Ross Renton, the principal of the £30 million ARU Peterborough, which is being built on the Embankment off Bishop’s Road, says the vision is for a growing university, attractive to elite employers, and set in an open, green space uncluttered by fencing and enclosures.
It seems that vision has been obscured suddenly by a £200,000 masterplan for the transformation of the Embankment that is also designed to protect the 70 acre green space from ugly piecemeal development.
For the masterplan, released on Friday by Stantec and Barton Willmore, consultants to Peterborough City Council, suggests an Arena, that might be the new home of Peterborough United Football Club and capable of holding at least 20,000 fans, could be built on a site adjoining the university.
The masterplan is cautious about the Arena and warns its design, scale and massing has the
potential to compete with the Cathedral and that detailed justification and evidence based
on an alternative site search would be required to demonstrate that this would be the only suitable location for an Arena within the City, alongside a high quality of architectural design.
The masterplan also outlines a transformed Embankment that does not contain an Arena or stadium.
But Mr Renton, who will take charge of the first students when the Peterborough business-led university opens in September, warned that siting the Arena so close to the university posed challenges.
He said: “Our initial thinking is that it is very close to the proposed university and would pose an array of challenges for us to operate the campus.
“I think there is more discussion to be had about the location of the Arena.
“To have the stadium right on top of the campus would cause a range of operational challenges for us.
“It has always been an ambition that the university would need room to grow and expand over the years.”
Basic challenges could revolve around large scale events with 20,000 people in while teaching is taking place on buildings next door or 20,00 people moving around the campus site as teaching and learning and open days are going on.
Mr Renton said: “In order to be successful we need research as well as vibrant learning community at the heart of Peterborough.
“It is very much about being an open campus so there isn’t fences around the campus.
“If you think about our phase three building - the Living Lab - we really are encouraging the public to come in and see what’s going on and to take part.
“It was always envisaged it would grow over a 10 year period and we have been really fortunate that we have been able to get to three phases that were are at now and we have a few more phases to go.
Mr Renton said: “We are not against a stadium or Arena in the city by any means.
“But we need to consider the right options and locations and it mustn’t impact on the great ambitions we have for a university and its operations.
He added: “It is really helpful for the masterplan to be published.
“It has some excellent ambitions within around the cultural quarter, and I really like the connectivity and bringing people in the Embankment and creating lots of usable space.
“It is really encouraging and shows ambition for the city.”