North's planners told to prepare for long, hot summers

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The Independent Online

Manchester, a city better known for its persistent rainfall than for its successful football teams, was told yesterday to prepare for a Mediterranean summer climate in 50 years.

Its summers would be two degrees Celsius warmer by 2040 or 2050, the city was told at a conference on climate change, believed to be the first to link the subject with tourism planning, and organised by the North West Tourism Board.

The prospect, caused by global warming, is being viewed with such certainty that tourism leaders are being asked to consider planting extra deciduous trees to provide public shade and to consider pavements that can withstand high temperatures.

The chic café society environments tourism planners have created in Manchester and nearby Liverpool city centres may not be conducive to the Mediterranean swelterthe conference was told. Café-bars reflective surfaces and floors will reflect the sun, the heat of which will be trapped by tall city buildings in what is known as the urban "heat island" effect.

"We are powerfully selling our urban product," said Steve Connor of Sustainability North West, which spent two years researching the commercial effects of climate change. "It will be incredibly arid. It is going to warmer, hotter, drier and milder."

Though Manchester has been longing to put down its brollies for years, the new climate brings considerably more headaches. The National Trust, which participated in Mr Connor's study and was also represented at the conference, is understood to be concerned about the effect of the heat on its properties.

"When it comes to creating tourism venues, people need to think about whether it is worth defending old warehouses which cannot take a two-degree increase in temperature or going for new buildings created around the climate," added Mr Connor.

He has also asked local authorities to examine the sustainability of lawns, parks and flower beds. He bases some projections on the hot summer of 1995, during which factory staff needed breaks every 25 minutes to rehydrate in the sweltering conditions.

The climate change seems to offer a new lease of life for the seaside towns of Blackpool and Morecambe. Given the guarantee of sunshine, they may attract continental visitors rather than British daytrippers.

"They depend on the conference trade, but we should now be looking at how they compete for a more youthful market with more upmarket attractions - café-bars rather than tea-shops," said Mr Connor. "We should also be looking at improving language skills."

Winters are a different matter. Manchester will need more drainage to handle even wetter weather and more intense storms. So Mancunians should keep the trusty brollies handy.