A “bold” 100 day plan to kickstart new housing, apprenticeships and a major transport upgrade has been unveiled by the new Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Conservative James Palmer has unveiled a large list of aims he believes can be completed in little more than three months as he seeks to convince sceptical residents that devolution can bring big benefits to the county.
Speaking at a press conference at the Amazon Cambridge Development Centre, Mayor Palmer vowed that within 100 days the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, which he chairs, will:
. Commission business cases for the dualling of the A47 and upgrading of the A10
. Launch feasibility studies for the Light Rail and Underground for Cambridge and the extension of the M11 to the A47. Extending the M11 will offer a new route from Peterborough to Cambridge, he said
. Work with Network Rail to move forward with rail priorities, including between Peterborough and Whittlesey
. Announce the first tranche of funding for transport and infrastructure schemes
. Publish a local transport plan
. Continue the development of a University of Peterborough, with new funding in place to help it open in the next four years
. Deliver more than 500 apprenticeships and launch plans for a new Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Apprenticeship Hub
. Announce the first wave of new affordable homes across the county
. Launch the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Investment Fund.
In total, there are 32 ‘commitments’ for the combined authority to work through in the next 100 days.
Mayor Palmer said: “It’s a bold vision for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - a whole county vision.”
The Soham politician said he wants to “create a situation where international businesses look at Cambridgeshire, and not just Cambridge,” and that the south of the county should “take a leaf out of Peterborough’s book,” by looking at its road system.
In his first press conference since being elected six days earlier, Mayor Palmer revealed that Peterborough City Council leader Councillor John Holdich will be one of his two deputy mayors.
Cllr Holdich revealed during the afternoon briefing to reporters that a fully-fledged university in Peterborough will be ready in the next four years.
Mayor Palmer, who will be based in Ely during his four-year tenure, said he had spoken to Cllr Holdich about the housing needs in Peterborough, with new affordable homes to be announced in the first 100 days from a £170 million pot of money given by the Government to the combined authority (of which £70 million is ringfenced for Cambridge).
Mayor Palmer did not wish to disclose what was discussed during his conversation with Cllr Holdich, but he said: “The aim is to get as much affordable housing as we can on each development. We’ve got leverage money here.
“We will try to get as much leverage out of the money as we can to bring forward not just as many affordable houses as we can bring forward, but as many houses.
“It’s not my job to tell other councils where they should put houses, it’s my job to try and make sure we get as many as possible.”
The available money for these initial projects is just under £40 million, a figure Mayor Palmer said would be adequate to achieve his initial goals.
He also ruled out levying council tax during his tenure, but he did promise: “More trains, more regular trains, later trains.”
This will include more trains from Peterborough to Whittlesey.
Asked about the affordability of his planned projects, the new mayor said: “We have some kind of indication of what these schemes should cost, but we need to make sure that if we put something to the public it is properly costed, and then we can go to raise the funds to bring these schemes forward.
“We have to always be mindful that there is a huge amount of growth in this part of the country, and we’re not planning for the next year or the year after, we’re planning for the next 30 to 50 years.
“This is a long-term project, and unless you put in the right infrastructure in this part of the world, what we have here could die.”
The combined authority cabinet is made up of the mayor and the seven leaders of Cambridgeshire’s biggest councils, including Peterborough City Council.
A representative of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership also has voting rights.
Aside from the money for housing, the combined authority has £20 million to spend every year for the next £30 years to fund growth in the county. It will also decide the transport plan for Cambridgeshire.
Mayor Palmer was asked by the Peterborough Telegraph if anything should be read into the fact his first press conference was being held in Cambridge.
This is due to fears in Peterborough that devolution will favour Cambridge much more than Peterborough.
The mayor replied: “It’s not a sign of things to come at all. We will be travelling around the county. I’m based in Ely as the mayor. It’s a whole county vision. Today we’re in Cambridge, tomorrow we will be somewhere else.”
He added: “The first combined authority meeting was in Peterborough.”