Thursday, 11.45am: The controversial Cathedral Square fountains in Peterborough could be set to return this week just in time to toast the end of major works in adjacent streets.
The water feature, the star attraction of Peterborough City Council’s £12 million revamp of Cathedral and St John’s squares, has been out of action since November after getting clogged up with dirt.
Council officials had blamed the number of children playing in the jets of water as being part of the cause of the problem.
The feature was due to be tested yesterday with a view to it being brought back into regular use tomorrow - assuming no issues had been brought to light.
Since the fountains were switched off, the council has spent £96,000 to have its filters cleaned and a new system installed to allow it to cope with dirt.
Councillor Janet Goodwin, cabinet adviser to the leader for business engagement, tourism and international links, defended the fountains no show so far this summer.
She said: “It would be no good having them on if we had to keep turning them off any time they got anything in them - costing us a fortune to get them repaired.”
She said their return would complement such elements as the Guildhall’s hanging baskets and planters in Bridge Street, Long Causeway and Laxton Square.
She said: “I think it’s just one of the pieces of the puzzle that makes it all come together and look great.”
The council has been criticised for failing to keep the fountains working.
Leader of the council’s Labour group Cllr Nazim Khan, a member for Central ward, said: “We’re into August now - what have we got left of the summer? The fountains should have been working back in May.”
Their return would coincide with the end of major works to improve the adjacent shopping streets of Cowgate and Bridge Street.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is due to be held in Cowgate on August 9 to mark the completion of an £800,000 spend in the area, while the improvements to Bridge Street - provisionally estimated to have cost £2 million - is expected to be finished by mid-August.
Some £2 million has also been set aside in this year’s council budget for work on Long Causeway.
It is a spend which has attracted criticism from some council members in light of cuts to services.
Cllr Nick Sandford, leader of the Liberal Democrat group and member for Walton, said: “The council keep telling us they are short of money and they have got to make Draconian cuts in services, but they seem to find lots of money for these rather cosmetic improvements.”
Cllr Goodwin said the works in Cathedral Square and beyond had made Peterborough more attractive to businesses and shoppers, a point echoed by officials of the city’s regneration company, Opportunity Peterborough.
Chief executive Neil Darwin said: “When complete, the refurbishment works to the centre will boost the shopping experience for local residents and visitors.
Investment of this kind signals to prospective investors that Peterborough is open for business, that we’re a growing, forward-thinking city and one that’s faring well during the challenging economic climate.
He said: “If the city centre hadn’t been regenerated, we most certainly wouldn’t have achieved such high investment levels and potential interest - in fact we may have even seen existing operators withdraw from the city.”
He added: “We hope the refurbishment of Long Causeway, Bridge Street and Cowgate will now have a similar catalytic effect in attracting new investment to the city centre.”