‘Free parking would boost evening culinary scene in Peterborough city centre’

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When I began working as a chef in Peterborough City Centre five years ago, there was barely any restaurant scene to speak of (says Lee Clarke head chef and owner of Prevost in Priestgate). Since then, we’ve seen Peterborough experience a surge in culinary excellence.

According to Savills recent ‘Casual Dining in the UK’ report, Peterborough has 11 branded casual dining restaurants, 36% of which opened in the last three years. This puts Peterborough in the top 50 towns in terms of casual dining growth stories, placing 43rd on the list.

Lee Clarke at his Prevost Restaurant, Priestgate EMN-160527-184857009

Lee Clarke at his Prevost Restaurant, Priestgate EMN-160527-184857009

This growth is partly due to the city’s £1 billion regeneration project which has revamped the likes of Cathedral Square and the surrounding area, making Peterborough a much more attractive location.

The city’s vibrant atmosphere as well as its links to key cities has increased the city’s popularity – we’re only a 45 minute train journey from London and 50 minutes from Cambridge. Our forward-thinking city is experiencing rapid population growth, subsequently increasing the demand for not just housing but also restaurants and bars to satisfy those hungry customers!

Since 2011, Peterborough has not only attracted big businesses including IKEA and Amazon, but also popular restaurants, as the Savills research indicates. These include Carluccio’s, Bills and soon, Wagamama, which often aren’t seen outside the big cities such as London or Cambridge.

In addition to this, Peterborough has also become home to many independent restaurants such as Prévost, The Bumble Inn micro pub, the incoming Stoneworks Brewery, Charters/East, Argo Lounge and The Brewery Tap. These places are increasingly adapting to the needs of the local population and visitors by expanding their offerings and becoming hotspots (on our not-so-warm summer evenings).

All of this investment is undoubtedly leading Peterborough to experience a more foody culture, which in turn is attracting more people to experience an evening out in the city. There is a wide choice of restaurants from various different cuisines to places dedicated to desserts, as well as the many bars which are springing up across the city.

But how could we maximise this opportunity even further? One approach I think we could adopt would be to enable free or reduced costs for parking in the evening. This would give a further boost to restaurants, improve the experience for customers who already dine out in Peterborough’s city centre and encourage those who haven’t yet experienced it. This would all have massive potential to expand Peterborough’s already growing culinary scene. Peterborough City Council – take note!