Coronavirus: The major plan for how Peterborough’s and Fenland’s economies will recover from global pandemic

Developing the city centre, boosting skills and protecting the environment are key among the proposals to ensure Peterborough’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new strategy.

By Joel Lamy
Tuesday, 13th October 2020, 3:55 am

The Local Economic Recovery Strategy, which has been endorsed by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, sets out how individual areas of the county will ‘bounce back’ from the global crisis.

It states that “prior to the pandemic Peterborough was England’s second fastest growing city with an investment pipeline of more than £600 million in the city centre alone”.

Recently, though, economic development body Opportunity Peterborough surveyed 100 businesses to identify their challenges and priorities in the short to medium term as they look to recover from the crisis.

The Towns Fund bid includes a bridge over the River Nene

These were: access to funding - particularly for investment in technology and the development of online services - and increased demands for skills, particularly digital skills.

The strategy adds: “Whilst Covid-19 has had a serious short-term impact on the city’s economy, we are confident that the city has the vision, resilience and drive to build back better, delivering a green economic recovery.”

Action taken so far includes a bid for £25 million to the Government’s Towns Fund which would be spent on a number of projects.

These include: a new bridge over the River Nene linking the Fletton Quays development and the new university campus, a new library and cultural hub at the TK Maxx building in Bridge Street and an activity centre at Ferry Meadows.

In the second part of a three piece feature on the economic recovery from the pandemic, the Peterborough Telegraph outlines the recovery plans in place for Peterborough and Fenland.

Peterborough

. Develop major city centre sites

. Attract new investment which will be “enhanced” through the creation of an investment site and commercial district around the city’s Station Quarter, anchored by a new station.

. Develop the riverside and promote leisure and recreation activities at the Nene

. Improve the public realm and strengthen pedestrian and cycle routes in the city centre, which will link the major assets

. Strengthen Peterborough’s arts, sporting, cultural and leisure assets to boost visitor numbers

. Use the new university and higher education community to increase expertise in industries such as advanced manufacturing, agri-tech, clean-tech and business and professional services. This is aimed at boosting employment and improving companies through adopting new digital skills

. Address the city’s “skills deficit” through “targeted programmes”

. Build on more than £600 million in private finance planned, or already underway, in city centre commercial and housing development

. Create a more environmentally sustainable city, protecting and enhancing the city’s natural environment and creating sustainable opportunities for employment and growth

Fenland

Fenland’s strengths, according to the strategy, include its “strong entrepreneurial culture, excellent business networks, strategic location for food production, storage and logistics and the quality of life”.

However, it adds: “The infrastructure needs to be improved to retain and attract employers, and the district needs to keep its presence and appeal to potential investors.

“Existing Fenland businesses need space to expand, and new businesses moving into the district, or new business enterprises, need suitable sites or premises from which to operate.”

It says local piloting of a new national retraining scheme should include a pilot in the Fenland food sector, while proposals need to be developed for sectors including food, drink, agriculture and advanced engineering.

The strategy also comments on attracting overseas firms.

It states: “International investors are large employers in the Fens, particularly in food production, warehousing and logistics. The Fens needs to remain competitive as these operations are in competition with other UK and international operations.

“There is a lack of commercial property for rent in Fenland, and for a company or developer to build a new facility the return on investment can be marginal. This results in limited, speculative development coming forward.

“Funding is required to cover the gap in rental costs and build price. There is interest in property from companies looking to expand but the demand cannot be met.”

Plans in place for the recovery include:

. Wisbech Access Strategy and March Area Transport Study – a range of road, walking, cycling and public transport schemes

, Wisbech Rail – Discussions are ongoing with the Government to secure additional funding

. Market Town Transport Strategies - there are four strategies covering all modes of travel. Each strategy includes an action plan with a range of proposals and schemes

. Fenland Railway Station Masterplans – a programme of improvements for Manea, March and Whittlesea stations. The projects are about to go into detailed design and construction with expected completion in around a year’s time

. Fenland Transport Strategy – a developing strategy to cover the whole of Fenland

. King’s Dyke Level Crossing – the bridge over the crossing is due to be open by December 2022

. A47 dualling – a business case has been developed but additional funding needs to be found

. A47 Guyhirn Roundabout - a Highways England scheme to upgrade the roundabout where the A47 meets the A141. Work will start in 2021 and be completed the following year.