Council

Another Nottingham deal….

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bus scan 1I am always on the look out for a deal (like most people in this economic climate) so when Nottingham City Transport (NCT) started to offer a term based travel card for under 18’s that offers slightly better value than the 3 month card I took it up for my sons card. He uses his card for his journeys into NCN each day.

Towards the end of last term we got a flyer through the post from NCT indicating that they were doing a ‘spring term bus bargain’. It would be available in person or online from the 28th December 2013. Taking the offer up early gives a week or more of ‘free’ travel over the normal card – consequently it makes sense to do it.

However – the website address on the mailed out flyer doesn’t exist, it takes you to the page shown below. Also if you try to find the deal via the main website – you guessed  – it doesn’t exist!

NCT

So we will keep trying over the next few days, but assuming the site doesn’t come live for a few days the majority of the ‘bargain’ is lost.

Call me cynical, but to me this looks like the Council offering something in the hope that it gets people to pay early for the basic 3 months card – which is more profitable for them. Obviously this is only a theory…….

We live in one of the UK’s most desirable locations.

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it's nice up here in the East Midlands!

I am catching up on a few items I came across during the Christmas break that I thought were quite interesting – one of those related to recent research on the most ‘desirable’ places to live in the UK. The research by the Halifax bank was based upon the following criteria;

  • jobs
  • housing
  • health
  • crime
  • weather
  • traffic
  • broadband access

Now as you might expect, most of the locations in the top 50 were in the South & East of England – Nowhere in the north of England, Scotland or Wales made the list. But, there were 4 places outside these regions in the top 50 and 3 of them were in the East Midlands – Rushcliffe in Nottingham, Rutland, and North Kesteven in Lincolnshire. In fact two of the three were in the top 25 – their relative positions were;

  • 16 Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire
  • 22 Rutland

Rushcliffe is the area I am lucky enough to live in, but perhaps of more note is the fact that it is situated (and abuts) the City of Nottingham which is always being dragged down by the national media claiming that it has a high crime rate and is a terrible place to live (which it isn’t). Perhaps the BBC and the like should pay more attention to data such as this and amend their stories accordingly?

No doubt they won’t but again we have evidence that the East Midlands is a great place to live and work!

The death of small solar panels?

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The current Government like us to think that they are ‘green’ – if so why have they cut the feed in tariffs?

Not anymore

Householders who are in the process of having solar panels put on their roof have less than six weeks to complete the job or face seeing the predicted income they generate slashed after the government said it was cutting feed-in tariffs by 50%. Despite pledging to be “the greenest government ever”, the coalition have announced that only installations completed by 12 December will get the full payments they were promised. Hundreds of householders who have signed contracts to have panels fitted have now pulled out and others are expected to follow.

More worrying, is a proposal to make future feed-in tariff (Fit) payments dependent on the home meeting tough energy performance standards. Around 85% of UK homes would need to spend around £5,600 to meet the requirements. Such a move, which is subject to the consultation exercise announced by ministers, would kill the solar industry.

Under the original scheme, householders had been promised the higher Fit payments provided they installed their panels before 1 April 2012. Since the scheme’s introduction in 2010, around 100,000 householders have taken advantage of the generous terms. Last week’s cuts have already led some in the renewables sector to predict the end of the solar industry, which employs 25,000 people.

At least two legal challenges have been threatened,including one by Friends of the Earth, if the government doesn’t back down on the 12 December deadline. A protest is also set to hit Westminster on 22 November, though with the industry now working round the clock to complete ongoing installations, no one can afford to take time off to attend, even though it looks as though many one-man companies that spent thousands of pounds training to become accredited installers won’t be around in 12 months’ time.

So what do the changes mean?

• The feed-in tariff payable on installations of up to 4kW used to attract a generation rate of 43.3p per kWh. This will be reduced to a proposed 21p for all installations with an eligibility date on or after 12 December – unless the government relents voluntarily, or is forced to by a legal challenge. This slashes their viability; the financial return on the investment falls from around 12% to 5%-7%.

• If you complete your installation between 12 December and 1 April, you will get the new Fit of 21p, but won’t have to conform to any energy efficiency measures.

• Perhaps the biggest change, and the one that has attracted the least publicity, is the plan to make the payment of Fits dependent on other energy efficiency measures. Ministers have indicated they want only homes that have an energy performance certificate rating of C or better, ruling out many homes, as it will be prohibitively expensive. Most pre-1919 homes require the installation of some or all of the following measures: loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, heating controls, hot water cylinder insulation, replacement boiler and solid wall insulation – at a typical cost of £5,600.

• The proposals are also expected to put an end to free solar installations (often called “rent-a-roof” schemes) through a new multi-installation rate – where an individual or company receives Fits from more than one installation. They will get just 16.8p per kWh for systems up to 4kW, a rate which makes the business no longer worth pursuing.

Nottingham “Energy Park” planned

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Plans for a low-carbon business park have been unveiled by Nottingham City Council. It is hoped the site will boost the city’s economy by creating jobs and attracting inward investment. The “energy park”, which is to be located on Blenheim Lane in Bulwell, hopes to supply competitively priced power and heat to co-located business units.

The City Council are inviting representatives from a range of private sector organisations to launch the project at an event on 28 January at the council’s headquarters at Loxley House.

The council is proposing to take a phased approach to the project development “in order to minimise cost and risk”. Following the event the Council will review the feedback, and issue a Prior Information Notice (PIN), providing further details about the project, and inviting interested parties to explain how they can support and contribute to the project in a formal Expression of Interest (EOI).

The Council is keen to work with partners to explore innovative technologies that generate renewable energy which could not only supply a co-located business park but can also benefit the existing Blenheim Lane industrial estate and any other nearby development opportunities that arise in the future. The Council believes that a new business park in Bulwell would support the growth or relocation of existing businesses and also attract new companies into the city, particularly those in the expanding ‘green tech’ sector.

A decision on the best means of progressing the project will be taken following a full evaluation of the expressions of interest and other market analysis later in the spring.

This is a positive and forward-looking move by the Council in the current climate. Lets hope there is a good level of support for the scheme.

Bad news for Nottingham’s Meadows

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Unfortunately for Nottingham the The Department for Communities and Local Government has said that it will only fund housing PFI schemes that are under contract. Consequently Nottingham City Council’s £200 million PFI credit for the Meadows Housing proposals has been cut. This would have been the catalyst for wider regeneration including investment in a new district centre and the creation of energy-efficient houses in the Meadows.

The scheme would have been delivered over the next 25 years. Nottingham City Council has already spent over £700,000 to develop the proposals – In July 2009, Nottingham City Council was allocated a £200m PFI Credit from the Government for a major housing regeneration scheme in The Meadows. An Outline Business Case (OBC), which shows what the scheme might look like and how it could be achieved, was submitted to the Government for final approval in October 2010.

This is a massive blow for the Meadows neighbourhood. The plans were to transform the area by building new properties and refurbishing existing council housing, creating better access to the neighbourhood, investing in better community centres and building new shops. A significant amount of consultation had already been carried out with the local community to ensure that the people who live in the Meadows got what they wanted.

The wider potential economic effects of the news are significant too. The project would have created hundreds of jobs for local people, particularly in the construction industry. The redevelopment could have generated additional new money for the local economy so the overall impact is massive.

Any loss of funding for the city is bad, but the Meadows is an area desperately in need of investment, yet another casualty of the Government cuts.

A chance to stop wind farm “sabotage”?

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Local councils are to get extra funding if they give the go-ahead to new wind farms, under plans to stop local communities “sabotaging” renewable energy projects.

soon to be seen in Clifton?

Ministers are worried at the vast number of wind farm projects that are being turned down by councillors in the face of local opposition. The number of planning approvals for onshore wind farms is at an all time low, with only one in three applications getting to go-ahead. There are now 233 separate local campaign groups against wind farms. As a result ministers have agreed that local councils should be given incentives to help persuade them to approve more wind farms.

Under the plans councils will be allowed to keep the business rates generated by wind farms – which currently have to be passed to central government.

Even a small wind farm with just five turbines pays business rates of around £37,000 a year. The money would come without pre-conditions on how it is spent.

Another possibility which has been investigated would require wind farm developers to make contributions to the local economy as a condition of planning approval – either as part of the proposed community infrastructure levy or the existing section 106 rules. Such conditions already apply to some other commercial developments, such as housing developments or supermarkets, although in the case of wind farms it would be more complicated to administer and it would pass on the cost directly to the renewables industry.

A spokesman for RenewableUK, which represents the wind farm industry said they would be in favour of the business rate proposal as it would make the benefits of renewable energy obvious to local communities. Other countries, like Spain, who have mature renewable energy markets already do this.

But Michael Hird, from the Campaign Against Wind farms, said;

This is nothing short of a bribe to get local councils to agree to wind farms. They should be spending money on good green energy and not this.”

In Cumbria and the Severn Estuary areas the locals are reported to be welcoming the new proposed Nuclear schemes in favour of wind schemes previously proposed – how can that be a sensible move!

Without doubt a middle way needs to be found which can help reduce the ‘knee jerk’ reaction of the anti wind farm community. In my view Michael Hirds comment above sums up the problem, wind energy is good green energy – and until the public actually grasp that this is actually a good option we are going to keep having schemes turned down by councillors who are afraid to vote against the ‘anti wind community’.

Sadly it is only a matter of time before we start to read locally about the campaign against Nottingham Universities plan for 3 turbines in the Trent Valley near Clifton – no doubt that campaign will also base itself on scare tactics and untruths about wind farms. The University have a guide to dispel certain “well-known facts”, its worth a read.

Common sense cost saving – and its green!

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As we are seeing cost cutting across the country in various forms it is good to see one that actually makes sense and is green!

The local councils have finally agreed a timetable on a scheme to dim or switch off thousands of street lights in Nottinghamshire. The project, which involves 93,000 lights and is expected to save in the region of £1m a year. The program will start in villages in the Misterton area this December, it with then be extended to the Bingham area in January and Bassetlaw and Rushcliffe districts by December 2011.

Nottingham at night – pretty – but unnecessary!

Other provisional dates are Newark & Sherwood and Gedling districts by November 2012, then the Mansfield and Broxtowe districts by November 2013 and finally the Ashfield district by March 2014.  (not quite sure why it takes so long to put in place in these districts?)

As one would expect of our paranoid local authorities a risk assessment will be done for every light and the most appropriate option used (dim, switch off or leave on). Many lights will not be altered, including those near hospitals and accident black spots, the council are working closely with the emergency services and will monitor the project to make sure crime and collision rates do not rise.

Some lights will be dimmed between 2000 and 0700, others dimmed between midnight and 0530 and some switched off entirely – changes which could cut energy use by 25%.

As well as saving money, the scheme will cut carbon emissions and light pollution.

This all has to make sense – for years we have left the lights burning away at night on our streets – and for whom? Cutting power use, light pollution and generally giving us back the darkness has to be applauded!