Opinion: ‘A greener, smarter future ahead’

Wayne Fitzgerald, city council leader and Conservative group leader on Peterborough City Council writes...

Sunday, 14th November 2021, 1:45 pm
Inside the Fletton Quays site of the Government Hub building that is under construction.

At the start of next year we will begin a new chapter as a council and, of course, as a city.

Our current chief executive Gillian Beasley, who has been a loyal and dedicated servant of the city for many years, will be retiring and we will welcome a new chief executive.

At this week’s council meeting members were asked to agree who that will be, and I’m pleased to tell you it’s someone with significant public sector experience – Matt Gladstone, who is currently executive director for place at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council.

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Matt has held roles in central and local government and has led services such as economic development, housing, environment, transport and finance, providing him with a sound appreciation of the workings of local government.

Matt joins us at a time of great challenge yet enormous opportunity to take the council forward.

Next year alone we will see the opening of our dedicated university with the first students studying higher level courses, and works on both the new Hilton hotel and government hub at Fletton Quays will complete. We’ll also see the progression of the £22.3 million Government Towns Fund projects which include the Embankment masterplan, green technology centre, pedestrian bridge over the Nene and museum extension.

And, of course, it will be the first year of the Business Improvement District in which businesses will work together to boost the progress that’s already been made in helping our city centre bounce back better following Covid-19. This is something that’s already been partly achieved through the successful cafe culture approach which has increased our night-time economy.

In fact, last week I visited businesses in the city centre that have benefitted from the £800,000 Local Growth Fund, awarded to the council in September 2020 by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s Business Board. The council also provided an additional £183,000, taking the total to nearly £1 million.

I spoke to people from Bean Around, Lightbox and The Banyan Tree and was pleased to hear their stories about how the funding has supported their businesses during a tough 2021.

There are exciting times ahead and I look forward to working closely with Matt on our plans to make Peterborough a better place to live, work and visit.

This weekend sees the conclusion of COP26 in Glasgow which has so far seen countries around the world make more pledges to achieve net zero. In Peterborough we will continue to push for net zero by 2030 and every day we get a step closer to our goal.

We announced this week that an extra 3,300 trees will be planted in the city by the end of March 2022, thanks to a successful grant application to the Forestry Commission. I joined staff from Aragon Direct Services last Friday to plant the first tree in Central Park.

Trees will continue to be planted throughout the winter months across the whole city and there will be an emphasis on planting in low-canopy wards and where it will deliver multiple eco-system benefits, such as reduced air pollution and reduced surface water run-off. The trees will also be registered under the Queen’s Green Canopy programme, a unique tree planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022.

The planting at Central Park took place on the same day that papers for the next cabinet meeting were published. At the meeting on Monday we will discuss a report from our Climate Change Working Group which requests that the city council reaches a target of 25 per cent tree canopy on city council land by 2035, a target that will require thousands of trees to be planted every year.

In addition, this evening the council will host its first climate change and recycling workshop, which invites members from all parties to come and talk informally about ideas and opportunities.

I’m sure this will prove a constructive and positive event and I’ll let you know what was discussed in next week’s column.

The Embankment Master-plan consultation is progressing well and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey and tell us what you would like to see on this site.

We had 1,400 surveys completed, with over 20,000 individual responses and numerous emails from the community offering their thoughts, and meetings with key stakeholder groups, such as the civic society. The data has now been analysed and a report will be available shortly.

The next stage of consultation will see the information we collated over the past month used to produce and influence a series of masterplan options. These options are being formulated by the independent consultants, who will lead a series of public events over the coming weeks to get your views.

There will be a face-to-face event at the Customer Services Centre in Bridge Street from 11am to 4pm on Saturday, November 20, and a virtual event online from 6.30-7.30pm on Monday, November 22. Further details on these events will be on the peterboroughembankment.co.uk website.

Finally, I would like to encourage residents to safely attend the annual Remembrance parade on Sunday. If you can’t make it along to pay your respects, the event will be live streamed on the council’s Facebook account at 10.45am.

Next Friday (November 19) the much-anticipated annual Christmas Lights switch-on takes place in Cathedral Square from 5-7pm. Please go along and join in the festivities if you can, but remember to stay safe.