Peterborough United must apply for ‘exception to policy’ to build proposed stadium on the Embankment
Peterborough United have been told that they must apply for an ‘exception to policy’ to proceed with their planned stadium development on the Embankment.
The stadium plan has been progressing since February 2020, when a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the club’s co-owners Darragh MacAnthony, Stewart Thompson and Jason Neale and Peterborough City Council but, due to delays caused by the pandemic, has not yet reached the planning stage.
Posh have earmarked the Embankment as their preferred site for a new multi purpose stadium and have now confirmed that they are ready to proceed by submitting an official planning application once the new council has settled in following local elections in May.
Stewart Thompson gave fans an in-depth looks at the plans in an online Zoom meeting on Wednesday.
In the meeting, it was revealed that due to Local Plan Policy LP51, Posh’s plans to move to the area have been complicated by the fact they would have to apply for an exception to policy, as well as following the full planning and public scrutiny process.
The policy states that ‘the area will remain a predominantly open area for social, recreational, leisure and cultural uses,’ with any built development confined to the north side.
It also states that ‘views of the Cathedral from the south and south-east and the settings of the Lido and Customs House should be preserved or enhanced where appropriate’.
Mr Thompson moved to allay fears that the new stadium was not in keeping with Peterborough’s desire for green spaces to be used by the community and to become the environment capital of the UK.
He said: “We have been working with Peterborough City Council for three years, looking at five or six places and the one that makes the most sense is the area we have synergy with the city and that is the masterplan.
“We are focused on reinvigorating a downtown core, bringing education, commerce, spiritual life, entertainment and social activity together in a really binding square all around the Embankment.
“We think that what we need to build in that nine acres we need is actually going to be an entertainment and community centre for the community 250 days, which happens to play football 40.”
In February, fellow Posh co-owner Jason Neale confirmed that the club were in talks with ARU Peterborough over a potential partnership and Mr Thompson said that these talks were progressing well and could lead to further improvements in the site’s green credentials.
He added: “We’re working really hard now on an MOU that we’d love to have announced soon with ARU Peterborough and it’s going to be about how we blend what the university is doing with what we’re doing, we’ve talked about tech accelerators, linkages with classes, physical space and obviously around green space.
“One of the things that makes Peterborough really amazing is the green space. I have travelled all over the UK and it is one of the prettiest places because of the green spaces and the utilisation of it.
“I hope I’ve been clear from the beginning that we believe green space is important. We have seen the documents on Peterborough Green and we know that the stadium is going to have to embrace that and we want to embrace that.
“One of my favourite things as a football fan was the walk from the tube station across Putney park to Fulham and I’d like to recreate that in Peterborough.
“You walk by our iconic cathedral, across a green space that has a beautiful walkway to our iconic stadium while you’re looking at our university with the river on the right.
“The stadium will be as green as it can, we’ve got a few people with us who are pushing beyond carbon neutral into plus.
“I’m also campiaigning for the stadium to be bashed into the ground as far as possible as I think the Cathedral views should still be the focal point and the Embankment is actually less of a floodplain than Middlehome (east of the embankment).”
Other issues discussed in the meeting included that of noise and what time it should carry on until, the potential of redeveloping the current stadium, which was rejected because of the cost and the difficulties, including asbestos being found in the main stand and the separation of ownership between the club and the stadium. Mr Thompson was clear that the strategy was the best possible way to protect the club’s finances and to make it easier for investors in the stadium project to come on board.
The other key issue discussed was access, with Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, who also attended the online meeting, playing down any concerns that there would be a lack of parking.
He said: “I’ve been going to Posh for many years and most people walk, nothing will change; there isn’t going to be a parking problem.
“In actual fact, on the Key Theatre site, there are already plans to replace that hard-standing car park with a multi storey car park, nothing to do with the Embankment or the Posh, that is just already in place.
“What would change from now? There is still the railway car park, there are still the existing car parks and we’ve also got the new Sand Martin car park that will be connected via the new bridge over the Nene.”
Mr Thompson also stated that plans are a year and a half behind and that his ideal scenario would see the planning process take six months to keep to the original plan of completing the stadium within 18-24 months.
Objections could be numerous though, with some concerned residents’ groups having set up a Facebook group called Save Peterborough Embankment, which has attracted more than 1600 members.
To listen to the meeting with Stewart Thomspon and Cllr Fitzgerald in full, click here.