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'Big' ideas for 'Local' appetites

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 23.05.2017

Time: 16:35

I recently spent a morning that certainly wasn’t my usual morning in the PECT offices! Rather, I had the opportunity to experience the newly opened WestRaven Big Local Community Café, in Peterborough.
As a very much community-led initiative, the aim of the Big Local project is to help enable Westwood and Ravensthorpe become a better place in which to live.

Big Local is a long-term programme that aims to achieve long lasting change. It seeks to empower people who live in the area to build on local talents and aspirations so they can help make their neighbourhood an even better place to live, both now and for years to come.

It’s certainly hard not to miss the café with its colourful branding and logos embellishing the front window, with most people walking past taking an interest and glimpsing through its windows. The café is ideally located amongst a row of shops and amenities in Hampton Court, in Westwood.

Starting off with a tour of the café alongside the Community Development Worker Jen Orrell, I had the opportunity to see first-hand what goes on behind the scenes at the new café.

One of the first things that you can’t help but notice is the warm reception you receive from the friendly volunteers who make this a welcoming place for all to go. It was great to see the enthusiasm and commitment that everyone has from the outset of a day at the Big Local café.

Some of the fantastic areas I was able to explore at the café include a training kitchen, purposely made to be wheelchair accessible, a community area, which provides a space to facilitate training sessions and a youth space for young people to utilise with recording equipment available to use.

Other features of the café include artwork on the walls, which has been created by local artists, the tables and chairs made from recycled pallet wood by people from the local prison and also the healthy and locally-sourced food sold. 

There are lots of upcoming events taking place, including the Community ‘Meet and Eats’, which are £3 per person and are a great opportunity to bring together members of the community to eat and chat in a relaxed environment.

There has been a strong sense of community support, but the café is still looking for more people to volunteer. So if you have experience working in a catering environment and would like to dedicate some time to lend a helping hand, the café would love to hear from you!

If you are interested in getting involved and can spare some time as a volunteer, either running an event for the local community or helping out in the café please do get in touch by calling 01733 330040 or go to www.westraven.co.uk

Michaela Anthony is the Digital Marketing Apprentice at PECT.



The future of housing

Category: General

Date: 08.05.2017

Time: 10:13

I recently met a work colleague who asked me how I was getting on in my new role at PECT, as a plain talking engineer, my friend commented that he thought I would soon be a houmous eating vegetarian driving an electric car.

While I have driven an electric car, and may well yet purchase one in the future, I am not quite set for a vegetarian lifestyle just yet.

As a past development manager for several housing associations, I still have a desire to help and assist with the development of truly affordable housing that will allow people on a small income to be able to afford to buy their own home.

For the past nine years I have been working in my spare time to help develop an ICF (Insulated Concrete Formwork): imagine polystyrene blocks with a break in between, the opening can change from 4 inches up to 12 inches and is filled with concrete.

On the subject of sustainability, you do not have to travel far to find individuals that will argue that Timber frame is best or Passive House through to traditional brick and block, and now modular housing is the popular phrase.

When comparing building types, even the most ecologically friendly building type can be a “non-sustainable” building if built poorly, or the materials sourced cheaply, which in turn compromises the integrity of the structure. Generally speaking, if you have a modern “softwood” timber frame home, the manufacturer's guarantee will be from 10 to 40 years however the building should be durable for approximately 60 years.

Hardwood timber frames such as Oak, as can be seen by the fact that many of the old Tudor homes have been around quite some time, houses made from a traditional brick and block house are generally expected to have a lifespan of approximately 65 years, however the country has a lot of Victorian housing still in use.

Nowadays, when building with ICF, it is possible to use low carbon cement in the manufacturing process, and at this current moment in time research is active on viable “cementless” concrete. Some ICF manufacturers are getting close to being able to offer a minimum lifespan of 120 years on the product. As the concrete sets it forms a solid monolithic wall which allows the wall to maintain what is known as high thermal mass (stays warm in winter, and cool in summer), I see it as the future of high thermal mass housing that can offer a low energy solution.

ICF is quick to build and does not require extensive training, unlike some other building trades. The internal finishing still requires the normal trades, but the basic wall and roof can be completed in a fraction of the time that traditional building process does. Furthermore, the polystyrene forms will not rust or rot, they can be manufactured with an element of recycled polystyrene, making it more resilient against national disasters.

At the extreme, ICF buildings have survived tornadoes and are earthquake resistant due to the reinforcement that is included in the concrete. The polystyrene bricks that contain the concrete do not hold water, if an ICF house gets flooded; you simply chip the plaster and plasterboard off and re-skim. In a traditional or timber frame house, it would require months for the structure to dry out before any form of refurbishment could take place.

The ICF work is still in progress and I will continue to help and push it forward. I am of the belief that it could be one of the solutions to resolve the current housing shortage and think that there are many additional benefits of its use.

Although, as far as becoming a vegetarian goes, I am too fond of a naan donner kebab so don’t plan to change just yet! The electric car may become a reality in the next year or so…



Definition of a tree…

Category: General

Date: 04.05.2017

Time: 11:59

The definition of a tree is as follows:

“A woody plant with usually a single stem growing to a height of at least two metres, or if multi-stemmed, then at least one vertical stem five centimetres in diameter at breast height”.

My reason for the above quote is as follows, the first count of global tree species compiled by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) now reveals how many tree species are in existence!

It must have been very daunting to take on such a large project, but after two years of research via multiple sources, field trips and data records the figure shows there are 60,065 tree species in the world. Until now that figure was unknown. Head to the blog of Emily Beech, conservation assistant at (BGCI), to find out more: http://globaltrees.org/author/emilybeech/

A few interesting facts, for if you don’t want to click the link above to find out more; Brazil has the most tree species at 8,715, followed by Colombia at 5,776, and then Indonesia with 5,142 species as well as the most endemic tree species at 4,333, Madagascar is next up with 2,991, closely followed by Australia with 2,584.

Moving on to the UK, can you guess how many we have? We have a mere 84 different tree species! Well, I say we have the most amazing, beautiful and best in the world and size isn’t everything!

From the team over here at Forest for Peterborough HQ, I would like to say well done to all involved in the global tree search, it’s fantastic to see the results!

So, what have I been up to since my last blog? Well the answer is I’ve been out and about keeping myself busy tree planting (I am sure you had already guessed that). Luckily I’ve had plenty of help along the way from volunteers, members of the public, college groups, other volunteering organisations and multiple businesses from in and around the city of Peterborough.

It has been a busy season, but made so much more fun by all the helpers we have had join us on event days. I would like to give thanks to everyone who took the time to don a hat and gloves, grab a spade and a tree and helped out with the planting during our events. Thank you.

On a personal note, my partner and I are busy planning ahead in preparation for our first child. It all kicks of during the month of July, and we are both super excited, extremely happy, with just a pinch of apprehension – but I know this will be our biggest adventure yet! 

Now my focus turns to you! I need your help, because Forest for Peterborough needs to secure new pockets of land ready for tree planting during the 2017/18 season, which starts in October 2017. If you have or know anybody who has available land with an interest in creating a new woodland, forest, shelterbelt or wildlife copse please help spread the word in the hope of securing further planting sites.

Please contact me directly: Simon Belham, Forest for Peterborough Project Officer, on 01733 882545, or via my mobile 07715 372432 or by email at simon.belham@pect.org.uk.



Avoiding the energy tariff rise

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 19.04.2017

Time: 14:57

Household energy bills are on the rise again, after five of the big six companies have raised their standard variable tariffs. As the big six occupy 84% of the market, and approximately 70% of their customers are still on the expensive standard tariffs, this will almost certainly affect someone you know.

There are better alternatives, for example, our Warm Homes South Holland project helped Mrs Maxwell from Spalding save £199 simply by upgrading to a one-year fixed tariff with her current supplier.

All the information you need to do a tariff comparison is in the “About your tariff” section of an energy bill. If you’re a prepayment customer and haven’t got an annual summary, there’s a good chance your on the standard tariff and can estimate by your weekly payments.

Try our impartial switching service and sister company Green Energy Switch to compare the energy market: https://save.greenenergyswitch.co.uk/?db=dual

In more positive news Ofgem, the gas and electric industry regulator has introduced a prepayment meter price cap. As of April 1st 2017 energy companies will only be able to charge domestic prepayment customers a maximum price set by Ofgem, in line with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recommendations set in their two-year review of the market.

These rates vary by region and will be updated every 6 months on April 1st and October 1st, with the temporary cap expected to expire at the end of 2020, which can be viewed here:


This temporary cap is in line with the Smart Meter rollout completion, with the assumption being that increased competition from easier switching will lower the market price.

Overall, this is a step in the right direction. It is a disappointment that prepayment customers pay an average of £220 more than those on the cheapest deals by direct debit, and yet are very often those least able to afford it.

Sam Bosson is Environmental Consultant at PECT



Take a vote of change

Category: General

Date: 12.04.2017

Time: 10:08

Do you feel there’s too much traffic on the roads? Poor provision of public transport? Not enough sustainable solutions across the city?

Some of these issues are likely to have crossed our minds at some point in time and it can be frustrating for people who are affected, especially if we feel nothing is being done about it. 

Peterborough is the number one fastest-growing city by population, according to the Peterborough Investment Partnership, so it’s no surprise that the numbers of cars on the roads create a cause for concern within the city centre. In fact, the annual growth rate of our city is currently at 1.6%, meaning that the demand for road space will only be rising.

This is the reality and this is why we need to choose a suitable figurehead to lead the way for change in sustainability issues within our city.
The new Mayor for the combined Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Authority, which will be set up as a result of a devolution deal, will have the influence to help solve these issues.  The deal has been agreed in order to inject more money into both the Peterborough and Cambridge economy.
A significant benefit of the devolution deal, negotiated with the government, is a new £600 million fund to support economic growth, development of local infrastructure and provide jobs, which will also include major investment in transport schemes.

Cambridgeshire County Council Leader Steve Count, who is also Chairman of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Devolution Partnership, has said: “It will mean we can invest in new homes, better transport and boost the local economy. We have a chance locally to increase skills, jobs and tackle deprivation.”

To account for the growing transport demands of our city, a strategy needs to be put forward which looks to tackle the issues of traffic congestion, transport infrastructure and accessibility, in addition to the provision of sustainable transport substitutes to encourage greater modal shifts.

As a city, we need to take responsibility for ensuring that we vote in the upcoming Mayoral Elections if we want to have a say in these issues.  We must not ignore the important role the Mayor has in chairing the Combined Authority and the power that they will possess in influencing investment decisions across the two cities. 
To register to vote please visit: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

To find out more information about the combined authority, please visit:

Michaela Anthony is the Digital Marketing Apprentice at PECT.



Verbatim GREEN-SPACE Play Project

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 11.04.2017

Time: 16:04

Working in the community has a variety of connotations and benefits for artists. As a writer and theatre director, I know that at the heart of each performance is a circular conversation between maker, interpreters (actors/designer etc) and the audience. I am also aware that the quality of synergy in this conversation determines the smoothness of the planning, making/writing and production process.

There are things about working on a community-based commission that particularly throw light on this conversation. Giving birth is a complicated thing (I imagine), but when all the internal and external mechanics are working together, it happens with natural force and impact - boom!

Thanks to funding from Peterborough Presents, a member of the Creative People and Places project, and Peterborough City Council, I have been working on the ‘Verbatim GREEN-SPACE Play Project’ since November 2016.

A verbatim show in an outdoor setting is a delicious prospect for someone developing scripts in textural and structurally playful ways. Partnering with WestRaven Big Local, The Olive Branch Garden and The Green Backyard, with support from PECT, I have just completed stage one of an interview gathering, scripting and production journey for scratch/work-in-progress performances in June 2017.

In this context, unlike collaborating with a theatre or arts centre, your partners and part-interpreters (interviewees) are your audience. The through-line of developing that base of ticket-buying and marketing support begins on day one, with the first interaction.

To date, I have collected over 12 audio-recordings of interviews with GREEN-SPACE users with the aim of using interviewee’s words to make a 45 minute docu-drama or ‘verbatim’ show. But there’s an aim in itself with these recordings. Our chats have formed an online archive on the StreamLyric.co.uk ‘NewsFlow’, which I hope might be used in 22nd Century Peterborough by students clad in, as yet, uninvented fibres, to track a pivotal era in the city’s development.

An ‘Environment City’ could easily be considered a contradiction in terms. So it feels worthwhile to explore what this means. From the human perspective, there are definite recurring themes across these interviews, not least desire for extended family/surrogate community and random ‘play.’

As we know, casual conversation, albeit recorded, is a good vehicle for striking truths. Time and time again, interviewees have spoken of their motivation to connect with others in activities where performance is not measured and acceptance is a core value of the environment.

Volunteers have typically encountered these spaces during periods of transition when identity is being reaffirmed or redefined. It is no surprise that the bubbles of calmness which facilitate this are dense with organic matter and low with technological communications. If churches were once the go-to safe-haven for the mind, perhaps urban green space is a substitute in a secular and multi-faith UK.

Performances of ‘The Verbatim GREEN_SPACE Play’ in association with Stream-Lyric will take place on June 3rd and 4th at WestRaven Big Local and The Green Backyard respectively. Keep up-to-date on www.streamlyric.co.uk / @stream_lyric / @StreamLyric

Written by Tamsin Flower, writer and theatre director.