Opinion: ‘A bright future is on the horizon’

Peterborough City Council leader Wayne Fitzgerald gives his view on the council and news and issues affecting you...

Sunday, 27th June 2021, 11:38 am
This week's Peterborough City Council Cabinet meeting.
This week's Peterborough City Council Cabinet meeting.

This week I chaired my first Cabinet meeting as leader of the council.

It was a good meeting, where I was able to set out once again my priorities for the Conservative administration running the city.

We want to see economic growth happening at a faster pace – that means increased job creation and more and better education opportunities for all, particularly through our new university.

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We also want to see good quality homes for all, and at Monday’s meeting we agreed to launch a Housing Revenue Account (HRA). In simple terms, we’ll once again be building our own council homes. I also want to encourage more private sector development for those people who want to be homeowners.

Peterborough is definitely on the up and therefore I also want to develop our leisure and cultural opportunities so that people can enjoy their precious leisure time right here in Peterborough.

Returning to improving education opportunities, if you take a walk around the city you will see our new university is going up pretty fast now. I visited the site last Friday along with MP Paul Bristow and others for a media event to announce an exciting development for the project. I’ll be there again tomorrow (Friday) with my steel toe cap boots for a proper tour of the site.

The city council has put forward a £20m bid for funding from the government’s Levelling Up Fund, which - if successful - would combine additional teaching facilities at the university campus, with the development of a new University Quarter Cultural Hub.

At the centre of our bid is The Living Lab, which would offer learning opportunities alongside an interactive public science facility. It would form the heart of a new hub, helping the city centre become a more attractive destination for residents, businesses and visitors.

In further good news, a second phase for the university, which will see the development of a £16.7 million research and development centre specialising in new manufacturing and materials technologies, has been approved by the council’s planning committee.

The creation of a university will have a lasting, positive impact on the city as a whole. By investing in education for our residents and developing the skills we know are needed by businesses now and in the future, we are investing in the long-term development of our city and the prosperity of our future generations.

On the subject of improving our city, at last night’s Full Council meeting I announced, following my commitment at Annual Council in May, that we have begun the process to appoint consultants to develop a masterplan for the Embankment area.

The aim of the masterplan, which is being led by the Peterborough Towns Fund Board, is to develop a vision and a development plan for this area, rather than reacting to individual schemes ad hoc as the city expands.

We want to explore options for enhancing the green space so that it is a safe, usable and accessible asset for the public. It will also improve connectivity to the River Nene, the city centre, Fletton Quays, the Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) Peterborough site as well as Middleholme and the wider cycle and pedestrian routes.

The new masterplan will look at all options for this area, including the potential to relocate the Posh onto part of this land.

On that subject and in the interests of transparency, I have asked that the Memorandum of Understanding between the football club and the council should be published. This is an agreement that says we would assist in finding a new location for the club.

Although the club’s preference for a new arena location continues to be on the Embankment, the MOU does not give any commitment on our part that we can guarantee this.

This week we have once again seen an increase in Covid rates in the city – as is the case in most areas of the country. Most of the new cases coming through are in the younger age group, so it is good news that everyone aged 18 and over can now get their vaccine.

This weekend people will be able to get the jab without an appointment at the Peterborough United Weston Homes stadium on Saturday and Sunday from 8am until 8pm.

If you’ve not yet had your vaccine, please go along, and get one; and if you’re lucky and the gaffer is in, you might get a try out in any pre-season trials!... Up the Posh. Or you can also book a vaccine appointment at www.nhs.uk. And remember to get both doses so you are fully protected as one dose isn’t enough.

The more people we can get vaccinated – the quicker we can move to stage 4 of the road map and a more normal way of life. It is also wise to continue with rapid testing twice a week if you are at risk or in any doubt. We also need young people who attend secondary school to do their two rapid tests each week.

Testing rates in secondary schools have fallen but young people continue to be carriers of the disease. Up to one in three people can have Covid without any symptoms and be spreading it, which is why rapid testing is so important.

If you have a child or grandchild at secondary school – or are a pupil yourself - please support rapid testing.

Peterborough has a bright future, but we must all pull together to realise its potential – right now we need to work together to kick Covid into touch and get back to a more normal way of life as quickly as possible.