Transport plans to benefit Central Bedfordshire

The first roads date back to the Old Stone Age. It was the Romans who took road building to a new level, building thousands of miles of roads in Britain. 2,000 years on, many signs of their roads like the A1 still exist today. Like us, they knew a thing or two about the importance of good transport networks.

In recent weeks, we secured government funding for two important transport schemes.

The first is for a new M1 to A6 link road. This will reduce congestion and ‘rat run’ traffic in villages like Lower Sundon, Upper Sundon and Streatley. It will make us more attractive to businesses and link to a new rail freight interchange at Sundon. This will help transfer goods to and from the M1 to the Midland Mainline and beyond, shifting more freight from road to rail.

There is also money to improve the notoriously busy Clophill roundabout, easing congestion and improving safety.

Work will soon start on the new Arlesey Relief Road too. This will make a difference locally and support new development.

We’re also pushing for improvements to the A1, but this belongs to Highways England so it’s not ours to change.

Buses are important for Central Bedfordshire. We want to make buses a real alternative to cars.

Working with the bus operators, services will improve in the coming years, with greener, better connected and more reliable services for all. Encouraging people to use buses instead of their cars will reduce traffic on our roads, improve air quality and tackle climate change.

We’re also investing in better cycling and walking routes too.

While the council can make investments and changes, often we have more influence when we link up with others. That’s why I have become the Chair of England’s Economic Heartland. This important transport body puts the needs of businesses, individuals and the environment at the forefront of future investment decisions.

Good transport is critical for Central Bedfordshire. It helps us thrive and brings us closer to important things like our work, family and friends.

Green energy and energy efficiency

The climate change agenda really does affect everyone, and we need to address it now for the benefit of our future generations.

I am very pleased to say that CBC is focussed on using renewable energy sources and becoming more energy efficient.

 We have installed solar panels on sixteen of our buildings including schools, libraries, care centres and the Rushmere Country Park visitor centre. These are generating lots of renewable energy. In fact, the solar panels at our Priory House office are providing approximately one-third of the building’s electricity use.

Using more renewable energy and reducing the amount of electricity we need from the National Grid saves us money and helps our planet. LED streetlights are a good example and the ongoing rollout across Central Bedfordshire has seen energy consumption fall by about 60% compared to the old streetlights – this is a considerable financial saving.

A good way to cut CO2 emissions is to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel vehicles. We already have new electric vehicles in our fleet and more will follow when current lease arrangements come to an end. 

We continue to look at the latest green technology with three renewable energy projects being trialled, all are part of the ADEPT Smart Places Live Labs Programme and focus on solar, kinetic and thermal energy:-

  • Solar panels on the road surface at our highways depot to provide light, heat and energy to power for the site
  • Kinetic floor tiles at Leighton Buzzard railway station generate energy from passengers’ footsteps to power two USB charging benches and a digital information screen
  • Underground geothermal probes use thermal energy to de-ice our Thorn Turn site, reducing the amount of gritting salt needed

More information on these projects can be found on the Central Bedfordshire Council website.

Creating a legacy with trees

With CO2 emissions continuing to rise, many countries still cutting down their forests threatening wildlife and the effects of climate change looming large, the need for trees has never been so important.

With this as the backdrop, we are prioritising tree planting across Central Bedfordshire to increase natural regeneration in communities. We have recently secured £300,000 in funding over the next four years for tree planting from the Forestry Commission as part of its Treescapes Fund and have match funded this with a further £300,000

This funding will enable us to establish more trees in non-woodland settings such as alongside riverbanks, hedgerows, and footpaths. To start with, we will be focusing on planting in Barton-le-Clay, Biggleswade, Dunstable, Leighton-Linslade and Sandy

We are also supporting The Queen’s Green Canopy, a tree planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. To officially launch this locally, we have planted seven trees in Jubilee Wood in Biggleswade – one for each decade the Queen will have reigned next year. 

The environment is a topic currently very much in focus. Our government is hosting COP26, the United Nations Climate Conference and some of the commitments made in Glasgow could directly affect our everyday lives.

In this tree planting season, which runs through to the end of March 2022, we aim to plant around 500 trees in urban areas and have 11,500 in the pipeline via other grants. We also expect 2,900 trees to be planted in celebration of the Queen’s Green Canopy. 

We can all play our part in being #onestepgreener. Planting trees is an investment in our future, which takes time and will help achieve our sustainability targets.

If you are interested in future tree planting information and events you can email: begreen@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk.

Building an energy-efficient future

Recently Chris Pincher MP and Minister of State for Housing, visited a park home site in Central Bedfordshire to see how we have invested £1m in government grant funding to improve the energy efficiency of older, poorly insulated park homes and reduce carbon emissions.

Having good insulation is one of the most effective ways to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and homes and help to tackle fuel poverty. The Minister was able to hear from residents about the difference the work had made with lower gas bills, warmer homes and less worries about maintenance costs in the future.  So, I am very pleased to hear that another project is already underway to insulate more homes and that we have also just launched a new grant scheme for loft and cavity wall insulation.

In all our new buildings we take energy efficiency very seriously and both Thornhill Primary School in Houghton Regis and our new state of the art care home in Leighton Buzzard, recently named Marigold House, will be built to Passivhaus standards.  A Passivhaus building has outstanding eco credentials and needs very little fuel for heating or cooling and will not need a conventional heating system.

Ultimately, it is our children, older residents and staff that will reap the benefits of living and working in one of the healthiest types of building it is possible to build which is both better for the environment and, better for the planet.

The sad death of MP Sir David Amess

Almost two weeks ago now we lost another dedicated public servant – Sir David Amess. 

Sir David had been meeting constituents in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, when he was stabbed multiple times. 

The circumstances of his death are truly shocking but also frighteningly familiar. I’m sure most of us will recall the similarly appalling murder of Jo Cox MP in 2016. 

Both David and Jo were deeply devoted to public service and meeting and talking to their local residents. This is something we all do as councillors or MPs – it’s a critical part of our role giving local residents the chance to share thoughts, concerns and issues with us – it keeps us in touch with the people we represent. 

I know fellow councillors have often suffered abuse online which is unacceptable but also some have experienced intimidating behaviour in person too. 

No matter what our political beliefs, most of us go into politics because we are passionate about making a difference, making a change. Positive and lasting change can only happen through conversation and debate, never through violence.  It is utterly abhorrent that any political figure should feel their personal safety is at risk. 

Not only is it a terrible loss in politics, but it is also an unbearable loss in their family. My thoughts, as are yours too I am sure, are with David’s family. It is the worst possible thing you could ever imagine happening. 

I am also sure this tragedy will have bought back awful memories for Jo Cox’s family too. 

I hope both families can take some comfort in the public reaction, a sense of solidarity and kindness during their darkest time.