Opinion: Funding to boost walking and cycling

 Christmas lights switch on in the City Centre.   Christmas lights switch on in the City Centre.
Christmas lights switch on in the City Centre.
With COP27 getting underway in Egypt this week, there is a global focus once again on climate change and how we can all play our part in protecting and preserving the planet, writes city council leader Wayne Fitzgerald.

Speaking at the event on Monday, our Prime Minister echoed comments made by Queen Elizabeth II when he said that when nations come together there is always hope.

On a local level, I have the same belief. If we all come together, we have the best chance of reaching our ambitious goal of becoming a carbon net-zero city.

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That is why this week we have launched a series of Peterborough climate debates, to share our aspirations around net zero and gain feedback from our communities which will be used in the development of a city-wide climate change action plan.

Residents, businesses, organisations, community groups and schools are being invited to take part in the sessions. Five meetings have been scheduled to take place at the Town Hall in Bridge Street and there is an online session too. Capacity is limited so please register to attend by visiting: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/peterborough-climate-debate-tickets-453716818217.

A key part of our climate change action plan will be focussed on decarbonising energy use and on Monday the council’s Cabinet will discuss a plan which has been produced to do just that.

Thanks to Government funding, a Local Area Energy Plan (LAEP) has been drafted by external experts in conjunction with the council.

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The LAEP has considered the current and future energy demands of the city and outlined a series of proposals intended to decarbonise Peterborough. These focus on areas including managing heating needs, retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency and meeting the demand for electric vehicle charging.

To meet net zero will require significant investment – according to the LAEP, investment of £8.8 billion. This would most likely come from private investment, residential home upgrades and government grants, but it shows the scale of the challenge we are all facing.

An example of this funding is the £1.6m the council has been awarded this week by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority to make it easier for residents to walk, cycle and become much more active as they travel about the city.

We’ll be spending the money to improve footpaths and cycleways, including a new Thorpe Wood cycleway and upgrading the Shrewsbury Avenue cycleway and new footpaths on Newark Road in Fengate and Malborne Way and pedestrian improvements on Eastfield Road/Oxney Road.

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In addition, a further £10,000 will go towards the ‘school streets’ project, which encourage pupils and parents to ditch the car and cycle or walk to school instead. There are currently 11 school streets operating in Peterborough with two additional schemes starting this month.

To become a net zero carbon city will require substantial change for everyone, but it is a challenge we are determined to meet head on in collaboration with everyone in our city.

Finally, a reminder that the Christmas lights will be switched on at Cathedral Square next Friday.

Last year’s event was well-attended and we expect that this one will be similarly popular, with popular local gymnast Jake Jarman, who won two gold medals at this year’s British Championships, pressing the button next Friday (November 18).

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Our Christmas tree will be arriving a few days prior and you’ll be able to see it in all its glory as the official countdown towards Christmas begins.

We’re also looking forward to the arrival of the real ice rink on November 25, and appearances from the Peterborough Phantoms Ice Hockey Team and stars from the Dick Whittington pantomime.

The Phantoms will be on the ice in Cathedral Square from 1-3pm for one of their training sessions, which should be some sight.

The panto stars will be there from 5pm – and we’re certainly expecting some unusual technique from them all when the ‘streets are paved with ice’. Hopefully they won’t come away with too many bumps and bruises, as their show starts at the Key Theatre later that night!

The rink will be there for everyone to enjoy until January 4, and you can find out more at www.peterborough-ice.com