Before I moved to Peterborough in 1984, I didn’t really know much about the city. I had been through Peterborough station on a train on several occasions and I remember hearing the name “Peterborough United” on the football results every Saturday.
I think that illustrates the importance of a football club (and a railway) to a city like Peterborough: quite literally it puts us on the map and brings us to the attention of millions of our fellow citizens. A successful football club boosts the local economy and brings people and investment into our city. And let’s not forget we have more than one successful football club in Peterborough: the amazing record of Peterborough Sports in winning four successive promotions over a five year period is certainly something we should be proud of.
The council has sold the London Road football ground to the Posh for a sum considerably less than it paid for it only a few years ago. But the club has announced it doesn’t want to stay there (we assume it wants to sell off the ground to a housing developer) and it wants to move to a new ground on the Embankment. After much pressure from the Liberal Democrats and others, the council has finally published the memorandum of understanding it signed with Posh last year: it states that the council wants to help the club move to its preferred site, but if that is not feasible then another site on the other side of the Fletton Parkway could be considered.
We all want Posh to be successful. And it’s important that we keep the club in the city centre for a number of reasons, including ensuring that all its fans can continue to easily access the ground, without having to make long car journeys. But that does not mean that the council should give the Posh directors all that they want without question, and it should not mean necessarily that the Embankment has to be the site of the new ground. Building a new stadium on the site of the existing Posh ground is one alternative option that could be considered, or they could move to another site near the city centre.
The city council exists to serve all the citizens of Peterborough: whether they are football fans or not. The Embankment is for all the people of Peterborough and is used for many large events each year. The university wants a chunk of it.
Posh now wants some of it too: not just for a stadium but for car parks and all the additional infrastructure that a football ground needs.
We urgently need a masterplan for the whole Embankment area: in fact we needed it at least two years ago. All the parties involved are already taking up entrenched positions and, until a couple of weeks ago, the council was shrouding the whole process in secrecy.
Our Local Plan says that the Embankment should be protected as open space. It could be improved: it could have more trees and more wildlife habitat, whilst still maintaining its current uses. It could accommodate some development and, done properly, that could make it better in many ways: but we desperately need to see an Embankment-wide plan: and it needs to be subject to full and meaningful consultation with all the people of Peterborough.
Let’s support our successful local football clubs (plural!) but let’s also ensure that our valuable green space is protected for the benefit of future generations.