Transition Cambridge presentation at the ATCM Summer School

The Association of Town Centre Managment invited Transition Cambridge to run a workshop entitled "When the Oil Runs Out" at their Summer School in Cambridge on 30 June 2011. We started out by pointing out that it's not about oil running out, but about cheap oil getting scarce and oil prices rising. After a quick round of introductions, we gave a short presentation on peak oil and climate change, highlighting some of the challenges for town centres. We then brainstormed the challenges and opportunities associated with peak oil and climate change, and we showed some examples of things that transition towns have done or might do. We invited participants to note down a few things that they could realistically do to reduce their vulnerability to peak oil and to take advantage of some of the opportunities that may present themselves. We finished by giving them a resource sheet to find out more. The workshop was only 40 minutes long so this is a very preliminary consideration of how these issues will affect town centres, and what town centre managers can do. We hope it provides food for thought!

Peak oil presentation - Challenges and opportunities - Some case studies - Actions - Resources - Facilitators and acknowledgements

Short presentation on peak oil and climate change

Challenges and opportunities

These came out of a group brainstorming session. Many of these were both challenges and opportunities.
Challenges: getting people out of their cars (changing the mindset); planning towns so that people can meet their everyday needs from a central/localised area (to help public transport and build economies of scale); on-shoring i.e. supplying things from the UK and bringing manufacture back to the UK so that it isn't cheaper to import granite for building from China - this creates business opportunities - i.e. local sourcing; internet retail (challenge to town centre shops).
Opportunities: as petrol gets more expensive, people are likely to travel to out-of-town shopping centres less, and town centres more; lifestyle changes e.g. working from home; shop'n'drop and local delivery services with several stores combining so that fewer trips are needed to make deliveries; carclubs such as streetcar to reduce number of cars (though cars also need to be electric and use renewable energy).

Some examples of what some towns have done or might do

  • Transport: Hybrid technology buses; electric cars (powered by renewable energy, with plug in points in town centre car parks, and possibly as part of car sharing schemes); cycle taxis and dedicated cycle lanes to make cycling safer and easier, also cycle parking
  • Local currencies to support local businesses and prevent money pouring out of communities e.g. the Totnes pound, Brixton pound and Lewes pound. In Lewes 120 shops accept the Lewes pound, and there are 9 places to exchange money.
  • Energy - various local energy projects such as Portobello and Leith community wind energy project, Sheffield Renewables and Poole tidal energy partnership; also possibility of town halls/shopping centres putting solar panels on their rooves (attractive feed-in tariffs currently available) and a futuristic idea that public toilets could feed into biodigesters and provide biogas to local restaurants.
  • Food - local farmers markets, roof-top growing (e.g. a garden on top of a Budgens supermarket grows the salads sold in the shop), and food growing in flower beds around the town centre e.g. in Incredible Edible Todmorden.
  • Local festivals and attractions - such as the Trashcatchers Carnival in Tooting, which was a totally sustainable event involving the local community and adding to the vibrancy of the town centre.

Actions to reduce vulnerability and take advantage of opportunities

Here are some of the ideas that participants came up with:

Activities to reduce vulnerability

  • work together!
  • attract and encourage more local businesses
  • shop'n'drop - investigate how this might reduce the need for repeat visits by car
  • reducing vulnerability - get local businesses to collaborate on some of their purchasing activity, thereby reducing delivery traffic in the city centre
  • ensure cycle facilities are included in new developments

Activities to take advantage of opportunities

  • new town allotments, growing food in public places
  • use local green space in parks for shared allotment schemes
  • introduce cycle to work scheme
  • increase areas in city centre for cycle lanes
  • source city centre areas for allotments; roof gardens for growing vegetables
  • link car plug in point with a streetcar scheme


On the web blog by Rob Hopkins, a founder of the transition movement for news on transition initiatives and projects in the UK and worldwide
Resources about Peak Oil:;


Rob Hopkins (2008) The Transition Handbook: from oil dependency to local resilience Green Books
Rob Hopkins (2011, in press) The Transition Companion
Alexis Rowell (2010) Communities, Councils & a Low-carbon Future Green Books


The Power of Community about how Cuba responded to the USSR cutting off its oil supply A Convenient Truth Urban Solutions from Curitiba, Brazil In Transition about Transition initiatives and projects

Workshop facilitators

This workshop was designed and facilitated by Anna McIvor and Liz Serocold. Please get in touch if you would like us to run a similar workshop for your organisation. With special thanks to Ben Brangwyn whose presentation we adapted for this workshop, and to Emma Thornton, Head of Tourism and City Centre Management in Cambridge, who kindly agreed to meet up with us to explain how town centre management works and what it aims to do.

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