A city centre partnership involving Peterborough City Council, Opportunity Peterborough, Peterborough Positive (made up of local businesses), Queensgate, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and local MPs has been established to respond to the changing nature of the high street following Covid-19, including these high-profile closures.
The key short-term priorities for the partnership are to help staff seek alternative employment, skills, training and business start-up advice, focusing on keeping the city safe, clean and green, boosting retailer confidence, including attracting new businesses and independents to open in Peterborough and promoting the city’s Cafe Culture approach.
Support will be offered for employees of John Lewis and Next - once staff consultations have concluded – in a similar way in which the city rallied around to provide support to staff from Thomas Cook following the firms closure in 2019.
Those facing redundancy will be helped to find work, pursue new careers and get access to training to develop their skills or set up a business. Specialist support for mental health and managing pensions will also be provided.
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Agencies involved in offering this support, include: Serco, Futures for You, The National Careers Service, Department for Work and Pensions, the JobCentre, Opportunity Peterborough, City College Peterborough Peterborough College and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.
The longer term priorities for the partnership are to enhance the experience of shoppers and visitors by creating more social and cultural events, attractions and community led activities to attract visitors, which complement traditional shopping, retail and dining, making the city attractive for independents by promoting the city centre as an attractive place to launch an independent store/stall, by encouraging a ‘shop local’ approach and celebrating businesses that offer something different and inspire local pride and by enhancing the city centre - By making it easy to access (especially on foot), making the most of heritage assets and digital connectivity through free Wifi.
The Government’s Towns Fund deal is on track to bring £22.9 million of investment into the city, with a number of projects planned for the city centre, including The Vine library culture and community hub, riverfront improvements, expanding the city’s museum, and a pedestrian and cycle bridge over the river.
A £60 million extension to Queensgate which will house a multiplex cinema and food court is also expected to complete this year. TK Maxx has announced its plans to move to Queensgate and Beales will re-open in Westgate in early May. Steve Cox, director for place and economy at Peterborough City Council, said: ”We are sorry to see the city’s John Lewis store close, it’s been an important mainstay of our city for many years. However, we will be working as a city to support its staff and plan for the future.
“We are committed to creating a thriving centre where more people will want to live, learn and visit and businesses will want to locate and invest.”
Tom Hennessy, CEO for Opportunity Peterborough, said: “We will be working closely with our partners to explore how collectively we continue to support regeneration efforts in the city following the safe reopening of our high street this week and in the coming months.”