A £50 million regeneration plan for the East of England Arena and Events Centre will leave major spectator events from Truckfest to Motorhomes along with Peterborough Panthers speedway team looking for new venues, it has been confirmed.
The Arena’s new operators Asset Earning Power Group (AEPG) say they are now in advanced talks with the organisers of a number of major outdoor shows, which have long been favourites with the public, about finding new venues or ‘changing dramatically’, from July 1 next year.
The moves comes as AEPG accelerates its proposals for a major housing and leisure resort development on the 165 acre showground with the goal of submitting a planning application for homes and a second application for the leisure resort before July 1 next year.
Those proposals for the Arena were first unveiled late last year when AEPG announced it had entered into a land promotion agreement with the East of England Agricultural Society to develop and enhance the site with a leisure-led mixed use development.
Now AEPG wants to move on with the development and has been in intensive talks with its clients.
Which attractions are earmarked to go?
A spokesman for AEPG said: “2023 Truckfest, MCN, Motorhomes, Plantworx, and Antiques will all go ahead.
"It will only be after July 1 next year that these shows will either dynamically change to fit the venue or move to new homes and we are working with organisers on this.”
It is understood the Peterborough Panthers speedway track and grandstand will be demolished to make way for housing.
He said: “We are directly supporting the Peterborough Panthers to find a new home and will be working with them over the coming months to look at the best way forward, and discussions are on going regarding the 2023 season.
"Indoor events will remain unchanged.”
Why is this happening now?
The spokesman said AEPG had embarked on a new twin track process – submitting two applications at the same time - that will speed up the overall development delivery.
He said: "The showground was originally going to be released as two distinct parcels of land over time, with a gradual reduction in Arena land and facilities.
“As planning develops and is submitted, more information regarding both the housing and leisure developments will be becoming available but at this time it was important to support existing clients by communicating clearly the timescales involved.
He added: “The project was always scheduled to be in the region of £50 million.
"There have been significant cost increases across multiple industries and this naturally has a knock-on effect, as well as increased enthusiasm for the leisure project.”
What is being proposed?
AEPG says it is focused on the construction of a purpose-built leisure village that will include new conferencing facilities, accommodation, a health and wellness centre.
They say it will transform the venue from its existing agricultural showground into a modern and versatile event and hospitality destination and help create 500 jobs.
When the plans were first unveiled, AEPG said it envisaged 1,600 homes being built – 650 of which are already earmarked in the Peterborough Local Plan.
Ashley Butterfield, chief executive of AEPG, said: “The showground will be transformed by this significant investment, creating up to 500 new jobs and many new leisure and entertainment opportunities for Peterborough.”
He said the regeneration of the East of England Arena and the development of the showground land into housing and leisure would bolster Peterborough and create a cultural and leisure destination for the whole country.
Pamela Newbould, Head of Events at the East of England Arena, said: “Fundamentally this development won't change how the majority of our regular indoor shows and events are run.
"The site will be operating normally until July 1, 2023, and we're contacting all of our customers to walk them through how the development will affect their events, if at all.
"We will have to say farewell to some fantastic outdoor shows we've worked with over the years, and not without sadness, but as our venue evolves to meet the needs of modern events and experiences, we are very excited for the future of shows, conferences and exhibitions at The Arena."
Lee Sharp, managing director of the East of England Showground Services, said the development project was a big departure from the East of England Arena's history as a showground and outdoor event space.
He said: “Our vision for the future of the venue is to offer an exciting and pleasurable destination for people in Peterborough, and a flagship new event destination for the UK.
"This is one of the largest projects of its kind in the country at this time, it's a big moment for the venue and a big moment for Peterborough."
Is there likely to be much opposition?
Councillor Julie Stevenson, who is one of the area’s representatives on Peterborough City Council, said: “Residents of Peterborough have been anticipating changes to what we know as the Showground.
"There is sadness that events like Truckfest will no longer take place here after 2023.
"But there is also anticipation for what’s to come and we’re keeping a keen eye out for AEPG’s planning application later this year.
"I’m sure those events that will happen here for the last time in 2023 will be planning special send-offs and we’ll all be looking forward to that.”