Last week I shared with you what I think are the benefits for residents and businesses of our proposed devolution deal with government from the perspective of education and training.
This week I’d like to focus on growth and in particular how devolution could benefit our transport and housing.
Let me start with transport, that’s our roads, train and bus services and how we connect with surrounding towns, rural areas, Cambridge and beyond.
We’re fortunate to be really well situated on the A1M and East Coast Main Line. However, businesses tell us that transport connectivity needs improving so people and freight can move around more freely with better connections to the east and west of our city and between Peterborough and Cambridge. Transport delays for businesses can cost them dearly, as it often means they miss deadlines.
If the proposed devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough goes ahead, we’d have access to a new £600 million fund (£20million annually) to improve transport and infrastructure across the county.
Having access to this kind of money will allow us and other councils in the county to plan road and rail improvements together that will benefit everyone, including people living in the urban and rural areas. In addition, having certainty over the money we will receive in future years will help us plan projects longer term, ensuring we get best value.
We’ll also have more money to spend on improving public transport, in particular to help our rural communities and young people access jobs. Virgin Trains, which runs the East Coast Main Line, is planning to introduce new high speed trains next year which will reduce the journey time from Peterborough to London to under 40 minutes. But we also need better rail links to Norwich, Cambridge and Stansted airport and devolution will put us in a much stronger position to secure that investment in quicker and more frequent services.
If we can also improve journey times by upgrading the roads and having better bus services then it should make Peterborough an even more attractive place to live, whether you work in the city or commute elsewhere, and to invest.
The devolution deal will also give us access to a £100million housing fund to be invested over the next five years to build more homes in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Peterborough is already enjoying some of the fastest rates of house-building in the UK, but as the country’s third fastest growing city, there is great pressure on housing.
This week we announced a new partnership with Cross Keys Homes to build additional homes in the city including affordable, market rent and outright sale homes.
The devolution proposal will give us capacity to make the most of this partnership and ensure that there is a mix of good quality homes for our residents now and in the future. This, along with improved transport links, the great opportunities for learning that I told you about last week, should make us an attractive place to live and do business.
If we press ahead with our plans for devolution, it will also give us a further chance to work with government to secure a Peterborough Enterprise Zone. If you’re not familiar with them, Enterprise Zones offer reduced business rates and other incentives to companies located within a specified area and financial support for infrastructure.
A Peterborough Enterprise Zone would boost our business economy and attract investment from companies, leading to more and better quality jobs for residents.
I hope you can see as well as I do what a great devolution proposal this is for Peterborough.
You can read more about the proposals and take part in an online survey by visiting www.peterborough.gov.uk/devolution. Hard copies of the questionnaire are available at Town Hall and Bayard Place receptions and all libraries. The consultation period closes on 23 August.
I was delighted this week to learn that House of Fraser’s plans for a distribution hub at Gateway Peterborough have received planning permission.
It’s fantastic news for our residents as the development will bring with it an additional 500 to 1,000 jobs. It’s also great news for the wider city as the additional business rates that we will generate can be used to provide services.
I predict this could be the first of many new businesses wanting to invest in our growing city.