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Climate crisis, public transport and active travel – Sheffield Green Party leader answers your questions

Climate crisis, public transport and active travel – Sheffield Green Party leader answers your questions

Douglas Johnson, Councillor, executive member for climate, environment, and transport, and leader of the Sheffield Green Party.

Sam Wakeling asked: “Will you let SheffieldWe must take responsibility for obtaining the funds we need to make our streets safer for all who use them. Cities already have powers to design our own road pricing and parking levies – aren’t using these powers better than claiming we don’t have the money?”

Coun Johnson: “Yes, definitely. If we want to make walking and cycling more accessible, there are many things that can be done.

“One of the big things this year has been to look at other ways of raising money. The workplace parking tax, which we have found can raise substantial amounts of money for all the things that we desperately need, is the major one.

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“That is something we have promoted for several years, it’s in our budget amendment, and if it was passed it would open the door to getting people in the council to be working on that as a political priority.

“It generates £9 million a year in NottinghamAlthough Nottingham is not as big as Sheffield, it is still a significant amount to invest in additional cycling and walking measures. This is definitely a step forward.

“We looked at the idea of community bonds, there are lots of ideas around that. Not only for public transport, but many other de-carbonisation initiatives. Sheffield Renewables has done an excellent job of raising money through the community share offer. They are now ready to invest in things like polar panels. They have been fighting with the council for years to obtain large council buildings they would like to be located on.

“We have been trying to make progress with those, getting officers and elected members warmed up to the idea of that and there might be some progress on projects coming along such as an older persons’ independent living space which is being built now that we may be able to get them involved in that.”

Douglas Johnson, councillor for climate change, environment, transport, and leader in the Sheffield Green Party, is an executive member.

Sam Wakeling asked: “Will you commit SCC to stop any current or future projects which expand motor traffic capacity (eg adding lanes around Shalesmoor) and use this commitment to put pressure on the city region authority to do the same? When we need to dramatically reduce traffic for climate and health, why are SCC planners still heading in the opposite direction?”

Coun Johnson said: “That is what we have been campaigning on for a number of years.

“People were quite opposed to the widening of the ring road around Shalesmoor and Kelham Island three or four years ago. Road widening to increase capacity for motor traffic isn’t the way forward.

“We need segregated cycle lanes, safe walking routes, easier crossing points and public transport measures.

“I think we all know you can’t just keep trying to increase the amount of traffic on roads because it just fills up with more traffic. I have a classic cartoon of it as my desktop wallpaper.”

Andy Nolan asked: “What new initiatives are the Greens planning to take to address the climate emergency in Sheffield What new resources will be made available to deliver them?”

Coun Johnson said: “In terms of resources, that is something we don’t have direct control over but there are some really interesting initiatives around de-carbonisation.

“The one we have been looking at most recently is the energiesprong approach which is about retrofitting houses on a large scale.

“There are three key things about that. First of all, it aims to be on a large scale, so you are looking at potentially whole estates of housing because we need to work at that scale to address the climate emergency, it’s no good just tinkering around with little bits of insulation.

“The second thing is it is designed to be a modern form of construction. It is designed to measure the house, build complete walls and roof panels in a modern factory and then install them on-site. This allows for quick work and minimal intervention from the homeowner.

“The other really important thing is it doesn’t rely on having to wait for government grants. It’s ultimately self financing. This funding model is experimental, but people have worked hard to prove it possible. Essentially you are paying for a cost over the lifetime of a home and the occupier has an guarantee that they won’t pay any more than they would pay in fuel bills anyway so they are not out of pocket. A reduction in gas servicing and maintenance can result in big savings.

“The aim here is to basically have net zero homes, not just a slight improvement in the efficiency rating.

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“So that is de-carbonisation of homes, the other big emitter of emissions is transport. There are many options available, from public transport priority to multi-million-pound investment in cycling or walking schemes that will transform the environment.

“We are seeing more people walking and cycling now but we need to accelerate that.

“There are of course many others but those are some of the bigger ones. “

Jeltz on Twitter asked: “In which decade will the Blackburn Valley Trail be completed? Inactive travel.”

Coun Johnson said: “Good question. I don’t know. According to my understanding, the Duke of Norfolk will be repairing and updating the patch that is located on his land. It has been quite difficult for him to pass.

“Otherwise, the problem with this is it has been one of those cycle routes that was planned a while ago with piecemeal bits of funding that were due to come in on specific planning developments. Because there is a way to fund that which has been earmarked it’s not really in line for any other strategic funding.

“But equally, because these developments haven’t actually happened, it hasn’t triggered the payments or the duty on the developers to do them so nothing has happened. So it’s been stuck in limbo really.

“It’s one of those legacies from previous, well-intentioned, planning arrangements but where it doesn’t match a strategic need to provide quality routes in the city.

“I’m not sure exactly where we are with that, I can’t promise which decade, sadly.”

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