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Council to switch to electric vehicles and renewable energy in multi-million green strategy

A council is to overhaul its vehicle fleet and expand its use of sustainable energy as part of a multi-million investment to achieve carbon neutral status over the next seven years.

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The rapid test centre at Wolverhampton Civic Centre will be closed for one day to allow for building maintenance work

Wolverhampton Council's dated and pollution-pumping vehicles will be dumped in favour of electric, environmentally-friendly alternatives.

Bosses will also ramp up the switch to sustainable electricity and heating which has seen it cut back on energy use over the last two years.

The changes form part of the council's bid to become carbon neutral by 2028, as part of a national push to cut local authority emissions.

Cabinet members have signed off on the plan which will involve significant investment initially by the city council. However, as well as helping the climate, bosses said the council would reap the benefits financially further down the line.

Wolverhampton Council became the first Black Country authority to declare a "climate emergency" in 2019, which led to it drawing up a green strategy.

Since then, the authority has slashed its carbon footprint by more than 50 per cent, preventing 7,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere by switching to renewable electricity and replacing street lights.

Major changes will include bringing in electric vehicles and creating electric vehicle pools for staff rather than using their own cars for work which some do now.

Low carbon heating systems will be installed in buildings while the council will look to sell of buildings which are underused or empty.

A tree planting programme is also planned, while bosses are looking at introducing car solar ports, where cars are parked under a solar panel-covered structure to harness energy for charging and other uses.

Several new roles would also be created at the council to deliver the green strategy, a new report said.

Electric vehicles will be rolled out.

The overhaul of almost 100 vehicles will cost £4.4 million

Another half a million pounds will be spent initially on building heating systems from the council's Climate Change Reserve but chiefs will also bid for cash through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

Councillor Steve Evans, Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member for city environment and climate change, said: "Tackling climate change is the biggest challenge facing our world.

"It is an emergency and we have to act in new and radical ways to save our planet for future generations.

"Wolverhampton Council has previously declared a climate emergency and we were proud to be the first council in the Black Country to do so in 2019.

"We have also made tackling the climate emergency central to our Relighting the City strategy as we emerge from the pandemic.

"Now, through our Net Zero Action Plan, we are showing how we are going to deliver on our promise to be at net zero emissions for the council by 2028.

"We have a lot of work to do over the next seven years, there is a not a moment to lose."

It comes as work gets under way on major changes to pedestrianise parts of Wolverhampton city centre to cut the amount of vehicles and improve experience for shoppers and people visiting bars and restaurants.

Council leader Ian Brookfield said: "We've got to have that discussion with residents in the city about how we can bring everyone else with us.

"There has been a Government announcement about gas boilers. There's going to be a massive amount of retrofitting over the next 20 years."

He added: "Regarding cars, we shouldn't need to go any further once we are all on electric vehicles not throwing anything out.

"The bits we are pedestrianising are for the benefit of residents to sit out and enjoy themselves and walk safely. It's about having a sensible mix."