One of the benefits of Parliament not sitting in August is that it gives Members of Parliament like myself the opportunity to catch up with a wide range of organisations in their constituencies - to learn more about their activities, plans and just what they do on a day to day basis - something we struggle to do for most of the year because of time constraints.
This week, I’ve visited St George’s Community Hydrotherapy Pool, Dogsthorpe Fire Station, the Shine Charity, our local Wildlife Trust, Radio Peterborough, the National Citizens Service and the Nene Park Trust.
The latter is unarguably one of the unalloyed jewels in Peterborough’s crown and probably the finest legacy of the 20-year dominance of the Peterborough Development Corporation over the city between 1968 and 1988. It rightly attracts plaudits across the UK for its innovative approach to the provision of public open space, communal parkland, leisure and commercial activities, nature, heritage and biodiversity.
Readers will know that I have recently strongly advocated a new Flag Fen Bronze Age Park in the east of our area but we are lucky also to have the River Nene valley to complement such a project, with Roman and Saxon artefacts west of Peterborough and at Orton Mere and Ferry Meadows too, as well as our fabulous museum and beautiful medieval cathedral at the city’s heart.
It’s not a criticism but the Trust has had a low profile for quite a while, barring the odd kerfuffle and controversy centred around the Fireworks Fiesta or parking charges. It’s quietly done its job upgrading the park for the growing population of the city and developing better catering, sports and education facilities, for instance.
I’m pleased to say that the senior staff at the Trust have big ideas and a vision for the future: their number one project in the 15 year masterplan is something close to my heart - the development of a new public space in the city centre between the rowing lake and the Town Bridge, designated as the Thorpe Meadows Gateway Park.
Earlier this year, I cycled along the river path opposite Railworld with my family and was disappointed how scruffy, unloved and unkempt it looked. Quite simply, the city council doesn’t have the budget to upgrade and improve it but Nene Park Trust do have the cash, the expertise and the vision to turn this neglected corner of urban Peterborough into a little oasis, for local residents and casual visitors.
The commitment to improving the city centre is very welcome - especially the focus on properly utilising the river frontage, probably for the first time ever (Fletton Quays will also be a boon).
I fully support the ambition of Nene Park Trust. They’re not just part of the furniture but their ambition shows that they’re at the heart of the community for all the city and making it a fantastic place, to live, work and play and I will do all I can to help make it happen.