Peterborough City Council leader Cllr John Holdich: Civic hub to kickstart development

Cllr John Holdich

Cllr John Holdich

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A n important decision is set to be made next week which will help kick start the new city centre development at Fletton Quays.

On Monday the cabinet is set to approve a proposal which will see the city council establish new office premises within the development.

The council would become the first tenant on this important city centre site. As is the way with these things, one organisation getting involved leads the way to more commitment.

It’s a great opportunity to secure the future of the wider £120million redevelopment (pictured), which is to include a hotel and 280 homes, and will refurbish some listed buildings – a collection of historic railway sheds. It’s also a good move for the council. It would bring together all our people in a single location; one that is more energy efficient and less costly to run, too. It’s been on the cards for some time: we first voiced plans to do this back in 2014.

The overall business case (more information can be found on our website), which includes leasing our building at Bayard Place and office space within the Town Hall, means the move is set to generate £7.6million over a number years to help protect services.

All civic areas including rooms such as the Council Chamber and Mayor’s Parlour would still be used as they are today. The Town Hall will still be the democratic heart of the city.

This is an important move. Over the years the way the council works has changed, and we no longer employ as many people as we once did. We’re modernising how we do things, supporting people to work more flexibly, and not necessarily at a desk. These new facilities will help, ultimately for the benefit of residents.

This week I will be attending a conference on supporting refugees displaced by the Syrian conflict.

I have recently written to government confirming that we would be willing to provide emergency assistance to Syrian children, many of whom could be orphaned and all, no doubt, severely traumatised.

The city is already providing support to refugees as Peterborough is a regional refugee centre and I believe currently, through the Red Cross, we are looking after 160 people of which a quarter are children. We have also seen a large increase in the number of asylum seeking children under our care over the last 12 months. The council is currently providing care, such as through foster carers, to children from places including Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Iran.

Given the support we are already providing, I have asked the government for more information on supporting children from Syria.

Caring for these children will be complex and challenging and we therefore require details on the support they need and a commitment that we will receive full government funding. I know the refugee crisis is of great concern to many residents and I will of course keep you up to date on future developments.

A great example of how our services are modernising is how parents now confirm preferences for their children’s places at secondary school. This year every application was made online – well, 99.96 per cent!

What’s excellent is that there’s been a rise in pupils being offered a place at their preferred school, something that we’ve been working hard to achieve. Around 87 per cent will start at their first choice this September. Overall, 97 per cent were offered one of their three preferences.