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New green report on Cambridgeshire criticised as out of date

New Stagecoach buses at the Trumpington Park & Ride site in Cambridge.
New Stagecoach buses at the Trumpington Park & Ride site in Cambridge.

Cambridge city council and Stagecoach East say report is flawed

A new green index that ranks Cambridgeshire and Peterborough top for cycling and renewable electricity, but bottom for bus use and spending on open spaces has been slammed as out of date and wrong.

The new Green City Regions Index compares the environmental performance of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough with the five other city regions electing new metro mayors in May.

The index was published by leading environmental organisations Campaign for Better Transport, National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Green Alliance, and measured the regions against green indicators, such as air quality and infrastructure, as well as sustainable housing and transport.

The report criticised Cambridge’s spend of £10 per capita on open spaces compared to a national average of £20 but Cambridge City Council hit back by claiming the figures used in the report did not stack-up.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, leader of the council, said: “We don’t think their figure work is correct, as we spend considerably more on maintaining, cleaning and improving our open spaces each year than the costs they have calculated.

“The city council recognises that we are all so lucky to have such special public green spaces in our city centre, including Christ’s Pieces, Parker’s Piece, Midsummer Common and Jesus Green, and the council is committed to keeping them special too. We want them to be shared by as many people as possible, and we are determined to protect open space spending despite national funding cuts, and to enhance them where we can along with our great recreation grounds across Cambridge.

“All our spaces are used regularly by most residents and also help attract visitors from near and far, who also contribute millions to the city’s prosperity. ”

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough city region performs better than other regions on:

■ Clean energy: An impressive 34 per cent of electricity consumption is met by renewables compared to a national average of 19 per cent; this is the highest among the city regions;

■ Cycling: The region came out top for cycling, with six per cent of people cycling five times per week;

■ Recycling: At 49 per cent it is ranked top for recycling rates alongside the West of England; and

■ Care for built heritage: Only one per cent of Grade One buildings are at risk.

But it faces a number of green challenges:

■ Transport: The city region has by far the highest vehicle miles travelled per year per person (5,415 miles). The region also has the lowest bus use with 38 passenger journeys per person per year (compared to the highest use in the West Midlands at 95 journeys);

■ New homes: The city region has a pressing need for new homes, but only 44 per cent of development in the region is on brownfield land, resulting in increased pressure on the city region’s natural environment and greenfield land;

■ Green infrastructure: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has the lowest spend on open spaces per person per year at £10 and has not reported on the management of its local wildlife sites since 2011; and

■ Air quality: Like all city regions in the index, Cambridge and Peterborough is breaching air quality limits for toxic NO2.

But the poor bus use figure was attacked by Stagecoach East managing director Andy Campbell.

He said: “The index states that the bus data was drawn from a Department for Transport report back in 2009/10, which would make it more than seven years out of date – particularly given that the hugely successful guided busway didn’t exist at that point.

“For these reasons we would be reluctant to draw any significant conclusions from the index as it currently stands.”

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