Call for changes to increase footfall on Cowgate

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Changes need to be made to bring more people to Cowgate and reduce the number of ‘To Let’ signs on the street, it has been claimed.

A number of units lie empty on the city centre street, with Italian restaurant Topo Gigio’s becoming the latest victim when it closed its doors for the final time over Christmas.

Former leader of Peterborough City Council Marco Cereste with Gillian Beasley and John Drewnicki walk the newly opened Cowgate ENGEMN00120131008164623

Former leader of Peterborough City Council Marco Cereste with Gillian Beasley and John Drewnicki walk the newly opened Cowgate ENGEMN00120131008164623

Renovation work on the street was finished just four years ago, with the street re-paved, shop fronts refurbished and new planters fitted.

But now the number of empty shops and buildings includes the old Post Office, the Fit4less gym, Top Gigio’s, the Dim Summ Chinese restaraunt, the Paul Rose building and Brittanic House.

John Drewnicki, chairman of the Cowgate Traders Association, said: “The biggest problem we have is there is no entrance to Queensgate from King Street, which prevents integration from other parts of the city centre.

“There are a large number of restaurants in the city centre as well.

“We are in discussions with the council about what we can do.”

Speaking to The Peterborough Telegraph after Topo Gigio’s closed, manager Mick Guarnaccia said: “The lack of footfall in Cowgate does not help. It looks pretty but you can see for yourself how many ‘To Let’ signs there are – probably about eight at the moment. And I think it scares people off when they see so many empty places.”

Mr Guarnaccia also said the number of large chain restaurants in neighbouring Cathedral Square also had an impact on the number of people coming to Cowgate.

Matt Barber, who works for sustainable transport charity Sustrans, whose Peterborough office is based on Cowgate, called for Peterborough City Council to trial pedestrianising the street.

He said: “It is four and a half years ago since all the works were done, and the street does look good - the planters, the shop fronts etc - but we have been asking ‘does the street function any better?’ Footfall hasn’t increased, and we think that is partly because it is dominated by motor vehicles still. With the street furniture, and restaurants having tables outside, the footpaths are so narrow - we have seen people pushing pushchairs have to drop off the pavement.

“The top of the street near Cross Street and the space on King Street have become unofficial drop off points and car parks.

“The evidence we have is in most places, if you pedestrianise a street you will see a 25 per cent increase in footfall. We would love to see the council trial that on Cowgate - even if it is just for weekends over the summer, to see if it makes a difference.

“It would be great to see King Street have some events on, or some pop up stalls, or for Cowgate to be used in some of the festivals and events in the city centre.

“I always remember (former council leader) Marco Cereste’s comment about the street being one of the most beautiful streets in the world - with St John’s Church and the Cathedral, it is, but we need people able to spend time looking up and taking it in.”

Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich said: “Peterborough has a vibrant city centre, an increasingly attractive night time economy that will be further enhanced by the proposed Queensgate cinema, and a very low retail vacancy rate compared to many towns and cities.

“This is due in no small part to the council’s continued investment in improving streets and public areas. Cowgate itself was improved a few years ago in close consultation with Cowgate Traders Association and the scheme included full resurfacing, widened pavements, planters, new lighting, and grants of up to 70 per cent to property owners to help improve the fabric and frontages of their buildings.

“The street is now much more attractive but remains a secondary street and there will inevitably be vacant units and turnover from time to time as this is a normal part of the retail economy.”