The many benefits of selling Peterborough United stadium

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Peterborough United is a club that is dear to my heart. I’ve been a fan for 56 years after being introduced to the club by my wife Barbara - it’s where we went on our first date, writes leader of Peterborough City Council Cllr John Holdich.

So it was a great honour to walk onto the pitch on Saturday ahead of their second home game of the season against Ipswich Town, which they went on to dominate, before conceding an equaliser in the last moments.

Donning my trusty blue and white Posh scarf, I joined the owners of the club to sign a Heads of Terms agreement which signals the final stages of sale of the ground back to the club, where it belongs.

For those of you unaware of the history, back in 2009 the council bought the stadium and its surrounding land from a property developer to ensure its ownership stayed in the city. Since then, the city council has unlocked the potential of the surrounding land, leading to the creation of the Allia Future Business Centre and the Vista carbon neutral development which is home to 295 households.

And there is more to come. When the stadium is returned back to the club - hopefully by the end of the year - the council will retain the London Road car park, which will be used to build 82 affordable city centre apartments, through the council’s Meadesham Homes partnership.

As well as generating some really good business and housing developments for this area of the city, the finances stack up as well.

The council has exceeded its expectations in terms of its return on investment from the sale, by generating a hefty £3.9 million. Plus, the extra homes and businesses mean we will continue to collect £491,000 a year in business rates and a hefty £2 million in council tax.

At a time when every penny counts in the council’s budget, this income is not to be sniffed at, and represents a good deal everyone in our city.

Last month we received the results of a health check on Northminster car park which left us with no option but to close it.

It caused some reaction from residents who use the car park or feel some affection towards it, but when you are told there is a risk to life if a building remains open you have a duty to act quickly.

Before we made a decision on its future, I commissioned Skanska to carry out a further inspection which has confirmed the findings in the initial inspection undertaken by Rolton Group. It concluded that the car park is ‘beyond economic repair, and it is considered highly likely that any further investigations or analysis will only prove that the life of the structure cannot be extended’. The recommendation from Skanska is that we demolish it.

The results of these assessments leave us with no option but to recommend that we permanently close the car park and demolish it.

The only alternative is to spend several million pounds carrying out the necessary works to re-open the car park, but in doing so it would not extend its life beyond 10 to 15 years, because of the inherent weaknesses in the way it was constructed in the 1970s.

Spending these millions on a structurally flawed car park would be a waste of taxpayers’ money, especially at a time when we are having to look carefully at every area of the council to find ways of saving money and doing things differently, to be able to prioritise essential services.

In addition, we have always known that the car park forms part of an area identified for regeneration and development in the Local Plan. Given the opportunities to redevelop this site, we are confident there will be interest from the private sector which would create something more attractive and beneficial to the people of Peterborough.

We now want to work with the affected businesses to support them in their next steps. In addition, we are doing all that we can to support the market traders who have been affected by the closure of the car park. The sooner we demolish, the sooner we can create a surface level car park and introduce additional parking which is so crucial for traders.

In the meantime, alternative parking is available at Wellington Street, Dickens Street car park and Brook Street. Parking here still allows people to shop at the City Market. If you’ve not been for a while it’s certainly worth a visit, with a whole host of food stalls and others selling haberdashery, sweets, wall paper, toiletries and more.

Congratulations to all the young people who collected their A-level results last week. Thanks to the hard work of pupils, teachers and everyone involved with secondary education in Peterborough, our schools are above the national average for the number of students achieving A-level passes which is fantastic.

Good luck to everyone collecting their GCSE results this week, too.