Council’s Solar Panels Exceed Expectations In First Month

Pitsnpots reported last month on the unveiling of 198 solar panels atop the Civic Centre’s roof. It was predicted by the council that the panels would generate £12,400 in savings per year (or £1033 per month).

Today, it has been announced the solar panels have helped save £1,750 in their first month of operation – beating their target.

The Lord Mayor, Denver Tolley, who unveiled the panels in April, said:

“We wanted to launch the panels in time for the spring and summer seasons. There has already been plenty of sun over the lastmonth, so the amount of electricity produced has been particularly high.”

According to Met Office figures, April 2011 was the driest on record resulting in high levels of sun.

Figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change at the Council show the panels generated 4,129kw/h in their first month.

The average house in the city consumes 3,638kw/h in electricity per year.

In 2009/10 the council spent £147,000 on electricity for the Civic Centre, a building which covers four floors and has space for over700 workers. If the solar panels meet expectations, the same bill would be reduced by approximately 8.5%

Stoke-on-Trent City Council last year signed up with E. ON to deliver millions of pounds worth of green energy investment.

Today, solar panels are installed on 54 Chell Heath council properties and it has been announced final touches are being put to a scheme which will result in over 1,000 Stoke-on-Trent City Council properties fitted with similar panels.

The Lord Mayor said: “The solar panels are working really well, and are already showing an excellent return. The most pleasing aspect is that the energy they are producing is completely green, so as well as saving money, they are also saving the environment ““ it is a win-win situation.”

Extra Care Housing and Estate Regeneration PFI Announcements Leave ‘Bittersweet’ taste

Work to create almost 400 extra care homes in the city will continue, but a programme to build nearly 600 homes on six housing estates has been hit by a government announcement on Private Finance Initiative schemes.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council will continue to work on its programme to build 390 new homes to offer older people independent living coupled with access to care and support in Abbey Hulton, Blurton and Chell.

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Two Jailed After Operation Nemesis Raids

Carl Moreton and Peter Rogers both from Winghay Place in Chell are waking up behind bars this morning after being convicted of serious drug offences at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court yesterday.

Moreton & Rogers were both arrested during high profile raids that took place early on the morning of Wednesday 19 May. Officers from the City’s police proactive unit supported by police dogs and local officers forced their way into a number of addresses in the Chell area of Stoke-on-Trent.

Within a few minutes of the coordinated raids six people were in police custody. Detailed searches of the properties soon resulted in the seizure of a significant quantity of illegal drugs. Forensic tests were carried out on the drugs which had a total street value of £138,420 and included heroin, crack cocaine, cannabis and an ecstasy substitute.

Operation Nemesis is all about bringing criminals like this to justice. We are very pleased that these men face a significant time behind bars. The communities of Stoke-on-Trent have continued to show their support for Operation Nemesis by calling Crimestoppers with information on drugs and crime affecting their communities. Crimestoppers passes that anonymous information to our officers who are then able to mount operations like the one that lead to these convictions.

Carl Moreton was sentenced to 4-years and Peter Rogers was sentenced to 6 years 8 months

Merkel Questions Germany’s Multicultural Experiment

The issue of immigration now forcing it’s way on to the Europe wide agenda.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stirred up a storm of controversy by describing Germany’s attempt to build a multicultural society an utter failure.

In a speech to the youth wing of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party on Saturday, she said:

“At the beginning of the 60s our country called the foreign workers to come to Germany and now they live in our country.”

She added: “We kidded ourselves a while, we said: ‘They won’t stay, sometime they will be gone’, but this isn’t reality.”

“And of course, the approach to build a multicultural society and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other… has failed, utterly failed.”

Whilst at pains to point out that immigrants are welcome in Germany, Merkel went on to say that the concept of multiculturism, one where people would “live side-by-side” happily, did not work, and immigrants needed to do more to integrate, including learning German.

Her comments were thought to be aimed at Germany’s 4.3million Muslims. There are around 3000 mosques in the country.

She spoke about her fear that German-ness’ may eventually be lost and her concerns about headscarves in classrooms and Turkish ghettos in cities like Berlin.

“We feel bound to the Christian image of humanity ““ that is what defines us. Those who do not accept this are in the wrong place here.”

A recent poll suggested that 30% of the population of Germany had concerns that their country is being overrun with immigrants.

I am concerned that Germany is following the likes of Belgium and France whose political direction is heading for an uncomfortable rush to the far right following recent debates about banning the Burkha.

I’m all for a sensible discussion about Immigration but all this talk of mutlicultural experiments failing is all wrong.

Germany, just like the United Kingdom, invited immigrants into their country 40-50 years ago when there was a shortage of labour to undertake certain undesirable jobs.

Those immigrants have gone on to have families, 2nd and third generations now play an active part in society.

Here is Stoke-on-Trent I do share the frustration regarding the lack of racial integration in parts of our city.

I have spent a lot of time in cities like Birmingham, Leicester, London and parts of Lancashire, on business. I have witnessed first hand, different cultures living and working side by side. I have seen the respect and tolerance of the different cultures that exist in these progressive societies.

It is fair to say that certain cultural differences may prevent the closest of friendships in some cases but never the less there can be a mutual respect.

A few years ago i was the Chair of an award winning multicultural group set up with the aim of breaking down some of the prejudices that existed predominately in the south of the city.

Parents from both the Muslim community mixed with white parents to encourage their children to adopt a tolerant approach to life in our city.

This group did some great work, barriers were broken down, but i would be lying to suggest it was without difficulties.

There was a real reluctance for some people in the Asian community to get involved.

Until we all promote a society where there is a sensible, commonsense approach to immigration and a real desire for cross cultural integration, progress will be very slow indeed.

There are simply too many quangos and one sided community groups that promote the needs of one culture over another.

There needs to be a simple society charter that agrees to let the different cultures exist and celebrate the diversity whilst promoting a one society ethos which can come together for the greater good of our city/country.

If we fail to do this, at some point in the future, the extremes of the communities will spill their bile out onto the rest of our tolerant society.

People like the Chell Heath racist must never be allowed to influence the young people of today who will become the multi- cultural adults of tomorrow.

The same must be said about the extremists in the Asian Community.

I am completely sold on the notion of a multicultural society. Yes it’s going to take some work, yes there needs to be some give and take, but I think we could make it work… Don’t you?

Or do we take the fall back, vote capturing view of the German Chancellor? Which in my view is a complete cop out!

Pioneering Agreement Paves Way For Sustainable Stoke-on-Trent

A pioneering agreement to help Stoke-on-Trent become the country’s first sustainable city will be signed at a landmark ceremony on Monday (27 September).

Stoke-on-Trent City Council will join with energy company E.ON in a scheme which will deliver millions of pounds of investment to the city to improve the energy efficiency of homes and use green power to drive down residents’ fuel bills and help combat climate change.

As a first stage, the agreement has already seen E.ON provide solar panels to the first 54 council properties in the city over the next few months ““ the first time any of the council’s 19,000-strong housing stock will be powered by such green energy.

To kick-start this programme the council has already begun a procurement process which will provide a way of fitting solar panels to all suitable council properties over the next few years.

It will also commit E.ON to being one partner in a scheme which will see 1,000 council and privately-owned houses in Northwood and Birches Head, and Middleport benefit from a range of measures, subject to individual property surveys. The measures include the installation of:

*External wall insulation

*New energy efficient boilers in place of old ones

*Solar panels

*Air source heat pumps

*A district heating system

Council leader Mohammed Pervez said: “This is a hugely significant scheme for Stoke-on-Trent; nowhere else in the country has made such a strong commitment to using sustainable energies and empowering communities to reduce their carbon footprint.

“Other areas of the country will follow our lead, and this initiative demonstrates the city council’s commitment to raising the quality of life for city residents by improving the energy efficiency of their homes, reducing fuel bills and saving the environment.”

The signing ceremony will see E.ON become the first energy supplier to join a council-led low carbon task force.

The city council has already secured £2.3 million funding from E.ON as part of the government-backed Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP). Only 100 areas, out of 4,200 eligible areas country-wide, have been selected for the CESP initiative. The CESP scheme requires energy suppliers to fund and deliver energy efficiency and low carbon measures into homes within low income areas.

The city council is investing a total of £1.8 million from its housing capital programmes for the initiatives, which will bring in £7 million of private sector investment from energy suppliers over the next two years.

“We are delighted that such a major player as E.ON has come forward to show its confidence and commitment to Stoke-on-Trent. This agreement will ensure council residents benefit from cutting edge innovation and knowledge from a world-leading energy supplier.

“The scheme will create local work for local suppliers and help make our city more green and attractive to businesses.

“The benefits of our investment in these schemes will be directly enjoyed by the residents of properties which are fitted with new technology such as solar panels. It will not only generate hundreds of pounds of savings on residents’ fuel bills but it will also have the potential to generate income over the lifetime of the programme, which can be reinvested into other forms of energy saving technology for other council tenants.”

“Everyone ““ customers, local authorities and energy companies ““ has a part to play if we are to lower energy bills and reduce our effect on the planet.

“Schemes like this ““ working on the ground today ““ will pave the way for the massive energy efficiency drive that the Secretary of State spoke about last week.

“If we can work together as a community, as a town or as a city; if we can build energy efficiency into our everyday lives ““ homes, businesses, how we travel, how we shop ““ then we can all become “Ëœenergy fit’ and really start to make a difference.”

“For us, being energy fit is about thinking differently. Everyone’s heard of “reduce, reuse, recycle”, and now we need “Ëœinsulate, moderate, generate’.

“It’s about insulating our homes properly and moderating the way we use energy to cut out waste. And it’s also about generating the power we need, where we need it. And that’s exactly what we’re looking at here in Stoke.”

The solar panel pilot scheme will involve a total of 54 homes in Warren Road, Chell Heath. It is anticipated that the majority of the properties will be fitted with solar panels by Christmas

Samantha Bryson, who lives on Warren Road with husband Stephen and children Madison, 7, and Keegan, 5, are the first city council tenants to benefit from the solar panel scheme.

“We are really excited by the scheme, and friends and relatives have asked us to tell them how it all works. Like a lot of people, we tend to use a lot of energy in the home. For example, the children use games consoles and I like to watch soaps on the TV. We also like to leave the radio on for the dog when we are out. The solar panels will help us save money on our fuel bills and we are really looking forward to seeing them in action.”

Plans To Build First Residential Houses In 30 Years To Go Before Cabinet

Plans to build the first new houses with council money for 30 years will be put before Cabinet next week (Thursday 30).

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet will decide if funding should be made available for 17 new bungalows to be built in Warren Road, Chell Heath. The new buildings will be designed specifically for older and disabled people using funds from the city council’s Housing Capital Receipts. If approved, the bungalows will be available to let via the city’s normal letting arrangements.

The development has been identified as a priority within the Housing and Accommodation Strategy for Older People and the Housing and Accommodation Strategy for People with Learning Difficulties. Currently the city council own 234 two bedroom bungalows in the city with only 11 of these situated in Chell and Packmoor.

“This project would allow the city council to build its first new homes for nearly three decades using its own resources for the people who need it the most. Some residents need single story homes so we must consider the options available to us to make provisions to meet their requirements.”

The project will cost a total of £1.6 million with £885,000 to come from Housing Capital Receipts and the rest from prudential borrowing. Each house will be built to a high level of energy efficiency. The scheme has already received planning approval.

CycleStoke and Port Vale Gear Up To New Football Season

The highly popular Port Vale match day cycle rides return this Saturday starting with the first home game of the season with Chesterfield.

The rides, organised by Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s CycleStoke Team and Port Vale football club, start at Burnwood Community Primary School in Chell Heath at 1pm and finish at Vale Park at 2pm, with pick-up points at Ford Green Hall, New Ford, Holden Lane High School, Forest Park, Cobridge Park.

The rides are suitable for beginners and are fully marshalled by experienced local cyclists. As an added bonus, anyone 16 or under accompanied by an adult, taking part in the ride, will be guaranteed free entry to all Port Vale home games until the end of October.

“The city council wants to encourage as many people as possible to take part in cycling initiatives like this. By working together with Port Vale, we can tap into a large community of people with a natural affinity for sport and can make the cycle ride a regular event for every home game.

“Our Cycling City status means we have both the resources and the willingness to create a focal point for cycling not only for the local community but also for the whole of the West Midlands.”

“We are delighted to continue with the match day rides for our supporters.”

“I’m really proud that we can work together with the city council to make this happen. We want to put Port Vale, and Stoke-on-Trent, on the map when it comes to cycling and continuing this project and we hope it can continue to be a big success for the football club, the city and for the benefit of our supporters’ health.”

Anyone wanting to take part in the ride should contact the CycleStoke team at the city council on 01782 238692 or e-mail cyclestoke@stoke.gov.uk.

£1m Big Lottery Grant To Benefit Great Chell, Fegg Hayes and Chell Heath.

Residents in Great Chell, Fegg Hayes and Chell Heath will decide on how over £1m will be spent in their area.

The money comes from a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, Big Local, after 12 months of work to secure the funding by Stoke-on-Trent’s Local Strategic Partnership.

The criteria for the award was that the natural area had to have a population of between 3,000- 10,000 people, in an area of disadvantage and deprivation where a large proportion of the population were earning £15,000 or less per year.

The LSP was asked to identify areas that fit into this category and they sought an area that had received little financial assistance in the form of grants or regeneration funds in the past. Of several areas highlighted, the Big Lottery Fund eventually decided on Great Chell, Fegg Hayes and Chell Heath.

As a result, in June 2010, representatives from the Big Lottery Fund came to the city and met with representatives of the city council, the LSP, residents associations and the city’s Youth Council to decide on the suitability of the area, and the funding was offered and accepted.

City council leader Councillor Mohammed Pervez said:

“This is tremendously good news for the residents of these three areas ““ and most importantly, they will decide how the cash will be spent.”

“The key to a project like this succeeding is partnership work. Ourselves, the Residents Associations and the Big Lottery have all had to work together to identify what was unique about these areas in order that the funding was secured.

“Great Chell, Fegg Hayes and Chell Heath are areas that haven’t seen the benefits of investment in the past, but now this funding will enable work to start on changing these areas, according to what the residents want.”

The Big Lottery is in the process of tendering out the work to a Charitable Trust to run the project nationally, which should take around 12 months to complete.

Jim Gibson, Chair of the Chell Heath Residents Association, said:

“It’s about time that the peripheral estates, particularly in the northern part of the city got some attention as they always seem to miss out. It’s positive news which can hopefully uplift the whole area.”

John Taylor, Big Lottery Fund Head of Region for the West Midlands, said:

“The Big Local Trust is a dedicated Lottery funding stream to help people in places such as Chell Heath and Fegg Hayes to identify local issues and to develop the skills and confidence necessary to change things for the better.

“We hope that by securing funding for the long-term and by offering a commitment to providing dedicated local support, the Big Local Trust will bring lasting positive changes to Chell Heath and Fegg Hayes and their residents.”

Operation Nemises Update: Court Appearance For Three

Following a series of morning raids across the north of Stoke-on-Trent, Operation Nemises continues to yield results.

Two men and one woman from the Chell area of the city will today appear in court on serious drugs related charges.

Staffordshire Police had raided 5 properties as part of the ongoing Operation Nemesis.

The 5 properties, all in close proximity to each other around Monks Neil Park, were raided simultaneously by around 30 undercover officers who used force to gain entry. Search warrants were issued for the raids after reports from members of the public and investigations by the police.

No drugs were found at either of the properties on Sutton Place and no arrests were made.

As the searches on Sutton Place were being carried out other officers had raided 2 properties on Winghay Place and one on Ward Place.

A large quantity of what is believed to be class A drugs, were found at one of the properties on Winghay Place, hidden in a car. The car was taken away for forensic examination.

A male was arrested at the property in Ward Place and Police firearms officers were called to check and make safe a number of firearms which were found at the property.

Six Arrested During Morning Raids For Operation Nemesis

Staffordshire Police raided 5 properties in the Chell Heath Area of the city this morning as part of the ongoing Operation Nemesis.

The 5 properties, all in close proximity to each other around Monks Neil Park, were raided simultaneously by around 30 undercover officers who used force to gain entry. Search warrants were issued for the raids after reports from members of the public and investigations by the police. Continue reading