I have long been sceptical about the Fletton Quays project (writes Shaz Nawaz, Labour group leader on Peterborough City Council). I wondered why a major corporation such as Hilton Hotels would require a £15 million loan guarantee to help set up there. It has also just come to light that Greggs and Bewiched will be offered places there, rent free.
I do not completely begrudge the assistance to Bewiched: they are a medium-sized business who are expanding into their second Peterborough venue.
What I don’t understand is the concession to Greggs. It is the largest bakery chain in the United Kingdom with revenues of circa £960 million in 2017. Surely, if locating in Fletton Quays is such an attractive prospect, a firm with that kind of financial firepower would be keen to set up shop there without any additional assistance.
The amount of financial support the project is receiving from the council should make us pause.
Again: if Fletton Quays is such an attractive place to set up a business, why is the council falling over itself to incentivise businesses to go there?
Also, if the Conservatives believe so fervently in the efficacy of the free market, surely they wouldn’t be providing this level of corporate welfare?
Furthermore, given the recent Key Stage 2 results and our continuing issues with housing, surely any money that’s available would be far better spent on the city’s real needs.
Here’s the truth: whenever we meet in the council chamber, Fletton Quays is the white elephant in the room. It is akin to the man whose house is falling apart yet he maxes out his credit in order to buy a shiny speedboat. The boat may look nice, but its utility is somewhat diminished if one is living in a dilapidated shack. It’s a project which doesn’t appear to support a “buy local” agenda, with the exception of Bewiched.
It is an expensive ornament for our city, which will loom over pothole strewn roads and schools that lack necessary resources.
Given this, one may ask: why is the present administration doing it? Put simply, fixing schools, roads, and housing is difficult and time consuming. There is no “big bang” event to which the press will come, and no photos that will be distributed over social media. There’s no glasses of champagne to clink together, nor CEOs from multimillion pound businesses with whom to share the bubbly.
However, it is by doing the difficult, time consuming things that we achieve real progress. It is why, for example, the Park Ward team takes part in Speedwatch initiatives and helps tidy public spaces.
It’s not glamorous; but we are here to serve the city, not vanity.
I will keep pushing the council regarding Fletton Quays: I accept it is there, but I don’t accept the price tag. Hilton and Greggs should pay their fair share for the upkeep of this project. It should be viable on its own.