Cardiff is a green city. It is well served by green and blue spaces, with areas such as Bute Park in the heart of Cardiff recognised for their outstanding beauty. Residents also have easy access to the Brecon Beacons national park and coastlines in the wider city-region.
Cardiff’s recycling rates perform strongly compared to other ‘Core Cities. The household waste recycling rate has risen from 4% to 58% since the recycling and composting targets were put in place. However, street cleanliness is consistently seen as a priority for residents.
Levels of car use are amongst the highest of the ‘Core Cities’ and use of public transport in the city is comparatively low, although levels of walking and cycling compare well and are growing. Over 60% of residents now think that transport in the city is a serious or very serious problem. The city’s reliance on cars also contributes to Cardiff’s carbon emissions being high compared to many other British cities, with some city centre wards particularly vulnerable to high levels of air pollution.
As a city located on the banks of rivers and on the coast, Cardiff is inherently at future risk from flooding. The consequences of climate change and extreme weather events will need to be built in to all aspects of managing Cardiff’s future growth.
Cardiff’s population growth will put pressures on city infrastructures and services. More people will mean more houses will need to be built, more journeys made, more energy used and more waste created. Growth will also put pressure on the city’s natural resources and the environmental, social and economic benefits they bring to Cardiff and its surrounding area. Managing the environmental impacts of this growth and of climate change in a resilient and sustainable fashion will be a major long term challenge for the city.
The latest UK assessment on climate change highlights flooding and extreme heat events as posing the greatest risk to infrastructure, the natural environment and health and well-being. Although a small percentage of houses in Cardiff are deemed to be at high risk of flooding, some communities are at risk and, as the city grows, the risks for new communities will need to be mitigated.
As the city grows it will create more waste, and so the substantial improvements in the city’s recycling rates will need to be continued if Cardiff is to meet the next target of recycling 64% of waste by 2020.
Growth will also put pressures on the city’s transport system. The aim is to have a ’50:50 modal split’ by 2021 – meaning that 50% of journeys will be by sustainable transport – and an even more challenging 60:40 modal split by 2026. Meeting these ambitious targets will provide a boost to the city economy, to quality of life as well and can be expected to bring major health benefits through increased levels of cycling and walking and improved air quality.
The environment is key to health. Providing access to parks and open spaces will be increasingly important. As well as being important for wildlife, they contribute to physical and mental well-being and provide a focal point for communities. There will also be a need to improve the attractiveness and cleanliness of the urban environment to bring in more visitors and business to the city.