In Response to LNP Workshop – Morecambe Bay New Initiatives 22 March 2012
Make no mistake we are engaged in a war

This is not a war between Cumbria and Lancashire or Cumbria and Lancashire and Morecambe Bay or all of these, others and the Government – It is not a war between Industry and Nature or birds and buildings, tourists and local communities, it is a war against irreversible Climate Change.

The Local Nature Partnership (LNP) is, just one more current, yet important and strategic move along the route to common sense. If we allow ourselves to be distracted by myopic self interests we may well win a few battles but we will almost certainly lose the war.

So What’s the Big Idea?

We can see an LNP as a ‘big society’ Governmental hand washing exercise or as an opportunity to empower and galvanise our communities, NGO’s and Businesses in positive partnerships which address the big issues. One thing is for sure – addressing global warming is not something any single individual, organisation, business or government can achieve alone. A successful LNP, and small pieces of successful work undertaken with Coastal Communities Funding and the other pots that come down the line, can, if strategically applied make a significant and demonstrable difference and forge more widely applicable models which have a far greater reach and impact.

An LNP specific to Morecambe Bay is first and foremost an opportunity for those who understand and care most about the Morecambe Bay area to come together to act in its interests in a way which is mindful of a wider glocal framework. It is one single available mechanism through which we may establish multidisciplinary partnerships and coherent long-term ground-breaking projects far beyond the likely-lifetime of this or any particular new government initiative.

This opportunity, then, exists, or should exist, beyond Politics, it is a chance to move beyond categorical thinking, to act in the interests of whole ecosystems (which include industry and nature and people) and develop truly sustainable and ecological local environments and economies: Ones which have grown out of and learn from local histories and capitalise on the often hidden unrecognised assets that form each geographically particular place.

I believe that Charitable Organisations like the Morecambe Bay Partnership (and others including Art Gene) are and will be better-placed than local authorities to access many current and likely future funding streams. They will increasingly be in a position to help determine future agendas which place more emphasis, responsibility and ‘power’ in the hands of proactive and engaged communities.

New and revitalised local economies should be established from a wide base of knowledge which identifies, draws-out and extends the importance, respect for and reach of those that know and can represent their area best. An LNP for Morecambe Bay is ultimately an opportunity to begin to do the right thing – to work with Industry and Nature rather than against them and despite the lack of adequate funding rather than in response to it.

One must not forget that the widely espoused dream of eternal economic growth is not possible nor should it continue to be supported as a key driver in ‘future focussed’ regeneration. We should be mindful of not supporting solely economic growth-led projects either passively through our lack of engagement with Industry or through developing single interest projects which allow us to feel good whilst burying our heads in the sands of our immediate locality.

We have here a chance to begin to influence and contextualise the economic interests of large multinationals which have historically and continue to be attracted to our coastline. However, if we take a competitive stance with regard to our individual pet projects within Morecambe Bay (and elsewhere) or an oppositional position with regard to industry, we may well make some small changes but industry will continue to develop without the added value of our input and a meaningful, deeply rooted ecological understanding. I believe we have the opportunity and responsibility to bring this to the table. Therefore, it is essential that we mobilise ourselves around wider global concerns and work in partnership with all who have interests across the Bay and beyond in order that we might contribute viably to sustainable change.

The LNP could provide Morecambe Bay with a Direct Link to Central Government Agendas. If we choose to sit under Cumbria (for instance) and more particularly the Lake District, we, in my view, lessen the chance for Morecambe Bay and the ‘industrial strip’ of the West Coast to have a significant influence and benefit appropriately.

Morecambe Bay is a very particular environment formed around and through various relations to the water (both industrial and natural). The wildlife of the bay and its industrial use do not ‘respect’ political boundaries, and nor should we, they are abstract conceits which are not particularly well suited to those who wish to work strategically, apolitically and in the interests of sustainable change, with nature and in the important over-arching context of climate change.

Stuart Bastik, Artist/Founder Director: Art Gene

Introducing Art Gene

  • For our part we continue to work with our multidisciplinary teams of (inter)national Artists, Architects, other specialists and Communities in the development and delivery of a range of projects which aim to Re-Vision the Social Natural and Built Environment.
  • These include strategic development work for the Morecambe Bay Area, in association with the Morecambe Bay Partnership exploring Places and Spaces.
  • We are in the delivery stage of projects developed through our Barrow-by-Design Initiative with Barrow Borough Council which include:
  • The Islands of Barrow Map which draws out multiple layers of interest along new walking and cycling routes.
  • An unusual Visitor Centre within the Ship Inn on Piel Island with engraved furniture, Beer Maps’ and a Cabinet of Curiosities.
  • Designs for over 30 recent Town Centre Shop Fronts for local independent small traders.
  • Working with local people to Develop Barrow’s first self-managed allotment.

We are also building a series of multifunctional mobile eco-buildings for Sunderland City Council. The spherical Roker Pods will soon populate the coastline like people do – sometimes on the beach, sometimes on the pier or promenade acting to facilitate and test the need for a range of different activities from shops to showers, beach based teaching spaces to live performance stages.

New projects locally include working in partnership with the Nature Reserves and other bodies across the Islands of Barrow to develop a range of Capital projects bringing social and ecological benefits to locally distinctive economies.

If anyone would like to meet with us to discuss their future project and how we may be able to help in its development and delivery we are able to offer a limited number of free initial consultation meetings at our premises in Barrow-in-Furness.

To find out more about Art Gene and our work please visit our new website www.artgene.co.uk

External Links

Morecambe Bay Local Nature Partnership

Further Reading