New metro mayor gives ‘full support’ to new Peterborough United stadium despite green space concerns
Peterborough’s new metro mayor has given his “full support” to a new football stadium on the Embankment despite ‘sharing’ concerns about the potential loss of green space.
Labour’s Dr Nik Johnson who was elected as the new Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough last week, said he would like to see the proposed new Peterborough United stadium offer arts and cultural services, with any impact on the environment offset elsewhere.
The proposed location of the new multi-purpose stadium has drawn opposition from a campaign group which believes it will have a detrimental impact on the cherished green space, particularly with the city’s new university ARU Peterborough opening nearby next year.
Speaking to the Peterborough Telegraph, Mayor Johnson, who will lead the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, said: “I applaud Peterborough United and Darren Ferguson’s success and recognise that as a team moving into the Championship they will need a Championship standard stadium.
“I need to look at the full plans, but my initial thoughts are the move to the Embankment seems sensible to keep the team in the centre of the town for a post-Covid recovery where people can come to the stadium and celebrate the success of the team.
“But I have the caveat that any football team should be maximising its cross-reactivity with other aspects of the community. I really want the idea for it not just to be a sports facility, but a facility that can be used for arts and culture.
“I need to see the idea of the football team being community based and the final plans need to be providing initial support to develop the City of Culture bid, to deliver in providing perfect resources for the community, and arts and culture, and being done with the most environmentally-friendly standards as possible.
“Peterborough United have my full support and I will offer that now and in the future.”
Asked about concerns at the potential loss of green space, Mayor Johnson replied: “I share those concerns. I am compassionate about those things, I want to co-operate with all groups, not just the football team. I want to meet the representatives who have got their concerns, hear their worries, then build that community facility for everybody.
“And any loss of green space I would like to think we can move the benefits of the environment elsewhere - offset environment harm and improve it.
“If we’re going to have a walkway down to a magnificent stadium, make sure we are building trees which we will never sit under the shade of because it’s a wise man who plants trees.”
Mayor Johnson defeated Conservative incumbent James Palmer last week, but he praised his predecessor for helping to get ARU Peterborough off the ground and plans to invite him to the opening next year.
Asked if would be looking to make any changes to the project, he said: “Without seeing what the current plans are it’s difficult for me to say. I’ve been in the role for all of two hours. I need to look at the work that’s been done in collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University and to see with the input of a new mayor who is focusing on the three Cs how we can get possible improvements on being able to deliver for the community.
“I need to meet the team and I’m very keen to be led by those who have been looking at the project a lot longer than me. You listen to the people who have been doing it for a little while before making any presumptions.”
Mayor Johnson’s ‘three Cs’ of compassion, co-operation and community were at the cornerstone of the children’s doctor’s election campaign.
One area where he has already pledged action is to pause the new multi-billion pound proposed metro which would begin in the south of the county, before potentially moving into Peterborough in the future.
Instead, there will be a push towards bus franchising.
“My priority will be looking at the franchising arrangement for the combined authority to make sure we are delivering buses not just for the rural communities, but for buses which are well connected and running frequently - electric and hydrogen run buses,” Mayor Johnson said.
“That is where I want to see a focus on the transport plans for Peterborough and the whole of Greater Cambridgeshire.”
Another area of focus will be convincing the Government to release £45 million of previously promised funding for new housing, as well as getting that figure boosted.
The new mayor plans to halt his predecessor’s £100k Homes project and instead deliver developments with 50 per cent market value housing and 50 per cent social housing.
Asked about his agenda for his first 100 days in office, he replied: “I will not be making any plans for the first 100 days until I’ve had opportunity to speak to all the relevant officers.
“And over the course of time, with the benefit of my communications staff, and advisers, we will be putting forward a vision going forward which I can guarantee will feature the three Cs of compassion, co-operation and community across all levels.
“In particular, I will be looking at the idea of a Greater Cambridgeshire where Peterborough no longer feels excluded from the combined authority and is very much seen as the focus of the mayor who is now in town.”