Peterborough cannot live without the car, say councillors who have rejected an idea to amend the draft Local Transport Plan (LTP) to include climate emergency changes.
Speaking to members of Peterborough City Council at their meeting (16 October), Cllr Nick Sandford had proposed: “…significant changes” to the draft LTP.
But according to Cllr Peter Hiller, who was among many councillors who voted against the motion: “Peterborian’s will never give up their cars; this is a car-friendly city that has, for the last fifty years, been built with the car in mind”.
Cllr Sandford had presented his motion, saying: “In July this council made a historic and ambitious commitment by declaring a ‘climate emergency’, and said at that time that we wanted to get to a net zero carbon emission by 2030 – not 2050, as the government says, but 2030. Yet we have a draft LTP that simply doesn’t pass that test.
“Of course, this is no longer just a ‘Peterborough LTP’, we’re not allowed to have that anymore – instead it’s now a ‘Combined Authority LTP’ – but it does affect this city, and so we need to have an opinion and a voice as to what goes into it.
“Transport is one of the main causes of carbon emissions that this council would have control over; but councillors will struggle to find any mention of a ‘carbon emergency’ in the draft LTP – I know, because I’ve done a ‘word search’ to look for it.
“When you look at the proposals for Peterborough, there is page after page of policy, listing schemes for everything from road-widening, duelling, adding lanes to the Parkway and vague references to improving the bus services.
“Similar woolly talk can be found about walking and cycling – but no indication whatsoever of how any of this is to be done.
“There is a mention of improving access to the railway station, end even adding four more tracks to the East Coast Main Line, but no mention of when or even if any of this is ever going to happen.
“But then, if you turn to the section of the draft LPT that deals with ‘Greater Cambridge’ you’ll find a totally different approach.
“There are fifteen pages solely devoted to the needs of Cambridge, a new tramway system, new railway stations, upgraded bus routes, more cycle paths, clearer, safer walkways for pedestrians… and the list goes on.
“If you’d just arrived in Cambridgeshire from Mars and read the draft LTP, you could be forgiven for thinking that there was one city: Cambridge.
“Peterborough, with its population of 400,000 and growing – which eclipses Cambridge and its paltry population of 230,000 – is barely mentioned, and if I was being uncharitable I could suggest that this was a plan written by consultants in Cambridge, exclusively for people in Cambridge, and who had never even heard of Peterborough.
“We need to bear in mind that we are the biggest city in Cambridgeshire by far, we have the fifth fastest growing population in the country, and I say that we should not be left out on the fringes of this draft LTP, yet still forced to pay for the measures that are being put forward.
“The purpose of this motion therefore, is to challenge Cllr Holdich, who represents Peterborough at the Combined Authority, to do his best to get a best possible deal for Peterborough – because you won’t find it within the pages of the draft LTP.
“I feel that Cllr Holdich should try to get significant changes to this plan so that it benefits sustainable transport changes in Peterborough so that it can help us deliver on our zero carbon by 2030 promise.”
Cllr Hiller responded: “Much as I agree with elements of what Cllr Sandford proposed in this motion, the fundamental point that he seems to overlook is that this is a draft LTP.
“Our Council’s detailed response to the draft LTP includes and recommends much of the climate emergency ambition promoted by this administration at the last Full Council meeting.
“Cllr Sandford complains that we repair our road network too much, but the fact is that is what our residents want because better infrastructure, networking improvements, capacity increases and road widening all have a direct impact on the ability of traffic to move around our city easier, faster and with less polluting traffic jams.
“Peterborough is a car-friendly city. However much Cllr Sandford bleats about it, he will never alter that fact.
“After nearly fifty years our Parkway system still allows residents, visitors and commuters, heavy freight, delivery vehicles and businesses of all types to move around, through and across our great city – normally without congestion and the subsequent pollution afflicting so many towns and cities in our country.
“The achievement of being the fastest commute time of any city in the UK is one the LibDems and their like should be proud this administration has made happen, not denigrate us.”
Cllr Chris Wiggin supported Cllr Sandford’s motion: “I came to this meeting tonight on the bus and I wonder how many other councillors can say the same?
“The reason there is such demand on our roads is because the public transport system that we have here in Peterborough is woefully inadequate, which is why I support Cllr Sandford’s call for improvements to this plan.”
Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald responded: “The reason I cannot support this motion is that it doesn’t offer a plan, it just states ‘significant amendments’… what are ‘significant amendments’? What does that mean?
“I’ve just asked Cllr Holdich ‘have you had any serious conversations or received any alternative plans from Cllr Sandford?’ and he has told me ‘No’.
“So, until you’ve got those ‘significant amendments’ in a paper, how can they be properly put to the draft LTP board, and duly considered?
“I simply don’t buy your idea that the LTP has a Cambridge-bias. This is a document that is being drafted by a team of professional people who look at all aspects of the matter in the round.
“Why don’t you put forward some actual proposals rather than ‘significant amendments’… what does that mean? I have no idea what that means. Put something tangible in a paper, present it to the Combined Authority and then we can go and get a better deal.”
Members voted on the motion which was narrowly defeated 28 Against to 26 For.