Community hub and university expansion on Peterborough City Council's agenda

From funding Peterborough’s new community hub to building a new laboratory and teaching block at ARU, these are the biggest items on the council’s agenda as we start the new year
Peterborough's ARU campus could expand into the Regional Pool Car ParkPeterborough's ARU campus could expand into the Regional Pool Car Park
Peterborough's ARU campus could expand into the Regional Pool Car Park

Peterborough City Council (PCC) will hold its first Cabinet meeting of the year on Monday, 16 January – with funding opportunities for the city’s proposed community hub and plans to expand its new university on the agenda.

The council will also consider changing its approach to regulating the private rental sector, with rogue landlords potentially facing fines if their homes are not up to scratch.

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Below, we take a look at the biggest items on the agenda - subject, of course, to PCC approval - and what their impact could be.

Funding bid to be submitted for Peterborough’s new ‘culture and community hub’

Firstly, PCC will discuss submitting a request for around £9 million of Government funding to develop The Vine, a proposed culture and community hub in the former TK Maxx building on Bridge Street.

The council has already received £4m for the project from the Department of Levelling Up (DLUHC) via their Towns Fund, meaning the total asking is around £13m.

Even with this money, a funding gap would persist - but if this can be plugged, PCC envisions that the hub will provide a library and spaces for studying, start-ups and exhibitions.

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It could also be used by the council as a meeting place, although it would be privately operated (with PCC as landlord).

The project is projected to cost just over £18 million, meaning that PCC needs around £5m extra to see it through.

Currently the council is considering bidding for public, charity or private funding or delivering the project in phases to address this gap.

If approved, PCC anticipates that its further Town Fund money will be received in June.

Peterborough ARU to expand with new lab and teaching block

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Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) Peterborough opened in September, but building work is ongoing.

Developers want to create a second teaching block, accommodating up to 1,700 more students, and a new laboratory, for which planning permission has already been secured.

Shareholders, including PCC, are being asked for their approval for the £26m expansion which would be built on the site of the current Regional Pool Car Park.

The new building would mean that ARU Peterborough can offer more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects, developers say.

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Peterborough culture hub 'The Vine' takes a step forward as council prepare to s...
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PCC’s consent is not technically needed to progress with this but would demonstrate their support.

The council’s approval is needed to transfer the car park land to developers, though, as it’s currently under their jurisdiction.

This is also on the agenda, with assurances that temporary parking will be provided followed by new permanent parking provisions.

Housing standards to be improved in the rental sector

PCC has a “responsibility” to raise the standards of private rented accommodation in the city according to an internal report recommending the council review its approach to ensuring landlords are meeting housing requirements.

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While there are “many responsible landlords” in the sector, some housing is still of such poor quality that it puts the health and welfare of tenants at risk, the report says.

PCC will discuss several ways to change their approach, most significantly through greater enforcement, such as fining non-compliant landlords, and by establishing a new licensing scheme.

This scheme would mean that all private rental accommodation within part of Peterborough would have to meet certain safety and management requirements, no matter the size.

Although the exact area is yet to be confirmed, this is anticipated to impact around 40 per cent of the city’s private rented stock.

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This new licensing scheme would cover a larger area than before and would also mean that compliance checks were carried out by a third party – not yet named – rather than PCC.

In the last five years, the council only managed to complete one compliance check per property, it says, which it is hoped the new arrangement would address.

The scheme remains subject to Government approval as well as securing new contracts and necessary funding.

There are also plenty of other items on the agenda:

- Approving further funding to work on deciding the location of a new Peterborough Youth Zone where young people can attend mentoring and personal development classes

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- Reviewing the council’s Local Plan - which would require a reserve of £350,000 per year for the next three financial years - and lay out a “vision for the future of Peterborough” including policies relating to planning, housing, employment, environment, climate change, transport, culture and tourism

- Approving a new £2.2m contract allowing software company Access UK Limited to provide Peterborough’s adult social care service IT system for five years rather than continuing with the in-house system

- Including exit protocols in joint working arrangements between PCC and Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) to ensure services can continue smoothly in instances where it’s transferred to PCC alone

- Bringing forward the end of PCC’s agreement with NPS Peterborough Ltd in order to manage its property and estate itself sooner (current termination date is in June 2023).

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PCC will also discuss the Independent Improvement and Asurrance Panel (PCC IIAP)’s second report on their progress as an authority, particularly in regards to their financial sustainability.

The panel says that it recognises that the council has made “significant progress” in the past six months to address its financial sustainability, PCC’s report says, but added that “major risks remain”.

PCC IIAP will continue to monitor the council’s progress, its says, while PCC will discuss accepting its findings and recommendations at the Cabinet meeting and begin working towards implementing them.