Opinion: ‘Levelling must be more than just a slogan for Peterborough’

Toby Wood, of Peterborough Civic Society writes...

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 19th February 2022, 9:30 am
The proposed Vine devlopment.
The proposed Vine devlopment.

Much has been written about the government’s levelling-up agenda.

I suppose that, in a nutshell, levelling up must mean narrowing the gap between rich and poor; the haves and have-nots.

Easier said than done.

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Burghley House.

Slogans are easy, delivery is somewhat more difficult.

Perhaps, most importantly, anything to do with money for local authorities these days is a financial minefield.

Peterborough is the most northerly outpost of Cambridgeshire, with the city of Cambridge in the south of the county.

Using all the government’s own measures, many of the wealthy environs of Cambridge city certainly don’t require any levelling-up assistance, being situated as it is in the so-called Golden Triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge.

The Must Farm bronze age site.

But Peterborough certainly does require levelling up and indeed some parts are even being levelled, eg The Solstice and parts of North Westgate.

Peterborough itself contains huge variety and has its own particular needs. Some parts need assistance and some don’t.

Burghley Road probably does, but Burghley House doesn’t (yes, Burghley House is in Peterborough, honest!)

It is fascinating that some schools in nearby rural settings have been known to operate exchange visits with local inner-city schools a mere five miles away so that pupils can learn about ‘how other people live’.

I have to say that ‘levelling up’ is a rather peculiar phrase in relation to Peterborough, living as we do at the edge of the Fens.

I reckon that, in the geological sense at least, we’re pretty levelled already!

However, it is certainly good news that Peterborough will be receiving money, along with Towns Fund cash, to improve our lot.

We have been promised the new pedestrian bridge across the River Nene (promoted a few years ago by local broadcaster Paul Stainton, with his ‘Build the bridge’ chant).

The Lakeside Activity Centre at Nene Park and a Green Technology Centre have also been promised.

Let’s not forget that, as part of the £22.9 million figure, there are other projects that have been promised too: The Vine culture hub in the former TK Maxx building; work on the Station Quarter; the Embankment Masterplan and river frontage upgrade are all in there.

We must also not forget that, as part of the bid, there is supposed to be a new Bronze Age extension to the museum to house the “globally significant” Must Farm boats from Flag Fen.

It is indeed ironic that at the very time the museum’s finances are being severely restricted, the Towns Fund museum extension is being planned.

Let us hope that this money is not somehow diverted into existing basic day-to-day running costs.

Towns Fund and levelling-up money are promised to help make the city a better place to live.

Promises mean nothing, delivery means everything. So, politicians and administrators, make sure it happens ... we shall be watching!

Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, has announced a competition to find a new national headquarters for Great British Railways outside London.

Now quite why Mr Shapps needs a competition to decide that Peterborough is clearly the best candidate, I really don’t know.

I do feel sorry for Swindon, Doncaster and York, worthy places though they might be.

But Peterborough has already demonstrated a recent reference to its railway history by converting some of the old railway buildings on the old East Station site into offices and retail units.

Sand Martin House, which incorporates council offices, is a great example of a conversion of an old building, while the adjacent Bewiched coffee shop is the perfect place to enjoy a hot drink and cake before strolling to a Posh match a few hundred yards away. Glutton for punishment?

Peterborough has had a rich railway tradition for many years.

When I was a nipper, I would spend many a lazy summer day trainspotting near the level crossing at Sages Lane, in Walton, where lines of two of the old railway companies – the LNER (London, North Eastern Railway) and LMS (London, Midland and Scottish) – ran side by side.

Hours of fun were had spotting A4 Pacifics, Deltics and Brushes.

Yes, Peterborough is the perfect place for Great British Railways’ headquarters.

End of (the line)!

Levelling up, levelling, level crossings! Where will this all end!

Hopefully not on the buffers!