Local elections: What are the plans for Peterborough’s city centre?

Ahead of local elections on May 6, which will see 23 seats on Peterborough City Council being contested, the Peterborough Telegraph is offering party leaders the chance to have their say on some of the biggest issues. This week they set out their visions for the city centre. In part two of this feature the Conservatives and Green Party have their say...

Saturday, 1st May 2021, 11:00 am
What can be done to support the city centre?

- Julie Howell(Green Party)

We must make Peterborough a destination for shopping again. John Lewis provided the motivation to shop in Peterborough. There is now a risk that people will travel elsewhere for that experience.

Shoppers’ buying habits are changing, with more people visiting shops to browse, then avoiding the hassle of queuing at tills and carrying goods to their cars by placing their orders online.

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To encourage people to purchase in-store there must be a perceived benefit in doing so. This may be why the shopping experience at outlet village Springfields in Spalding is popular. The opportunity to handle goods and then buy them at a discount price is a lure to shoppers, while the setting is pleasant, with an outdoor carpark away from the shopping area and multiple places to sit and eat.

If Peterborough is to thrive we must create destinations like this. When the experience offers multiple benefits to shoppers, including easy parking away from the shopping area, reliable public transport, accessible toilets, a pleasant environment with helpful sales staff and opportunities to handle or try on goods, with a price advantage over online where possible, people will come to Peterborough.

Shoppers are also interested in uniqueness. Independent shops are ideal for offering the opportunity to browse goods that shoppers may not have seen elsewhere. Rents and rates must be affordable to enable independents to establish roots.

During recent lockdowns, people have grown used to gifting unwanted items. More retail outlets that feed into a circular economy, such as repair shops, vintage and charity shops should be encouraged.

The city centre must become an attractive place for people of all ages to visit in the evening.

A light show on the cathedral, similar to the spectacular displays shown from dusk on public buildings in France, would draw more visitors on summer evenings. Public art should be a feature to create a pleasant ambiance.

The proposed new arts hub is an exciting addition. Festivals and events, such as the Heritage Festival, should be developed that attract people into the city centre.

For Peterborough to flourish as a university city it must offer the social and cultural aspects of student life, with more venues for live performances, and a re-emergence of the Willow Festival, which promoted local live music.

It is vital we retain our market, with quality, locally-sourced foods, offering tastes and flavours from around the world. If we offer food that cannot easily be experienced elsewhere in the region, people will come to Peterborough to try it.

We encourage more urban Green space, that promotes biodiversity and offers tranquil areas for shoppers. We would also find ways to incorporate the river as a lure to people to use the Rivergate centre.

Ultimately, a masterplan for the city must be created to ensure that it develops sustainably. More areas should be pedestrianised, and decisions should be made about how North Westgate, the market area and Broadway should be designed and developed to make them appealing to shoppers.

- Wayne Fitzgerald (Conservative Party)

Our vision for Peterborough 2050 is to create a city renowned nationally and internationally as a place to do business, a place to shop and a place where people want to come and live, work and raise a family. 

There are eight key development city centre sites that will provide high quality residential and commercial property in the heart of the city, plus space for additional cultural and retail attractions. We will look to raise £600 million as capital investment from the private sector to bring these sites to fruition.

They include: The Station Quarter, North Westgate, Northminster, Rivergate, the university and the Embankment, Middleholme and Fletton Quays.

To kick-start these plans we’ve recently been awarded £22.9 million pounds from the Towns’ Fund which aims to enhance the cultural offer in the city which is critical to our high street recovery.

The Towns’ Fund monies will have real focus:

- The Riverside Development and its connections - let’s improve the Embankment and university areas and, if possible, include a new multi-use arena which also allows for a new stadium for Posh. We’ll also develop the public realm along the riverfront and build a new footbridge. 

- The Station Quarter - enhancing visitors’ first impressions of the city and increasing commercial space for businesses that want rapid connectivity to London.

- Enterprise and skills infrastructure, including developing Green tech skills in construction and automotive industries.

- Future Green City – enhancing the public realm environment from the train station to the city centre, reducing road traffic and cutting air pollution, encouraging public transport and improving cycle lanes. 

We are determined to Build Back Better as we emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown and we believe our plans for Peterborough are truly transformative.

Businesses are still investing. Covid might have delayed some decisions but it’s not put an end to Peterborough’s growth. The high street, retailers and visitor economy have been heavily impacted, but some sectors have still grown.

In 2020 we saw investment and new jobs created across food production, manufacturing, logistics and distribution, even professional services (McCormick’s, Lidl, Coloplast, Ascendant FX, URBN). 

Peterborough is an important economic centre so is attracting visitors from neighbouring districts, not just its suburbs, but that should increase if travel isn’t as restricted in the future.

Café culture will help local retailers and the focus on supporting local businesses is going to be important for the visitor economy.

It makes Peterborough more unique and improves prosperity at a local level – we’re creating jobs and seeing money circulate closer to home. 

Cultural and experience led attractions will be increasingly important for recovery, with City Culture Peterborough now leading on culture and the plans contained within the Towns’ Fund. 

There has been 21 years of growth and prosperity in Peterborough under a Conservative-led administration which is why it’s so important to vote Conservative on May 6 so we can ensure this success continues and we remain in the top five fastest growing cities.