Green Bank – Peterborough’s Capital Aspirations Under Scrutiny

07:07 Thursday 8th September 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: A year ago, we exclusively revealed on this show that Peterborough City Council wanted to adopt the slogan “Home of Environment Capital”. But have they managed it? How far have they managed to push the green agenda for the city? Well our reporter Kerry Devine has been out and about in the city, looking for signs that Peterborough is the home of environment capital. (TAPE) (OB)
PUBLIC: I didn’t know it was the capital. No.
KERRY DEVINE: Well they’re trying to. They’re trying to get it to be the environment capital. What do you think?
PUBLIC: Well I’m not sure on that one.
PUBLIC: It’s getting there. A lot of people have said about the fountains that we’ve just got, that they’re not very environmentally friendly. But I think they’re actually using recycled water. And the children love them. And it just makes the city a bit more modern.
KERRY DEVINE: Do you think it is quite a green city?
PUBLIC: Yes I think so. I think it’s getting greener.
KERRY DEVINE: Do you think we could be the environment capital?
PUBLIC: Aah. We’ll have to wait and see on that one won’t we.
KERRY DEVINE: OK. So maybe we’re not that sure if we are or should be Home of the Environment Capital, but two years ago the Forum of the Future, who promote sustainable development, marked cities round the UK on all sorts of green issues. The rankings for Peterborough were overall Peterborough came 10th out of 21 cities.
PUBLIC: 1st on air quality and recycling.
PUBLIC: We came 19th on health.
PUBLIC: 17th on education.
PUBLIC: 16th on quality of life.
KERRY DEVINE: OK. So not too bad. I’m now trying to find signs we’re trying to be the environment capital.
PUBLIC: It’s a very quiet place.
PUBLIC:There’s lots of bins.
KERRY DEVINE: Anything else?
PUBLIC: Not really..
PUBLIC Very quiet. It’s nice, rather than shouting.
KERRY DEVINE: Yeees.
PUBLIC: Yeah. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Yeah. Well. If quiet was a prerequisite for being Home of Environment Capital we’d be all right, wouldn’t we? Anyway I think they failed, don’t you? Councillor Nick Sandford very critical of the idea that we should bid to become the Home of Environment Capital this time last year. But has your view changed Nick?
NICK SANDFORD: Well no it hasn’t . And the interesting thing is that the view of Forum of the Future hasn’t changed either. Because what Kerry didn’t say in her report is they’ve recently produced .. the original statistics were for two years ago. They’ve now produced statistics for 12 months ago, and they’re going to the Council’s Environment Committee later on today. And what this shows is that overall we were in 10th position in 2009. We’ve remained in 10th. There’s certain categories where we’ve actually improved. But there’s some really abysmal performances in there, like on climate change, and how we tackle climate change. We’ve slipped from 12th out of 21, down to 20th. So I think ..
PAUL STAINTON: We’re going backwards then?
NICK SANDFORD: Yes. The other thing that’s really interesting, we always suspected this thing “Home of Environment Capital” was a slogan. And in the report that they’re putting to the Committee this evening, talking about environment capital performance, there’s no reference to the phrase “Home of Environment Capital.”
PAUL STAINTON: Really?
NICK SANDFORD: So it seems it was the slogan of 12 months ago, but goodness knows what the current year will be.
PAUL STAINTON: And yet 12 months ago I had a big debate, I think it was with Councillor Sam Dalton, about where they’d come up with the idea from for the phrase “Home of Environment Capital.” They said they’d bashed it about in the office, didn’t cost any money. But it was the slogan they were proud of. They were going for that, and it would tie in with everything they were trying to do.
NICK SANDFORD: Well unfortunately the people that write their reports don’t seem to have picked that up. Let’s be fair, I think in the clips that you played, the people quoted examples on recycling for instance, where Peterborough’s environmental performance is really good.
PAUL STAINTON: Air quality number one.
NICK SANDFORD: Air quality is very good. But in terms of the amount of waste per head of population, a couple of years ago we were ranked 21st out of 21. We’re currently ranked 21st out of 21. I think also the thing that I ‘ve mentioned on your programme on some occasions, examples of where the Council’s environmental aspirations don’t match up with what happens on the ground, trees is a good example of that. We’ve got the Forest of Peterborough where we’re aspiring to plant loads of trees, yet they built the new hospital and they tore out a thousand trees. You’ve got Council officers going round, in 12 months they tore out 16,000 square metres of shrubs. We’ve got the issue going on with the trees in Bridge Street, where they want to take out a third of them. So I think sometimes their aspirations and their performance don’t match up.
PAUL STAINTON: You need to back up the rhetoric with some substance effectively, which is what Leicester have done. They’re the greenest city in the UK. Just down the road.
NICK SANDFORD: I’m absolutely committed to the idea that Peterborough should aspire to being environment capital of the country. I think we’ve got some good environmental performance. We’ve got other areas where we don’t perform well. We need to improve all the time. We need to have objective measures of our performance. But the thing that the cabinet and the officers have to recognise at the moment is the objective measures of our performance do not show that we’re the environment capital.
PAUL STAINTON: What do we have to do to get that accolade? What do we have to do to be top of the tree, stood on there with the gold medal?
NICK SANDFORD: Well I could give my personal opinions, but let’s look at the areas that the highly respected think tank Forum for the Future say we’re not performing in. In areas like waste management, we’ve got to improve. In areas like climate change, we’ve got to improve. One of the things that’s really worrying is that in terms of people’s access to transport, which is an area where millions of pounds of central government funds have been poured into Peterborough. we come 13th out of 21. That is not the performance of a city that claims to be “Home of Environment Capital”.
PAUL STAINTON: You mentioned, quickly, the trees on Bridge Street. You’re avidly against the chopping down of those trees on Bridge Street. What is the latest?
NICK SANDFORD: Well there has been some movement on it. One of the things I challenged them on was that their on-line consultation was a sham really. It was really biased and twisted. And the Council’s Director of Communications has accepted that, and he’s instructed that the on-line consultation be reconvened, and carried out again. What I would say though is we’re still running the Peterborough Liberal Democrat’s on-line petition, so if people feel strongly that those trees, or the majority of them. need to be retained, please go onto our Internet site and sign the petition.
PAUL STAINTON: OK. We’ll talk more about the trees I should think in the coming weeks. And on the subject of environment capital. MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson has secured a debate in the House of Commons to lobby for Peterborough being the “Home of Environment Capital”, and hopefully bring green banks and green investment to the city. Is that a good thing?
NICK SANDFORD: Well I’m quite happy for him to have a debate in the House of Commons. No doubt he will talk about immigration, which seems to be the only thing he talks about most of the time. But on a serious point I think we need to aspire to be the environment capital. We need to celebrate those areas where we are performing well. But we need to look at the objective statistics, and we need to look to improve on those areas where we aren’t really performing.
PAUL STAINTON: Nick Sandford from the city’s Liberal Democrats. Thank you very much.

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