Opinion: Paving the way for Peterborough’s net-zero economy

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

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 20th March 2022, 12:45 pm
Council leader Wayne Fitzgerald EMN-210526-214531009
Council leader Wayne Fitzgerald EMN-210526-214531009

When I became council leader last year, I made it clear that the authority would do everything in its power to help tackle the climate emergency.

You don’t need me to tell you how important an issue this is, but I want to outline what the council has done and will be doing to make a positive difference.

It has been said by opposition members that we have done nothing, but I want to show you that the opposite is true – we have achieved lots and we are doing a huge amount, working towards realistic goals which will benefit everyone.

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This week, a new Climate Change Action Plan was endorsed by the council’s cabinet.

The 25-point plan will help the authority meet its commitment of becoming a net-zero council by 2030. This is alongside the council’s ambition to help the city become net-zero carbon by the same year.

The 25 commitments include developing a business case for our waste management service Aragon to use low carbon fuel, ensuring highways contractor Milestone uses low carbon construction methods and materials, and increasing the tree canopy cover on council owned land from 22% to 25% by 2035.

Our successes over the past 12 months include: swapping the use of diesel in the highways services contract to a biodiesel which reduces emissions by 90%; piloting a carbon literacy training course aimed to educate councillors and others; plus developing a new carbon impact assessment to ensure that the impact of council proposals on city-wide emissions is considered by decision makers.

We’ve also installed new electric vehicle charging points – 24 spaces across the council’s car parks, and there are plans for more depending on budgets being secured.

A total of 895 MWh of renewable energy was generated in 2020/21 from solar panels on our buildings. In November, we acquired solar panels previously owned by Empower which are situated on domestic properties across the country.

What we have been doing is working – the council’s carbon footprint in 2020/21 was 14,789 tonnes CO2e – a reduction of 28% compared to 2018/19 using the same measurements from that year.

But we never get complacent, and we’ve got many more exciting projects on the horizon. For example, we’ve been awarded £64k to fully fund the development of a heat decarbonisation plan for our maintained schools and we’re looking at opportunities for renewable energy, low carbon heating and improving the buildings’ energy efficiencies.

We’ve also been awarded £300k revenue funding to undertake sustainable travel initiatives and will be targeting schemes with schools, businesses and the public.

Our School Streets initiative, which encourages schools to close the street outside their gates during drop-off and pick-up times, is making a positive difference.

Our 11 projects have realised a significant reduction in congestion and increased the number of parents, pupils and staff travelling in sustainable and active modes.

Further School Streets schemes are planned in the future, to ensure active travel is the first choice for all school journeys in Peterborough.

Meanwhile, funding has been secured for a new cycleway at Thorpe Wood connecting the residential areas to the business park and Ferry Meadows. Work is also underway on the design of a pedestrian and cycle bridge which will link Fletton Quays to the Embankment and the new university.

We’re acting on climate change now so we can help to improve people’s physical and mental health, our air quality, stimulate our economy and provide new jobs.

The situation in Ukraine is continuing to leave thousands of people in need of vital life-saving aid.

As a council, we’ve pledged to do all we can to help. There’s a huge amount of work being done locally, which we’re supporting, and I’d ask everyone to get involved if you can.

We are actively working with community groups to highlight opportunities for people to make donations and offer their help on a voluntary basis. We’ve set up a page on our website which gives more details about this – visit https://www.peterborough.gov.uk/council/campaigns/support-for-the-people-of-ukraine

And you may have noticed that the trees along Bridge Street are lit up yellow and blue at night to show that we stand in solidarity with Ukraine and its people.

Finally, this week I read some positive feedback about our reablement service which helps people return to living independently following a stay in hospital.

They provide a life-changing service by helping people to regain or attain as much independence as they can in their own homes and in doing so reduce pressure on emergency services.

This was from residents helped by the service throughout the pandemic in the face of rising demand and general uncertainty around Covid, so this is a real testament to those involved in the team.