An end could finally be in sight to the long-awaited regeneration of Peterborough’s North Westgate.
The 10-acre gateway-to-the-city site has been a Peterborough City Council target for redevelopment since 1971.
Two recent private sector-led development plans - Hammersons in 2007 and Hawksworth’s in 2015 - have failed to get of the ground.
Now, buoyed by the success of the council-led Fletton Quays development, the local authority is confident that with it in the driving seat, the regeneration of North Westgate can finally succeed.
Total investment in the development is expected to come in at between £150 million and £200 million.
Council leader Cllr John Holdich said: “The main lesson we have taken from the Fletton Quays development is that we can do it.
He told a briefing at Peterborough Town Hall: “We can make this happen.”
The council has already committed £15 million to kick start the development and is involved in a three-prong approach to the development.
It is currently in the process of trying to secure the ownership of the site, which is difficult as there are estimated to be about 32 different landowners involved.
It has also employed award winning architects NORR, led by John Baird who also led the Fletton Quays design team, to put together possible designs for North Westgate.
At the same time, the council plans to test the commercial viability of each of its proposals for the site.
Early designs in the council’s masterplan include making the most of the site’s proximity to the rail station and the bus station.
Landmark buildings, which could house a hotel and offices, would populate the area close to the rail station. There could also be an enhancement of the bus station.
A focal point would be a family-orientated community and leisure use, which could include a fun pool, and there could also be a “green” area and a cultural market.
A specially created pedestrian route could run through the centre of the site.
A range of acommodation types from apartments to family homes are included with a limited amount of convenience retail outlets and a multi-storey car park.
The Brewery Tap pub and Westgate Church will be retained.
Cllr Holdich said: “One of the key issues which hinders the site’s redevelopment is complex and multiple land ownership, with the council currently owning a small percentage.
“This is one of the reasons the council decided to take a key role in the redevelopment, as we have the ability to use our compulsory purchase powers in this area if needed to complete assembly.
“The next stage for the scheme is to take a period of time to assess its commercial viability before moving forward and develop the masterplan much further and working with key partners and landowners.
“This is a vital stage, which should be not be rushed.
“We are taking our time and doing things thoroughly and properly. We would rather do this once, than face another decade of unrealised potential of this important site.”
“We have a proven track record in this area too. Fletton Quays was also underutilised for decades. We created the Peterborough Investment Partnership which has kick started regeneration of this riverfront site and it is due to open for business later this year.
“Fletton Quays is a flagship development for the city, and we want to use our experience from this to deliver a great development in North Westgate.”
Simon Machen, the council’s director of growth and regeneration, said: “We expect to submit a planning application for North Westgate in spring next year and I expect that from now it will take five years, dependent on the state of the economy, to complete most of the development.”
Cinema and court battle scuppered earlier development
Earlier development plans for North Westgate stumbled over plans to include a cinema and a failed court battle.
Hawksworth Securities chairman Peter Breach’s £100 million development of North Westgate hinged on the inclusion of a multi-screen cinema, pictured right.
While Mr Breach secured outline planning approval for his development, the neighbouring Queensgate shopping centre also secured full planning approval for a cinema in a £30 million extension of the shoping centre.
MrBreach said the granting of planning approval by the council’s planning committee for Queensgate effectively made his plans commercially unviable. He said two cinemas so close together would simply not be viable.
He unsuccessfully appealed to the High Court to intervene to force the city council to reconsider its decision.
In written ruling that ran to nearly 12,500 words the judge said that the council was entitled to reach its decision to grant planning consent for the Queensgate plan.
A cinema has not been included in the council’s proposals for North Westgate.
And bosses of Queensgate say they still expect to start their cinema-led extension later this year.