ to sell surplus energy to the energy supplier;
  • Solar thermal panels – use the sun’s energy to directly heat water – can be a flat plate system or an evacuated tube system
  • Heat pumps (air source, ground source or water source), and 
  • Photo-voltaic (PV) panels (pvc’s) 

Farmers market
Farmers markets are typically held weekly, usually outside, and are a place where local farmers in any given area...
Green roofs
A green roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. It may also include additional layers such as a root barrier and drainage and irrigation systems. Can reduce flood risks, provide insulation for buildings, improve biodiversity and provide valuable outside space.
Grey water recycling
Grey water is waste water from sinks, showers and baths that has not been mixed with sewage. It can be used for flushing toilets and watering the garden.  
Rainwater harvesting
Collecting water that falls on roofs and using it for watering gardens, washing clothes and flushing toilets. Saves money and reduces carbon footprints. 

Smart meters
The term smart meter usually refers to electric meters which keep detailed statistics on usage, but it can be used for gas or water meter as well performing the same job.
Spontaneous interventions
Solving problematic urban problems through personal, improvisational, guerrilla, unsolicited, tactical, temporary, informal solutions. The website contains an archive of compelling strategies for inspiration. 
Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)
Way of handling drainage which conserves and cleans water, reduces flooding, encourages biodiversity and can provide quality natural amenity areas.
Public transport vehicles which run on rails often in the streets. More energy efficient than buses and less prone to congestion.
Walking bus
Line of children, accompanied by an adult ‘driver’ and ‘conductor’ walking a set route to school.  Stops at specific times at set ‘bus stops’. Reduces need for parents to drive children to school, thereby reducing congestion, carbon emissions and obesity.