Civic Pride: How will Peterborough look 50 years from now?

Peterborough's EmbankmentPeterborough's Embankment
Peterborough's Embankment
​It’s the year 2073 and in Peterborough it’s time for a change. Peterborough City Council has decided that the pedestrian and cycling bridge over the river Nene just has to go, writes Toby Wood of Peterborough Civic Society.

It’s nearly fifty years old and was due to last 120 years. Sadly it just hasn’t lasted that long and there have been too many accidents between cyclists and pedestrians. The Ken Charlery Bridge (named after Peterborough United’s most illustrious footballer and chosen by a binding online social media vote) was great when it was built but just isn’t fit for purpose in late 21st century Peterborough.

Campaigners back in 2023 did question the Council about this but their comments had not been heeded. The Embankment area in Peterborough is now one of the most successful parts of the city. In the late 2020s/early 2030s there had been strenuous efforts to develop the area and the national Where To Go survey of 2051 stated that the Embankment was 7th best place in the country to visit. Families can come and spend the whole day along the mile-long sensitively- developed area and wander amongst the multitude of bars, cafes, outdoor eateries, performance spaces and world-class children’s play area.

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The ARU Peterborough’s new outdoor performance area is iconic and attracts actors, shows and entertainers from all over the world.

The far reaches of the Embankment are still well-used for major outdoor events. The Beer Festival is now very well established and approaching its 94th year. The city is internationally renowned for its breweries and high-quality pubs and bars. Tripadvisor names Peterborough as the fourth best place in Europe for a beery weekend, behind Brussels, Amsterdam and Munich. Quite an accolade!

Last month’s Elton John concert was a roaring success – the longevity of this 126-year- old rock superstar is testament as to how far medical science has come over the past century.

In all seriousness let us hope that the new bridge, and all that happens around it, is part of an overall plan for the city that is co-ordinated, costed and carefully-thought-out. The Embankment Masterplan talked of a Cultural Quarter built around the Key Theatre. This could be part of a wider Embankment scheme fit for the latter part of the 21st century but is currently very unlikely to happen due to financial strictures.

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Sadly my fear is that, once again, any development will be piecemeal, only made possible with drip-drip occasional funding from outside the city – funds such as the Towns Fund or its successors. As has been well-documented, Peterborough has little or no money of its own.

As we have been reminded by the current leader of the Council, The Vine is a concept, not an actual place or collection of places. In my opinion recent history shows that this does not bode well for the library, museum or other cultural facilities. After all, if the city can’t find £35,000 for refurbishing and maintaining Cathedral Square fountains (a good idea back in 2010), there’s little hope for finding funds to maintain other of the city’s facilities.

The dire financial situation is unlikely to change unless the government has a drastic rethink of how local government can be funded. Currently culture and leisure activities are the first to suffer and will continue to be so for some time to come. There is no evidence to suggest that this will change.

Finally, readers may notice that I haven’t mentioned the Posh stadium. Is it at still London Road in 2073 or is it on the Embankment? The answer is neither. Everyone wanting a new stadium finally saw the light and built a regional stadium near the A1 at Alwalton.

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The stadium, known as the FRYing Pan due to its shape, is the home of Peterborough United, European champions in 2059 and still managed by 94-year-old Lord Darren Ferguson who continues his love-hate relationship with Posh, managing them for the 27th time. Ferguson had persisted with his policy of bringing on young players and is the first manager to win the Champions League with only one of his players being over 13 years of age. You can win something with kids!