Peterborough City Council has won Government funding of £4m to buy a new electric bus depot.
But city council leader Wayne Fitzgerald told a meeting of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) that up to £20m might eventually be needed to build it.
A site has been identified in Nursery Lane, but the board was told that by acquiring an option on the land, it did not necessarily mean this would end up being the chosen site for the depot.
Interim chief executive Gordon Mitchell explained that a new bus depot had been “an aspiration for a while and electric charging was part of it”.
Cllr Fitzgerald said the proposal would fit with the city council’s green credentials.
He described officers as being “fleet of foot enough” to put together the successful bid to acquire the money for an option on site.
Cllr Fitzgerald said it was “a start of a journey for £4m” but it was not going to buy a new depot and no agreements had been finalised with bus operators.
He said it was a site option being discussed and if better sites came up, it provided time for those to be considered.
Electrification of the bus network in Peterborough was needed as soon as possible, he said, because at the moment it was “pumping out loads of Co2 and air pollution.
“More support will be needed – this only a small step in the right direction”.
Quizzed on who would foot the final bill, Cllr Fitzgerald said that would be agreed but he felt the Combined Authority would have a role to play.
He described it as “starting here, baby steps, but it might be up to £20m to do this properly”.
The Nursery Lane site would serve jointly as a depot for electric buses and as a depot for vehicles that provide services for Peterborough City Council.
The board was told the site is owned by Peterborough City Council and is currently occupied by Peterborough Limited by way of a Tenancy at Will and used as a depot for vehicles that provide council services.
Peterborough Limited is wholly owned by Peterborough City Council and has contracted to provide council services.
“Peterborough Limited (P-Ltd) aspire to obtain a new fleet of electric vehicles to continue providing services to the council beyond 2028,” said a report agreed by members.
“Officers considered that a shared depot facility would avoid unnecessary duplication of expensive infrastructure and facilities that were common to the care and maintenance of electric vehicles.
“A depot for electric vehicles will require a significant electrical supply to charge large batteries and the cost of providing this site infrastructure has yet to be determined.
“However, it has been confirmed that a funding requirement was identified to provide electricity infrastructure to charge refuse collection vehicles at Waterbeach, so this cost and any associated implications have potential to generate significant viability issues for the project”.
The board heard that a transport consultant was commissioned to determine suitability of the site to serve as a joint depot.
“The report highlights significant issues to address before the site could be effectively utilised as joint operational depot,” members were told.
“Whilst the report does not highlight insurmountable issues further research and feasibility studies would be necessary before an application could be submitted to secure planning consent for the proposed use.”
Although much work needs to be done the board was told that “the option of doing no further work and returning the funding was considered and rejected because it would not be in the interests of the local area to lose the investment”.
The board heard that if the proposal is not viable then the Combined Authority can consider alternative options of investing the capital to deliver the electric bus depot objective.
“It is apparent that a significant amount of further funding is likely to be required to implement the proposal,” members heard.
“The preferred option allows for the costs to be measured responsibly before committing to acquire a site that may not be fit for purpose.
“It was also confirmed that there were no stringent clawback conditions attached to the funding but there is still an expectation to deliver on the bid commitments.
“There is no requirement for the Combined Authority to exercise the option to acquire the site at Nursery Lane, so the Combined Authority can consider alternative methods of delivery.”
The report to the CAPCA board added: “The initiative to provide a bespoke facility to accommodate electric vehicles to provide council services and public transport will reduce harmful emissions and contribute towards improving public health.”
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