Peterborough loses top spot as UK’s fastest growing city in new report

An aerial view across Peterborough city centre showing the Queensgate Shopping Centre and St John's Church on the left. ENGEMN00120120703163300

An aerial view across Peterborough city centre showing the Queensgate Shopping Centre and St John's Church on the left. ENGEMN00120120703163300

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Peterborough has lost its status as the fastest growing city in the country, according to a new report published today (19 January).

The Centre for Cities annual study shows that Peterborough has been pushed off the top slot for its population growth rate over the last 10 years and into second position - just behind Milton Keynes.

The accolade of the UK’s fastest growing city has been regularly used by city politicians to underline the dynamic nature of city and the success of its development.

According to the Centre for Cities’ 2015 Cities Outlook report, from 2004 to 2013, the city’s population grew by 15 per cent - an extra 24,900 people.

It is just one per cent behind Milton Keynes, where the population grow by 36,000 people to 255,700.

The study also shows that Peterborough’s population in 2013 of 188,400 people was 1.1 per cent larger than the previous year.

The yearly increase makes Peterborough the ninth fastest growing city out of the 64 cities covered by the study - and is better than last year’s 15th position.

But Councillor Marco Cereste, the leader of Peterborough City Council, played down the significance of no longer being the UK’s fastest growing city, saying it was not important.

Paul Sweeney, Centre for Cities’ senior economist, said: “It is still neck and neck between the two cities. The difference in the population growth rate is just one per cent.

“I think the key difference is that Milton Keynes has been able to secure jobs growth in high-paying knowledge intensive services jobs, such as banking, media, advertising, which has encouraged more people to live in the city.

“Peterborough has struggled to secure more jobs growth at the high end of the labour market.”

The study states that Peterborough saw a growth in knowledge intensive service jobs in 2013 of 13.2 per cent (13,300 jobs). It placed Peterborough in 29th position - a fall of two places on last year. However, Milton Keynes sits in sixth place.

Mr Sweeney added: “I think everything is stacked in Milton Keynes’s favour for the future. It has seen a meteoric growth over the last 30 years.

“The challenge for Peterborough is how to develop its economy to get that increase in high skilled jobs that will start to attract more people in to the city.”

Mr Sweeney said: “Peterborough has seen a lot of immigration and that has been a real boon for the city. Clearly Peterborough is seen as a place of opportunity.

“The problem is that Peterborough is not attracting a great number of people with high level degrees.”

“But overall Peterborough is performing very well.

“It has not fallen into the bottom half of the table and does not have any really big issues.

“To push on, it really needs to attract more high value jobs which would have a greater impact on the economy.”

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See more: Cities Outlook 2015 at centreforcities.org

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Cllr Cereste said: “My number one priority is to get a university for Peterborough. Without it we can never hope to compete with many other cities.

“Not having a university puts us at a disadvantage. It is a fundamental flaw in our city.

“Our best and brightest youngsters go to other cities and do not return and we don’t attract students from elsewhere who will study and stay here.”

Peterborough has a university centre run by Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge and has about 1,000 undergraduates.

Cllr Cereste said: “My aim is to have a University of Peterborough, with degree awarding rights and proper buildings within four years.”

The Centre for Cities’ report also highlights the educational attainment of Peterborough residents.

It shows that in 2013, 29 per cent (32,900 people) had high level qualifications - degrees or equivalent - placing Peterborough 38th out of 64 cities. It is a big improvement on the previous year when the number of people with high level qualifications was 29.400 - 26.1 per cent and left the city in 44th position.

Also, the proportion of the population with five A* to C grade GCSEs, including English and mathematics, risen to 56.2 per cent in 2013 (37th place) compared to 48.3 per cent in 2012 (57th position).

Cllr Cereste said: “We have made a massive investment in education of about £200 million - every senior school is new or refurbished. A good education is a fundamental building block in creating a successful city.”

The city scores highly for innovation.

The number of business start ups per 10,000 of the population is 50.4 (18th place) compared to 36.5 the previous year (23rd place).

The number of patents issued per 100,000 of the population was 6.4 in 2013 (6th place) compared to 2.7 in 2012 (41st place).

Employment surged to 74.1 per cent of the working age population in 2013 (13th place). In 2012, the employment rate was 70.8 per cent (26th place).

Not surprisingly unemployment fell with a claimant count change from February 2008 of minus 0/7 per cent leaving Peterborough in fifth position.

Average weekly earnings in 2014 were £480 (25th place) compared to £465 in 2013. But their real value fell by £14 - a drop of 2.9 per cent (43rd place ), according to the study.

The report shows that the city’s CO2 emissions rose from 6.4 per capita in 2011 to 6.7 (52nd place) in 2012.

Average house prices rose from 157,900 in 2013 (31st place) to £167,800 in 2014 (30th position).

And the proportion of city postcodes with superfast broadband fell from 74.6 per cent in 2013 (34th) to 69.3 per cent in 2014 (42nd place).

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