Local elections: What is the vision 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.

Saturday, 1st May 2021, 10:30 am
John Lewis has closed its Queensgate store.

In part one we feature the views of Labour and the Lib Dems. Part two will feature the Conservatives and the Green Party...

- Nick Sandford 
(Liberal Democrats)

The Liberal Democrats believe that a thriving local economy is essential for the future of Peterborough. Our aim is to provide people with an access to a wide range of well-paid employment opportunities and to encourage entrepreneurs to set up businesses here, particularly to support our carbon-neutral goals.

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We will work with the key local business networks to understand the current and future needs of employers.

We will feed employment planning into our infrastructure, housing, transport and education development to ensure we make the most of the opportunities that employers will bring.

Small companies offer great potential for growth in stimulating new jobs directly and in benefiting our lives locally.

We will encourage vibrant new start-up companies to emerge and flourish, especially from the new university, by working with partners in both public and private sectors to provide good business advice and access to capital.

We will support the excellent innovation centres Peterborough benefits from which already encourage new technologies and social enterprises. We will also explore how the council can assist new manufacturing enterprises with premises made available on ‘easy in, easy out’ rental terms.

We will support the use of apprenticeships and ensure that the city council itself takes on more apprentices.

Lib Dems will work with the council and local employers to encourage employee participation and involvement in decision-making and ownership of companies by employees through co-operatives and other mechanisms.

John Lewis Partnership is a great example of a successful employee-owned company and it is a tragedy that they have been lost from the heart of our Queensgate shopping centre.

We will lobby central Government to scrap business rates entirely and replace them with a tax on land values. In the meantime, we will bring new life to the city centre, urgently reviewing business rates to stem the tides of businesses deserting Bridge Street and the heart of Peterborough.

We will explore innovative approaches to risk-sharing to draw in new retailers who will add vibrancy and originality to the city. New retailers will serve the needs and aspirations of our thriving local population and attract people from outside the city to contribute to our local economy.

Peterborough’s economy needs to grow in an environmentally-sustainable way, protecting and enhancing our natural environment and publicly accessible greenspace.

We should make “creating the UK’s environment capital” a meaningful aim and not an empty slogan, as it often is under our Tory-led council. We will look at introducing Green investment bonds to give local people the opportunity to invest in our future for positive returns.

The covid pandemic has led to many small businesses and the self-employed struggling to survive the loss of trade bought about by restrictions to protect public health.

The Lib Dems believe these business and individuals should not be abandoned and will support the provision of grants and other schemes to enable them to thrive when restrictions are lifted.

For more information, see the Liberal Democrat Local Election Manifesto at www.peterboroughlibdems.org.uk.

- Shaz Nawaz (Labour Party)

Having been accused by our MP of talking down the city centre, it is becoming apparent that he likes positive slogans but does not want to face the stark reality. As a born and bred Peterborian it is a pleasure to provide readers with Labour’s plan to redefine the city centre in the wake of the recent spate of closures in Queensgate.

It is noticeable that the marketing department of Next agrees with us in its analysis. Whilst Serpentine Green and Brotherhood branches will remain open, Queensgate will close. We must ask ourselves why.

Quite simply, there are lots of changes in the city centre this administration has failed to recognise. People are driving on our parkways to go out of the city, not into it.

More people are driving to Hampton and Brotherhood for the easy access and free parking and footfall, the number of people who visit the shopping centre is falling.

We need to help the businesses that remain to compete with online retailers by allowing them to open longer. Free parking is also a requirement. But there must also be other attractions than bookies and charity shops.

How about attracting artisan bakeries, craft shops and businesses that create experiences for shopping. More ‘you have to be there’ moments that young entrepreneurs will bring, not faceless chains that look purely at the balance sheet.

How about arts, culture and leisure that is, wait for this, owned by the city for the benefit of the city. We are not merely a paying audience but share in the benefits as residents. A co-operative solution where we encourage money generated in the city to stay in the city and not be taken out by a global shareholder – who is clearly prepared to shut up shop, literally, when disaster strikes.

How about ground floor retail and business space and upper floor living? What is wrong with urban living in well-appointed apartments as happens in the major cities?

How about rooftop community centres and family attractions where space on buildings is utilised?

The point is that we don’t join a taskforce when we realise the stable door has been left open. We proactively engage with the people who matter most. Those who live, work, and have an interest in what their city centre looks like now and in 10 years’ time.

As with all things in life, there are more questions than answers but, surely, we must start by asking them of ourselves, the people who are willing to invest and make a commitment and the people who want to use it.

We have a rapidly changing population who are interested in different things and have many different options to spend their money.

Our manifesto is geared to “Destination Peterborough”.

To make our city a place to live, learn, work and grow in.

Labour is not looking to do ‘same old…’ but refresh, regenerate and re-energise to put the beating heart back where it belongs – in the city centre.