Peterborough to take ‘climate action’

On one of the hottest days on record last summer I presented a motion to Full Council urging members to declare a climate emergency and commit to reducing the council’s carbon use to net-zero by 2030.

What followed was quite unusual – every single member in the chamber, regardless of which colour rosette they wear, supported it. If you watch our Full Council meetings live on Facebook, you will know this happens once in a blue moon.

As I said that night, we discuss many important items in the council chamberbut none of them matter if we have no planet to live on.

At a cabinet meeting on Monday members will consider a plan which sets out how the council will start to work towards becoming carbon neutral.

The Carbon Management Action Plan includes a top 20 pledges, which includes replacing the mayor’s car with an ultra-low emissions vehicle, considering leasing additional office space to reduce energy demands and investigating whether we could dim street lighting further. It also commits to reviewing the council’s electricity and gas contracts and moving towards 100 per cent renewable energy tariffs and 100 per cent carbon off-set gas tariffs.

There is lots that we are doing already – many of our schools have solar panels and rain water harvesters, we’re dimming street lights to reduce energy use and building more homes in the city so that people are less reliant on cars and more likely to use public transport. However, the action plan is our first major step in delivering our commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions.

Cabinet members will be asked to endorse the plan and it will then go before Full Council on 4 March for final sign off. We are planning for this day to be designated ‘climate action day’ when we encourage staff and residents to do their ‘extra bit’ to reduce their carbon impact on that day. It is hoped that if someone reduces their impact on one day, then they might be persuaded to do it more frequently.

council chamber

I have solar panels on my roof to heat water which has reduced our energy use and bills – I’ve got loft insulation and cavity wall insulation too for the same reasons. We recycle as much as we can and have reduced the amount of waste we produce.

In the words of a wellknown supermarket chain, every little helps. The action that we can take individually and as a city can make a difference and it also sends out a clear message that we must all change our ways. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to do so. (more…)

City Centre Framework – a new era for Peterborough

As you probably know by now, last week I announced my plans to step down as both council leader and councillor after the elections in May.

I’ve been serving the residents of Peterborough now since I was in my 30s and at the age of 75 both my wife Barbara and I have decided it’s time to achieve the many things we have on our bucket list while we are still able to.

Although I know I’ve made the right decision, there’s a part of me that wishes I could stay to experience the next four years, which I predict will deliver big things for our city. I’ve double checked with my granddaughter and I believe I’m suffering from what the young people describe as FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out!

On Monday, our new MP Paul Bristow and myself met with Paul Grinnell, business editor at the Peterborough Telegraph, to update him on the next stage of the City Centre Local Development Framework.

As regular readers of my column will know, this document looks at the city centre and identifies and plans key areas to be developed in the coming years, such as the station quarter (the area around the train station), North Westgate, Northminster, Rivergate and the university.

We know that the time is now for Peterborough. Our economy and high street are thriving, we’ve got the new university and New Towns funding on its way and crucially, the backing of the Combined Authority to help us make the progression from a small city to a medium one.

aerial view of Peterbrough

The stars are aligned in our favour, but like the Peterborough Development Corporation in the 1960s, the only way to make sure residents get a good deal is to do this in an organised way, with a clear aim – that’s why the City Centre Framework is so important.

It will deliver a city centre that will herald a new era for Peterborough, one in which we can use investor money to secure our ongoing economic success and to create a centre that rivals the likes of Birmingham and Manchester.

Yes, it’s aspirational, but we know investors are interested – just look at the new Government hub relocation to Fletton Quays, the revamp of John Lewis (their most expensive in 2019) and the forthcoming multi-screen Empire Cinema.

That’s why we’ve created a new investor marketing campaign to enable us to cherry pick the right investors to help us deliver this. The next four years will be crucial to delivering a Peterborough that’s an even better place to work, live and play for the next 50 to 100 years. (more…)

Peterborough – overcoming challenges together

At the time of writing this column I am preparing for a meeting of Full Council where we are due to sign off our first set of budget proposals for 2020/21.

As I have said many times, this year is remarkable because of the very severe financial challenge that we face, but it is also remarkable for another reason – for the support we have received from organisations across the city wanting to help us to continue providing services.

I have been impressed by how our partners in the voluntary sector in particular have not only understood our challenges, but have stepped up to help us.

KingsGate Community Church for example, one of the faith groups who partner together to run Peterborough Foodbank and Carezone, providing furniture and white goods for families in crisis.

Take a look at the council’s social media pages today and you will see a video that we have published showing the excellent work of the volunteers at the church.

After publishing our budget proposals in October, KingsGate got in touch and offered to work with us to be able to remove all council funding for the services they provide from April 2021.

We are very grateful to Kingsgate for providing an incredibly important service to our communities, helping those in the greatest need to end the cycle of poverty.

Other organisations too have shown their support. Age UK has agreed to a reduction in funds for some services and Vivacity will be working with us to further reduce its reliance on council funding. (more…)

Happy New Year – here’s to a prosperous 2020

The start of a new year often leaves people with feelings of excitement and trepidation of what the year may hold.

That’s certainly how I feel about 2020. There is so much to look forward to in the year ahead for our great city, but like all councils we are still in the midst of one of the most testing financial challenges in our history. This will continue to force difficult decisions about how we provide the services our residents need with the money available.

But I would like to start the year on a positive and when you look around the city there are lots of those.

We have some really exciting developments taking place; there will be announcements about progress on some of these soon and about new developments.

Fletton Quays has been transformed during the past couple of years and there will be further progress in 2020.

a view of fletton quays

Plans for the gin and whiskey distillery and tourist attraction will be submitted in the first part of this year and construction of the Hilton hotel and skybar will begin soon. It has also been confirmed that Fletton Quays will also host a government hub, bringing together 1,000 staff from 2021. I call that a huge vote of confidence in our city!

Across the wider city centre, there will be some exciting news about the potential development of sites in our City Centre Prospectus. This includes the station quarter, university site on the embankment and Northminster car park and the area around it including the market. This unlocks the potential for exciting opportunities such as major multi-use commercial sport/leisure facilities to be developed.

When you consider that the cost of land in Peterborough is a third of the price of land in London, we should be a prime location for businesses moving out of the capital. The costs of doing business are much more competitive here and our Masterplan looks to capitalise on that.

I’m also excited this year to see our university project progress. We expect to submit a planning application for the new building in the spring, around the same time we’ll be announcing our academic partner, and then work on site begins in the autumn.

Major music acts coming to Peterborough in 2020

On a lighter note, we have some fantastic music acts coming to Peterborough. My family and I have tickets to see Westlife in June and Little Mix will be on stage a week or so later. I’ve heard rumours too of a third concert this summer!

And of course I am looking forward to the 2020 Olympic games and the Euro football tournament.

It is true that we have another testing year ahead of us financially, but there is much to look forward to. The time is now for Peterborough and we are ready to take the city to the next level.

Call for fly-tippers to be given harsher penalties

I was pleased to read that the Local Government Association is calling for tougher sentences to deter fly-tippers.

The LGA found that only five per cent of court-imposed fines for fly-tipping offences in England in the past six years were above £1,000 and only a sixth of them above £500.

We’re determined to crack down on fly-tipping and littering and it will remain one of our priorities when our in-house team to tackle environmental issues and crimes takes over from Kingdom at the end of the month. This new team will tackle problems across the whole council area, as well as the city centre.

We want to work with the government on reviewing sentencing guidelines for fly-tipping, so offenders are given bigger fines for more serious offences. We know from previous experience that we can influence change – a good example being how our councillors visited the Home Office to ask for more help in moving unlawful encampments on if they are having a detrimental impact on the wider community.

Thanks to our lobbying the government has set up a formal review group to see whether police powers can be strengthened to allow unlawful encampments to be moved on much quicker.

Relocation of Visitor Information Centre

And finally, a reminder that the Visitor Information Centre on Bridge Street has now closed.

the former visitor information centre

Instead, visitors to the city are guided towards the Town Hall and those wanting to access services such as blue badge applications and bus passes will need to walk just a few footsteps to the Customer Contact Centre.

Remember that you can find out more about all the events happening in Peterborough, as well as places to visit and stay, at www.visitpeterborough.com.

A happy new year, I hope 2020 is a healthy and happy year for you all.