Council leader calls on developer to push ahead with Peterborough’s long-awaited North Westgate plans
The developer driving Peterborough’s planned multi-million pound North Westgate regeneration has been urged to ‘get on with it’.
Outgoing leader of Peterborough City Council Councillor John Holdich has warned that developers Hawksworth Securities are falling behind the pace and risk being left behind by other changes in the city.
His comments come eight months after the council and Peter Breach, chairman of Hawksworth Securities, announced an agreement to begin acquiring the properties and land needed to get the £150 million development off the ground.
It had been hoped that work on the regeneration, which was first proposed in 1992, would start this September.
But now it has been revealed that a new planning application for the site will have to be submitted in July to take account of marketplace changes wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Breach said: “The project has slipped.
“It is still possible that demolition work could start in the autumn.
“I am 100 per cent confident that the development of North Westgate will happen but I’m just not sure when.
“I understand the council leader has ambitions to drive this development ahead and we all want to do that.
“We are firing on all cylinders here but these are difficult times.”
The development, which was approved by councillors more than two years ago, provides new homes, offices, a hotel along with retail, restaurants, cafe and leisure uses. It envisages the Brewery Tap pub and Westgate New Church staying within an enhanced public realm.
The council, which had set aside £15 million to help kickstart the project, has agreed to carry out the initial purchase of a number of properties to ensure the whole site can be developed although talks are still ongoing with some owners.
No properties have been compulsorily purchased.
Mr Breach said: “The Covid crisis and the changes to retail have caused a real headache.
“We are in the difficult position of now having to try and imagine what sort of demand there will be for office space in the city and how the retail offer should change to meet a new type of demand.
“Architects are drawing up new plans. There might be more leisure uses and less retail but it is too early to say exactly what the plans will look like.
“We hope to submit a new planning application in July.
“We are keen to get a big office user in as no one wants to build a large office speculatively in the current climate. We’d love to get a large Government office into the city and we are working with the local authorities on this.”
Cllr Holdich, who retires next month, said: “Hawksworth Securities does need to get on with it.
“Mr Breach is in danger of being left behind by other developments in the city and by Covid.
“He’s likely to lose out. He is falling behind the pace.
He said: “There are other people out there who want to do it. The development will happen because the demand is there and jobs are still coming into Peterborough.”
But Cllr Holdich accepted the development, which could take years to complete, was unlikely to get under way this year.
He said: “It isn’t going to happen this year and the planning application will need a review.
“There will have to be a review in the light of the impact of Covid and other developments that are taking place around the city.
“For instance, the Northminster planning application, which is still to be submitted, will provide 300 dwellings and more retail. He will need to rethink the retail offering.”
A council spokesperson, said: “Hawksworth continues to work closely with Peterborough City Council to progress the preparatory work essential to the regeneration.
“As with any such major mixed use regeneration current consented proposals will be brought up to date to keep pace with trends and preferences, to meet market needs and create an attractive environment in which to live, work and visit.”