Someone once sang, “The future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades” and on the face of it, we might all be reaching for our Ray Bans if the plans for Peterborough all come to fruition.
Just imagine what this utopian vision of the city could look like in ten years’ time – Peterborough 2025 - A city centre, completely transformed by the redevelopment of Queensgate and North Westgate – cinema goers, shoppers and bus catchers, all jostling for position on the busy streets, as the night time economy booms.
Those not queuing for the thirtieth James Bond film, starring Justin Bieber as Bond, at the IMAX in Queensgate, are waiting patiently for the Rolling Stones to be pushed on stage at the North Westgate Arena, for the final night of their “Should be dead” tour.
The restaurants are packed to the rafters and if you haven’t reserved a table at Wagamama then you had better get yourself to the chippy.
By day the recently installed market on Cathedral Square is doing a roaring trade after the new Peterborough MP, Ed Murphy, managed to convince the council to concrete over the fountains and plant some trees.
His attempts to convert the recently vacated Town Hall into a refuge for the homeless were less successful and instead it’s set to become the biggest “All Bar One” in the country.
South of the river, Fletton Quays is now finished and sits proudly on the banks of the Nene, its gleaming towers, home to councillors, yuppies and some investors from overseas, whose names will never be revealed.
Unfortunately this is all the stuff of dreams and the reality may be somewhat different unless somebody joins up the dots and starts thinking of the bigger picture.
Intervention and ambition is required otherwise I fear that the North Westgate development might never happen now and that ugly pimple on Peterborough’s backside could remain for many years to come.
There is little doubt that Fletton Quays will be a magnificent addition on the South bank but it will become totally disconnected if Rivergate and Bridge Street are allowed to fester.
The former has been on life support for many years but once Marks and Spencer and the council move out of Bridge Street, how long before it becomes terminal?
Without big names moving in to that area, how will the sandwich shops and the restaurants survive, with such a huge drop in footfall?
Why would anyone want to go down that end of town anymore? You can bet TK Maxx is already asking itself that very question.
We have to think in a clear, positive and connected way to avoid the fragmentation of the city centre. Otherwise one of the main arteries of life, in the beating heart of our city, could easily curl up and die.
It’s fine to think big and I applaud the way Peterborough has continued to develop and improve the city in such difficult times. But lessons need to be learned from the fallout of the North Westgate/Queensgate planning furore.
We need an integrated plan for the whole city and future developers need to be told what they can build and where it must go.
Other towns and cities do not pander to the money men and neither should we.