Opinion: ‘Building a better future for us all’

Wayne Fitzgerald, city council leader and Conservative group leader on Peterborough City Council writes...

Sunday, 5th September 2021, 1:30 pm
Fletton Quays.

We can all relate to the excitement of the first day back at school after the long summer break, which many of our city’s pupils, teachers and staff have experienced this week.

I would like to personally welcome everyone involved in education back for the new academic year and wish you all the best.

The past 18 months have been a period like no other and our schools and colleges have coped magnificently in the face of unprecedented challenges.

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The battle against Covid-19 is still ongoing, but I hope those in education can get back to learning in a more normal environment.

One way of ensuring this happens is the active drive to get as many 16 and 17-year-olds vaccinated as possible.

Following the latest government guidance, the vaccine is now being offered to anyone aged 16 or above at several daily walk-in centres. Young people in the newly eligible group can visit www.thevaccinators.co.uk to find a list of all suitable walk-in locations.

People who attend the walk-in clinics only need to bring a face covering – ID and NHS number are not required.

Covid rates in Peterborough have stabilised lately, but they remain well above the national and regional average.

The city was buzzing over the bank holiday weekend with big events such as Truck Fest attracting visitors from far and wide. Whilst it’s great to see more people out and about, we still need everyone to play their part in helping to reduce virus rates.

So please continue to stay safe, take a test after attending an event and get both doses of the vaccine, if you haven’t done so already.

Our regeneration plans for Peterborough are the most ambitious this city has seen for decades and one of several exciting projects has just received a timely boost.

We have long-since earmarked the Railway Station Quarter for development, and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority recently agreed to designate £350,000 towards the project.

This will go towards developing a strategic outline business case, moving this much-anticipated development another step closer.

We aim to improve the station and surrounding area by making it more attractive for redevelopment and creating greener transport links, with joined up footpaths and cycleways.

A new gateway station will be created along with enhanced station entrances and a new footbridge. This will ease passenger flows at peak times, as well as reducing congestion into the city from over Crescent Bridge. Upgraded and extended platform canopies will also be installed.

Improved walking and cycling connections to the city centre will be created, ensuring the journey to and from the station is quicker, easier and more pleasant.

This is just one of several exciting regeneration projects in the pipeline. You won’t have failed to notice that Fletton Quays is vividly transforming the city’s skyline, with construction work on the new Hilton Hotel and government hub continuing at pace ahead of opening next year.

Peterborough’s time really is now and there is so much for everyone to look forward to.

Improving facilities in our city centre is a key ambition and we particularly want to enhance what’s on offer for disabled residents.

Along with a group of councillors I recently took part in an interesting experience of what life is like for those with disabilities.

We wore ‘sim specs’ glasses to recreate peripheral or total visual defects and navigated the pavements of Bridge Street and Bourges Boulevard in wheelchairs. It was intriguing and certainly highlighted some of the difficulties disabled residents face.

One such challenge is accessing public toilets and I’ve also made it our mission to remedy the lack of loos in the city centre, which I recognise is a big bugbear for many.

We are actively working to increase the number of toilets and will be liaising with the disabled community to find the best locations for these.

I have also set up a new working group which will 
report to the council’s cabinet from this month onwards. One of their key responsibilities is improving disabled facilities, so watch this space.

As part of my ambition for the council to be even more open and transparent with our residents, I recently started a monthly session called ‘Ask the Leader’.

It’s an informal online meeting, giving residents a chance to put questions to myself and council officers on any issues that affect their daily lives.

The latest session took place earlier this week and featured discussions on a range of subjects, including anti-social driving, construction of new schools and car parking behind the town hall. You can watch it back on the council’s YouTube channel.

You can also submit questions for the next event, on Tuesday, September 28, to [email protected] and we will respond with details and a link to the meeting.