Digital city is leading the way

John Holdich
John Holdich

On Monday Peterborough was highlighted as an example of a city leading the way in providing fast internet speeds to launch the Government’s new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, writes Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich.

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Jones MP, chose Peterborough because of our successful partnership with CityFibre to develop the city’s full fibre networks, offering internet speeds 100 times faster than the UK average.

The new fund, which will unlock more than £1 billion, will look to replicate nationally what we have achieved in Peterborough. As the UK’s first Gigabit City, we have 300 sites connected to full fibre networks including schools, council buildings and CCTV cameras, as well as 4,000 businesses.

We know there is still work to do to achieve fast internet speeds city-wide, to all residents and rural areas, and the new fund could help us to finance the further extension of the network to these areas.

The minister was very complimentary about our digital advances in recent years, telling a packed audience at the Allia Future Business Centre that we are ‘ahead of the game digitally’ and ‘leading a path which other towns and cities should follow’.

The minister also spoke about the importance of digital to driving our economy. We can vouch for that in Peterborough - between 2011 and 2015 the number of digital businesses in the city increased by 20 per cent and our digital economy’s turnover more than doubled.

As the Romans discovered, if you can make the movement of people and goods faster, you are more productive. In today’s world this includes digital - if you can make internet speeds faster, businesses can be more productive and more profitable.

We know that well in Peterborough and will make the best use of this new fund to work towards achieving full fibre coverage for the entire city and surrounding areas.

I’ve spoken a lot in recent weeks about the redevelopment taking place at Fletton Quays and we have just received some more great news about funding to redevelop the 19th Century Whitworth Mill building on site.

Arts Council England has awarded the council £490,000 to cover the first phase of the conversion of the building into an arts and culture hub.

The new hub will be a tremendous boost to the city’s cultural and digital offering and will include artist studios, rehearsal spaces, workshops, conference and networking facilities and will support traineeships and apprenticeships. It will also provide a new home for Metal Peterborough, which delivers arts projects in the city working with the community.

Once completed, the whole Fletton Quays area will be a vibrant place to work, live, learn and socialise and the redeveloped mill will be a key part of this.

I have a few well dones to pass on this week as we have received lots of praise from various quarters.

First of all a big well done to everyone connected with the teacher training programme Teach East which has been rated good across the board by Ofsted.

The council launched Teach East three years ago to bolster the number of top quality teachers working in our schools.

The inspectors found that all trainees who complete the course were judged to be exceeding the teachers’ standards and one third were making outstanding progress.

In further good news, 29 trainee teachers are celebrating this week after completing their training with Teach East. All of them have gained employment for next year, the vast majority within Peterborough schools. What’s more, this is the third year in a row that every single trainee has been appointed to a teaching post which is simply fantastic.

A further well done to all the winners at last week’s East Anglia Local Authority Building Control Building Excellence Awards.

Winner in the Best Domestic Extension category was Scott Whyte Architect from Glinton who designed a scheme at 17 Normansgate, Ailsworth. Harris McCormack Architects from Wansford also picked up a special award for consistent quality design.

A number of Peterborough schemes were also finalists in the awards including Carillion with Frank Shaw Associates for St Michael’s Church of England School at Cardea in the Best Education Building category and the city council and Harris McCormack Architects were finalists in the Best Partnership category.

Other finalists included Harris McCormack Architects again for Best Individual New Home, Best Public Service Building and Best Commercial New Building, and Cross Keys Homes with Larkfleet Homes were finalists in the category of Best Social or Affordable New Housing.

We should be really proud of these accolades which showcase the standard of building projects taking place in our city.