Making the most of city’s assets

Coun John Holdich at Sand Piper House, Fletton Quays
Coun John Holdich at Sand Piper House, Fletton Quays

The next few years promise to be an exciting time for higher education in Peterborough.

The work that we are all doing now to create a dedicated university will, I believe, transform our city for the next 100 years and beyond, writes cllr John Holdich, leader of Peterborough City Council.

It will change the aspirations of our residents, giving everyone the chance to attain the highest skills they are able to, in order to apply for the jobs offered by our employers.

The research that we are doing now means that we can be sure of this - and this approach is what will set our university apart from every other across the country.

Almost 80 businesses recently responded to a survey undertaken by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority asking what kinds of courses and skills they would like to see delivered at the new University of Peterborough.

Employers said that skills in mechanical and structural engineering, mathematics, science and certain health and social care skills were in demand now and would be in the future. The most popular areas were business, IT and digital and sustainability skills, with newer and rapidly progressing technology such as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity likely to be in significant demand in the future.

Of course, it’s not just what is taught, but how it’s taught, and employers told us that work-based learning through higher apprenticeships would provide the most benefit.

In further good news, a project management team has been appointed to get us from where we are now, to the first students walking through the doors of the new university in 2022. The team from Mace will lead on the delivery of the university, including planning permission for the building, the actual build project, and the creation of the curriculum.

The university we are creating for Peterborough will break the mould for what higher education can deliver. It will make other cities think differently, and consider how its educational offering is connected to the local economy.

These are exciting times for higher education in Peterborough, and will lead to greater aspirations for our residents, as well as enabling us to keep hold of our talented people.

On Monday, I attended the launch of a new campaign from Natural England which plans to double the area of rich wildlife habitats and natural green space across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Peterborough is blessed with natural assets, I often say it’s our best kept secret - there’s Nene Park, Cuckoo’s Hollow, Crown Lakes, The Green Backyard and Eye Green nature reserve, to name just a few. We also have 1,097 allotments across the city, and many smaller pockets of green spaces and parks, including Central Park, Itter Park and Manor Farm Park, which have all retained the prestigious Green Flag Award.

However, on the whole, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has one of the smallest areas of land managed for nature of any county in the country, relative to size. The Doubling Nature ambition gives us the opportunity to change this, and create an even greener Peterborough.

We certainly have the appetite to deliver - last week at our Full Council meeting, councillors unanimously declared a climate emergency and agreed amongst other things to make the council’s activities net-zero carbon by 2030. Creating more areas which are nature rich is a critical part of responding to the climate challenge.

We’ve had lots of people contact us about the closure of Northminster car park for safety reasons following a structural assessment.

Although the report we have received is fairly conclusive that the car park has reached the end of its life, unless there is significant investment in it, I have asked for a second opinion which is being carried out this week. Once we have this report we will make a decision on its future.