Bus shelter roofs in Milton Keynes in the front line of £250,000 battle against climate crisis

Bus stop roofs are being pushed into the front line of the battle against climate change in Milton Keynes.

By David Tooley, local democracy reporter
Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 4:35 pm

MK Council leaders are putting £250,000 into the 2020-21 budget with a plan to spend it on either solar panels or plants which could also provide homes for the city’s insects on the public transport infrastructure.

But it emerged at a meeting on Tuesday that even though the money is in the budget, the precise details are yet to be worked out.

The council’s ruling Labour group is also planning to convert city underpasses into “green wonderpasses” with a raft of measure to make them brighter, and safer for women.

Tuesday's meeting of the budget and resources scrutiny committee

They also want to jazz up nine time-battered city centre roundabouts, which have been starved of maintenance for years.

Neither officers nor a cabinet member were able to answer key questions from members of the budget and resources scrutiny committee even as to how many bus stops are in MK, let alone which ones would take green roofs and solar panels.

Cllr Emily Darlington (Lab, Bletchley East) is the council’s elected head of public realm and an enthusiastic supporter of city’s trees, plants, bugs and insects.

The council is drawing up a biodiversity strategy and Cllr Darlington told the committee that the council was in a good financial position and was keen to carry out environmental schemes.

“You can drive down the road in Milton Keynes and not get a single bug on your windshield,” said Cllr Darlington. “That means there is something wrong. It is very rare to get a bug on your windshield.

“They are part of life and are important for hedgehogs.”

She added that green roofs would also take global warming gas carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Any bus stops given solar panels would also be able to generate light to help people to feel safer.

While other councillors agreed with the principles, they wanted to know what tests of value for money had been made.

Cllr Amanda Marlow (Cons, Loughton) called it “woolly”, while her party colleague Cllr Peter Geary (Olney) asked whether it was the best use of money.

Cllr Geary asked if the aim was to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, whether it was better value for money to spend £3 each on trees rather than thousands of pounds on bus stop roofs.

And if the cabinet wants to spend money on solar panels, he said it may make more sense to put them all together in a field than split them up in ones and twos on on bus stop roofs.

Cllr Darlington said it was the beginning of a process as the council’s cabinet thinks radically about how they can help the environment.

“It is our ambition to do more of this, given financial constraints,” she said.

And Cllr Charlie Wilson (Lab, Stony Stratford) said: “In 20 years time Milton Keynes could be known as the green roof city. It’s a cost-effective way of meeting our policy objectives.”