Opinion: ‘Be careful we don’t ‘pave paradise’ in Peterborough’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 3rd April 2022, 4:45 pm
Peterborough Embankment. ENGEMN00120111209144728

‘Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot’.

For those old enough to remember the song (Google it, youngsters), it was written 52 years ago and remains as relevant today as it was back then.

It could be the theme song for our Embankment plan if we do not take care and think the whole thing through. The good news is we have a masterplan – and it looks great. Lots of positive ideas and a prospect for a Peterborough in which we can all share and be proud of. But there is still much work to be done and we must all have a say before we even get close to ‘paving paradise’.

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I want an Embankment that isn’t just a green lung but also the key landmark of the city centre. Most towns with a riverfront have made great use of the space and we must capitalise on the beautiful space we have. We only have one shot at this and we must make the most of it.

I want to see a boardwalk where families can enjoy the view and have fun. We need open space where residents can go for a walk and revitalise. A botanical garden would be ideal, and it would set the scene. Much has been made of the Embankment being underused. I say we make it appealing, attractive and accommodating so that everyone in Peterborough can visit the area and feel part of it. Surely, that isn’t too much to ask.

Peterborough United is an integral part of our city. I am a season ticket holder and want the club to be successful. I will do all I can to support the club secure suitable premises that are fit for purpose.

Cllr Fitzgerald’s recent comments are entirely unhelpful. “We may build on part of it, some of it or all of it.” Well, well, Cllr Fitzgerald. Who would have worked that one out without those wise words?

On a serious note, I am reminded of the great cities here in the UK and overseas that I have been fortunate enough to visit. They all have one thing in common. They have rivers running through them and they are proud of and make use of that topography. Places like Newcastle and Cardiff have made great use of their riverfront. And so must we. The economic and health benefits are huge. The plan is detailed, thorough and an excellent start. But it is only a start, and we must, as residents and stakeholders of Peterborough, focus our minds on what the River Nene could, and should, mean to us well before we think about paving over some of it, most of it or all of it.

Which brings me to some more deep, insightful and well thought through (I like irony) words from our MP, Paul Bristow. There is a lovely American word, gerrymandering, which comes from a governor of Massachusetts in the 19th century.

What Mr Gerry set out to do and I refer to my personal favourite definition which is:

“In representative democracies, Gerrymandering originally refers to political manipulation of electoral district boundaries with the intent of creating undue advantage for a party, group, or socio-economic class within the constituency.”

Myself and three of my Labour Party colleagues travelled down to Ipswich to speak out against the MP’s proposal to move Central Ward out of his Peterborough constituency and into the Northwest Cambridgeshire constituency whilst bringing

Conservative voting rural villages into Peterborough.

I think it is fair to write that the Conservatives do not get many votes in Central Ward, the largest, most diverse yet deprived ward in the city. Despite targeting the Muslim vote in the area since being elected, he is clearly prepared to jettison them to another constituency to create a safe seat out of a marginal one. Even members of his own party (not all, hang your heads in shame those councillors who support this nonsense) travelled to speak out against it. I applaud the Conservative members who spoke against the counterproposal.

We may decide to ‘pave paradise’, Paul, but moving wards south of the river for political gain just won’t wash – on either side. Yet, Paul, ashamedly canvasses in Central Ward like he loves those folks. Actions speak louder than words (and photos, of course).