It’s a myth that I don’t work well with the City Council and don’t give them credit where it’s due.
Not true - the public realm improvements in Cathedral Square and Bourges Boulevard is one area for example on which the Council has had my unqualified support. As it happens, I’ve often worked productively with a number of City Council Leaders, including Ben Franklin, John Peach, Marco Cereste and the current incumbent John Holdich on key projects like the bid for the Green Investment Bank.
One project on which we collaborated back in 2011 was in working together to persuade the fledgling Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership to support a new Enterprise Zone in the city centre, named the Railway Corridor project. Bizarrely, they instead chose Alconbury aerodrome as their nominated EZ site - a giant car park on the A1 - a project yet to have a much wider impact on jobs, growth and economic regeneration.
Despite that setback, the city centre is now prospering, even with this week’s disappointing (though not surprising) news on the closure of Marks and Spencer’s Bridge Street store. We have new residential homes being built at Priestgate House, North Street, Midland Road, the old PDH site on Thorpe Road and the revamped Hereward Tower and new shops, hotels, offices and leisure facilities planned for Queensgate, North Westgate and Fletton Quays as well as our continuing bid for a stand alone university.
Enterprise Zones (in place since 2012) are economic areas where planning regimes are light, capital allowances generous and business taxes heavily discounted and more to the point, they give a locality a real competitive advantage over other urban areas.
So we still need one in Peterborough to drive up skills, attract new businesses and entrepreneurs, build on our success with apprenticeships and falling youth and adult unemployment and exploit our excellent location as a regional transport hub and prime commuter site. New people will bring new opportunities and better schools and homes over time.
We have to move away from the low wage, low skills, food processing and warehouse pigeonhole which too many people confine our city to.
I will be working hard with Opportunity Peterborough, the LEP, City Council and businesses to make sure Peterborough gets a fair hearing in Government and our success story has a wider circulation and we can consolidate it.