Opinion: ‘Working hard towards climate goal’

Wayne Fitzgerald, Conservative group leader on Peterborough City Council writes...
Cycle lanes.Cycle lanes.
Cycle lanes.

Barely a day goes by without there being a story in the media about the damage we are doing to the environment, or the effects of climate change, whether it’s excessive rain or record-breaking temperatures.

There doesn’t seem much chance of temperatures soaring here this summer – some sun would just be nice – but we’ve already felt the effects of excessive rainfall.

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We owe it to future generations, our own children, and grandchildren, to take climate change seriously and reduce our impact on the environment. That is why, in 2019, council members unanimously declared a climate emergency and committed to making the council’s activities net-zero by 2030.

Since we made that commitment we’ve been working towards our goal, and I would like to share with you some of the achievements and the work that we have ongoing.

We know from the past year what a positive impact it can have on the planet to have fewer vehicles on our roads. That’s why we are working hard to improve walking and cycling routes, something I was pleased to tell Minister of State for Transport, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, on a visit to the city last week.

We’re currently in the process of developing a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, which sets out how we want to enhance walking and cycling options. We’ll be running a consultation on this later this year.

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We’re also doing lots to encourage the use of electric vehicles. Our mayor now uses a fully electric vehicle to attend civic and ceremonial events. During the past three years, the mayoral car did 32,289 miles, which resulted in around 13.7 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Had these journeys been undertaken using an electric vehicle, there would have been a significant reduction in emissions.

We’ve also been offering taxi drivers free electric charging to encourage more of them to make the switch to electric vehicles and we have a network of charging points across the city. I want to expand this further, so residents are supported to be able to consider an EV.

In addition, we’re looking to purchase two fully electric refuse vehicles for garden waste collections, with the hope technology continues to improve so that at next renewal we can go all electric. We’re also considering using biodiesel in our highways vehicles.

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These are just a few examples of what we are doing to work towards our 2030 goal. We do have a long way to go, but our impact on the environment is now a feature of every decision that we make.

I get as frustrated as the next person when I see people parking illegally around the city, so it doesn’t surprise me when residents contact me about such issues.

In the past few weeks I’ve had lots of comments on social media about people parking on pavements in the city centre, asking what we’re going to do about it.

In short, we cannot do a lot right now and that’s because local authorities don’t have the right powers to enforce many traffic offences, such as blockages of the road or pavement, which currently must be enforced by the police.

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However, we are working on a solution and our highways team is currently identifying areas where additional physical restrictions may be necessary, such as bollards, and we are looking at how we can obtain new powers such as the

Designation Order for Civil Enforcement of Moving Traffic Contravention.

These powers are not yet available to local authorities outside of London, but it is being expanded. Having these powers will allow us, for example, to give tickets to people who park on pavements and in other places they should not, or drive down a one-way street.

It was great to see people enjoying themselves in the city over the weekend. We had the “Under Skream” event, hosted by Mixology, under the parkway at Orton Mere, and on The Embankment people danced the night away to Ibiza Orchestra Live.

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It’s great to see people enjoying themselves, but still need people to think carefully as rates of virus are rising in the city. As I write, Peterborough is ranked fifth nationally for the number of cases with a rate of 501.4 cases per 100,000 population, a 25.6 pr cent increase on the same time last week.

This is really concerning and we must get more people vaccinated so we can turn the tide on rising rates. Details of where you can get a Covid vaccine are available at www.thevaccinators.co.uk

While the risk of getting seriously ill is lower among the under 30s, it is becoming increasingly clear that individuals who are unvaccinated and catch the virus are more likely to pass it on to others, including those who are more vulnerable. So, by having the vaccine, you are protecting not only yourself but others too.

And finally, we have a new community centre in the city centre where people can access a wide range of support, learning, leisure services and activities. Called the Mini Vine – it’s on Bridge Street and it’s open seven days a week.

The Mini Vine is effectively a space for everyone, so please check it out and make good use of it.