Embrace localism to build success

Speaker's Corner columnists -  Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
Speaker's Corner columnists - Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
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Following the 2010 General Election, one of the new government’s priorities was the theme of ‘localism’ – with an intention to involve local communities in shaping what happens in their area, writes Steve Lane of Werrington First.

A local community consists of a group of individuals that interacts with their surroundings. However, a good community doesn’t just happen. Instead, it is born out of people with vision and a united purpose. These may be individuals who take care with the disposal of litter or dog waste, or a structured body such as an elected parish council, a community association, a Neighbourhood Watch, as well as smaller, voluntary groups that help keep their area clean, safe and welcoming.

Thirty-three years ago, I came to Peterborough with my new family, attracted by the Peterborough Development Corporation’s vision for a growing city. By planning for accessibility in leafy avenues, well-kept open spaces, free movement and considerate building design, Werrington’s imaginative layout created a pleasant village environment. The new township had all one might need for a young family, and we were made to feel welcome.

At the heart of this new community was Werrington Centre, and I suppose the enticement to choose a home nearby, as opposed to other townships, came from the attraction I describe above. With its retail and supporting services meeting most of the needs of residents and visitors alike, the centre would play an important economic and social role for years to come. One could sit beside the flower beds watching people busy along; mums and toddlers flitting happily from store to store; the elderly whiling away their time on nearby benches; and all the while just soaking up the happy atmosphere of a vibrant, growing community. It was somewhere that brought everyone together and became an important element of the township’s infrastructure. Sadly, all I can do is reminisce on what has been, admittedly with a rose-tinted memory, because things aren’t what they used to be. With the exception of a busy Tesco supermarket, the inner section is now somewhat detached from what should be a thriving shopping complex. Tesco has shelved its plans to build an extended 75,000 square foot store, and a number of shops that were planned for demolition remain empty, which has left us with a scene that only compounds the disconnect. With the emergence of competition from retail outlets elsewhere, and because of the fickleness and fluctuation in the nation’s shopping habits, a new thinking is required to help local district centres to retain and increase a local patronage. The shopping centre is typical of that setting and requires regeneration, as Werrington must continue to be a place of choice to live and work in. The business community, of which many have invested large parts of their lives here, deserve a reversal of failed prospects; and although there may be challenges, it is hoped these can be matched by opportunities. Locally, there is enthusiasm for the right investment, and for one that would give us hope for the future.

Nevertheless, I wish to remind everyone to respect the centre’s assets as it grows, namely its tenants, because over the years there has been an immeasurable effort put in to the making and history of Werrington Centre, and people feel they belong to something they have helped to create. There has been a lot of good things going right for this community, such as shared dreams and way that people pull together, and it is that same community we should rely on for a successful future.

So, the priority for Werrington is simple - embrace localism, and use it as an essential building block for good business. Whatever plans are in store for Werrington Centre, please remember community involvement, because if you want to know how a shoe fits, ask the person who is wearing it, not the one who made it.