Author Archives: Victor Chamberlain

The building blocks to a sustainable built environment

Did you know the UK’s built environment is responsible for 42% of carbon emissions, 62% of waste and 50% of material use? These shocking statistics highlight why buildings, infrastructure and land use must be central to our approach to addressing the climate and biodiversity emergency.

Last night I attended the launch of Building Blocks, a manifesto to transform the Built Environment and turn a climate catastrophe into a climate opportunity. The climate emergency can often feel daunting and insurmountable. But it was truly uplifting to join experts focused on practical, implementable, and positive responses. Adopting optimistic, radical alternative approaches can turn waste and climate headaches into solutions to build a fairer, greener, and more prosperous planet.

Architects Declare —a movement of over 1300 architectural practices in the UK – are advocating for a more sustainable built environment. Their message is clear: our current approach to design and construction is not enough to address the urgent climate crisis. We must embrace fundamental change, aligning ourselves with regenerative models to secure a sustainable future for generations to come.

The evidence is undeniable. Despite three decades of sustainable design efforts, we are still far from meeting our climate goals.

Building Blocks is a bold vision for transformation, rooted in systemic change. It outlines practical steps to reduce carbon emissions, promote circular economies, and restore social and natural infrastructure. It’s a roadmap for creating a built environment that not only mitigates climate change, but also fosters thriving communities and ecosystems.

Key among these Building Blocks is the imperative to prioritise resource efficiency. We need legislation to limit embedded carbon emissions in construction (greenhouse gas emissions generated from producing and transporting goods), minimise carbon emission from buildings and align building standards with net zero trajectories (France has already done this). Business can support this and some do. Speaking at the launch Kevin McCloud, from Grand Designs, cited the case of a developer in the North West who builds to passive house standards and still make a decent profit. The more this type of development becomes the norm the quicker costs will come down too.

Local authorities also need greater powers to demand higher standards from developers. Westminster City Council recently unveiled a ‘retrofit first’ approach. It’s facing resistance from those used to traditional development, but it is worth persevering with.  A nationwide retrofit strategy would create around 500,000 jobs, a £300bn boost to the economy , and eliminate fuel poverty—all while reducing emissions from existing buildings. It’s good for the planet, and good for our pockets too. If every home in Manchester were retrofitted it would save £10bn in energy bills.

Transitioning to a circular economy is another vital component. Health, wealth, and wellbeing all improve in a circular economy. By reducing waste and maximising material reuse, we can not only cut carbon emissions but also stimulate economic growth, and protect natural resources. Financial incentives and removing VAT on retrofit would support this shift, encouraging businesses to prioritise sustainability. We need to make sure we are designing all buildings with deconstruction and the reuse of materials in mind.

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If Liberal Democrats are serious about Housing, we will fix ‘Right to Buy’

Right to Buy is back in the news after it emerged Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner made a £48,500 profit on her ex-council house using the scheme. Whatever you think about this, I do agree with Angela that housing aspiration isn’t the issue – it’s failing to replace homes that are sold off. Liberal Democrats need to lead the charge to reform Right to Buy.

Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government introduced the Right to Buy scheme in the United Kingdom, allowing council tenants to purchase their homes at discounted prices. At the time, it was hailed as revolutionary, promising social mobility and homeownership for the masses.

As the years have passed, it has become increasingly evident that Right to Buy has failed to live up to its lofty aspirations, exacerbating rather than alleviating the housing crisis in the UK.

By allowing tenants to buy their council homes at discounted rates, the government inadvertently depleted the stock of affordable housing available for those in need. This has created a vicious cycle where the demand for social housing far exceeds the supply, leading to skyrocketing rents and homelessness. The cost of building new homes is simply not covered by the receipts from Right to Buy.

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Council Budgets allow us to put Liberal Values into practice

Lib Dems are addressing the Cost of Living, providing community level services and decision making and Greener boroughs.

Next Wednesday, the Southwark Liberal Democrat group will be presenting our Alternative Budget at full council. Being a Labour-facing Liberal Democrat opposition in Inner London comes with certain challenges, but I’m proud we are demonstrating that it is possible to put forward a credible, Liberal alternative.

After a decade of Tory cuts and underfunding of Local Government, all councils are under immense strain. We’re no different, but Southwark Labour’s proposals make cuts in all the wrong places. They’re cutting social care, library services, and a host of other ill-thought through areas. Southwark’s own independent Equalities Panel has called out the Labour council for the negative impact their budget will have on the most vulnerable.

At the same time Town Hall waste runs rampant. We have sky-high bills on catering and stationary, perks for Labour bosses and bizarre amounts of money earmarked for vanity projects. This is whilst squirrelling away millions in pointless reserves and not leveraging income from Southwark’s world-class status.

Southwark Liberal Democrats are putting money where it matters. We are not just freezing council tax for those most in need, but going further to provide vital financial support for those currently in receipt of council tax reduction. We’re also reversing all of Labour’s callous cuts to social care.

By cutting waste and sweating our assets, we can put money back into people’s pockets and vital services.

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Liberal Democrats and Labour want the Tories out, but we must resist the descent into cheap culture-war politics

Liberal Democrats and Labour both want the Tories out, but we must resist the descent into cheap culture-war politics

 My job as the Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition in Southwark is to hold Southwark’s Labour Council to account. There’s much we don’t agree on: the lack of affordable homes for local people, rising crime, the state of our estates, poor customer service from the council, Labour feathering their own nests and marking their own homework, the lack of urgency on the climate emergency… to name but a few!

 However, Liberal Democrats and Labour are both progressive parties and have more in common than divides us. We share a goal that becomes more desperately important every day – getting the Tories out of government.

 The last decade of Conservative government has been a financial, social and environmental disaster for the UK. Public services are crippled by strikes, people are feeling the pinch and the economy is set to shrink, Brexit has been a disaster and any kind of meaningful response to the climate emergency is entirely absent.

 The only response the Conservatives have to their endless failures is to drag political discourse down to cheap, culture war battles. They attack the vulnerable and heighten divisions to distract from the downward spiral they have left the UK in.

 It is vitally important that the opposition parties resist this degradation of our political landscape. Unfortunately, Labour seems unable to resist the temptation. We all want rid of this terrible Tory Government. As Ed Davey said at Spring Conference “ only goal seems to be: “Not as bad as the Conservatives”. Talk about a low bar!” We all deserve so much better.

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ALDC’s Local Elections appeal

Victor Chamberlain, standing as a candidate in the Borough and Bankside ward, Southwark Council in this May’s local elections, tells us why ALDC’s appeal needs your generous support.

The challenging set of elections taking place across the country on Thursday 3 May provide a fantastic opportunity to put the Liberal Democrats back on the map in local government.

As a candidate, I wanted to help promote ALDC’s Local Election Appeal, knowing first-hand how important this financial support is for teams fighting to win this May.


In Southwark, we’re up against a well organised Labour party who can call on more activists than we can. As a result, we need to do everything to ensure our supporters’ voices are heard and we know they’re far more likely to vote if they have a postal vote.

Most residents in my ward lead very busy lives and are rarely in when we call round to speak to them. And the majority live in blocks of flats that we struggle to gain access to.

This is where ALDC’s Local Election Appeal is helping to overcome these problems by targeting postal voters in key battleground wards across the country.


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