"I boarded on a bus in Thessaloniki and headed north-west.
About 1 hour later I reached the city of Serres with its 60 000 inhabitants, surrounded by beautiful mountains hiding a myriad of small villages, a couple of ski stations and - as a bonus - the famous Kirkeni lake with its incredible flora and fauna, welcoming migrating birds from all over Europe. All citizens seemed to be walking, running or biking along a long city forest-park in the middle of the city…
That was my first glance at Serres - host to a delegation from the Italian city of Lecce as part of the Covenant of Mayors twinning programme.
Committed to the Covenant of Mayors since 2011, the city adopted a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) in 2016 and has developed a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan as well as an urban development plan.
Serres has already implemented several mitigation projects, such as:
the low-energy renovation of schools with integrated shallow geothermal heating system
the transformation of the ‘Papaloukas’ abandoned military building into a low-energy musem (€852,000) funded by the European Structural and Investment Funds through the Interreg cross-border programme for Bulgaria and Greece (75%) and by the municipality
the retrofitting of some 5,000 lamp posts for €3M, financed via a loan from the national Consignment Deposits and Loans Fund (25%) and the EIB (75%), that should be paid back in 10 years with a floating interest rate of 4.5-5%.
Serres offers a vibrant city centre with many traditional cafés, bakeries and shops. During the site visit, the Covenant of Mayors delegation discovered the installations that have been designed as part of a project aiming at the bioclimatic restoration of the city centre. Amongst the most visible actions are the shading wooden structures covered by plants and water fountains. Less visible, that you would not spot if you are not walking down the street with the municipal staff, is a new asphalt road covered by a thin film made of special ‘cold material’ that reduces air temperature and pollution in the street during the hot summer days.
Soft mobility modes are encouraged by the municipality. Bike lanes and special lanes for people with reduced vision have been created, as well as sign-postings showing the distances and time needed to get to your destination by foot. The city centre is progressively being transformed – roads shrinking and winding in the effort to calm down the traffic, while pavements getting larger and equipped with a special bike lane whenever possible. A bike sharing scheme with 5 stations is the next SEAP measure to be implemented soon.
People can also find themselves in the middle of the Eco-festival once a year or bump into e-vehicles which collect waste.
And more is to come in the coming years…
Lecce shares many of these challenges and will in return host a second twinning visit in Spring 2019 to offer the best of its own experience and practices. We will keep you posted!"
Jana Cicmanova, Covenant of Mayors - Europe Office.
> For more information on the Twinning programme, please contact Mrs Claire BAFFERT at firstname.lastname@example.org