What next for Peterborough’s Embankment? Green spaces and stadium debate

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 is part 2 of a spotlight on what each believes should happen to the Embankment...

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 8:21 am
Peterborough's Embankment.

In part two of this feature Labour and the Liberal Democrats outline what they would like to see next for the Embankment.

Shaz Nawaz (Labour):

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Is the Embankment a green lung, an area ripe for development or a ‘sacred cow’?

Older ‘Peterborians’ may recall evening strolls alongside the river. Younger people are attracted by the festivals and the beer festival; occasional use events and a chance to be ‘down by the riverside’.

Whatever your view, the most important thing is to keep an open mind. Whilst we are on the edge of perhaps the most fertile area in the country that produces many of our crops, open space in the city is at a premium.

Peterborough United wish to build a new ground and it is to serve as a concert arena attracting the best in sport, leisure and entertainment that befits an ambitious city.

We need to be mindful of the ‘green’ agenda and overdevelopment of any area of our city. The Labour group is committed to an economic green recovery. We want the environment to be at the heart of everything we do. We claim to be the UK’s Environment Capital, after all, don’t we?

It means a delicate balance where the pressures on the green space need to be balanced against the need for the city to grow and develop. The reality is there isn’t a ‘once size fits all’ solution.

It therefore behoves the Labour group to remain forward thinking, considering all options and consulting with the community each, and every, step of the way.

We must balance demand with supply and consult widely with all stakeholders, not just those with a financial interest in developing there. We also need to be mindful of the Local Plan. That is an important document which sets out what can be built, in which area, alongside helping determine future pattern of development.

What is extremely important to me as Labour group leader is that we involve, engage and listen to all sides of the argument. The people of Peterborough need to be heard and, as local politicians, we need to listen attentively.

We will also look at other cities, home and abroad, that have met the challenge of environmental and ecological protection whilst recognising the needs of enterprise and economic development.

The Labour Party is based on fairness and diversity and it will be wrong of us not to consider all parties, all views and all options. We will look at all the alternatives and risk assess to ensure the benefits outweigh the damage that may be caused by developing this area. To say no stone will be left unturned is something of a cliché but we will ensure that will happen without falling victim to ‘paralysis by analyses’.

We are open to all idea and are here to listen. We will formulate an opinion once we have heard all sides of the argument because that’s what is expected of us and we will live up to that expectation.

This excludes planning committee members because they are not permitted to form a view as that would predetermine how they may vote at planning committee.

Nick Sandford (Liberal Democrat):

I think it is important that Peterborough has a successful football club because of all the economic benefits that will bring for the city.

But I also recognise the importance of the Embankment as the only significant area of green open space in the city centre. In normal times it is home to the country’s second largest beer festival and a range of other events. Having access to green space for exercise is really important for people’s health as has clearly been shown during the current coronavirus pandemic.

It’s important to keep Peterborough United in the city centre if at all possible. If they can’t redevelop their current ground then it makes sense to find them another site nearby. Having the club move to the outskirts of the city, into the countryside or even to another town, as has happened with other clubs, runs the risk of cutting the club off from much of its fanbase and creating all manner of transport and environmental issues.

The thing that annoys me most about this whole process is something which has been typical of Tory run Peterborough for the past 20 years: lack of transparency and lack of consultation.

Over a year ago we were promised there would be a masterplan produced for the Embankment area.

A Full Council resolution asked for full public consultation on the masterplan and our council leaders promised it would happen. So, where is it and when is the consultation going to happen?

If there is no masterplan development on the Embankment will happen in a piecemeal manner and the danger is we will lose the green space bit by bit.

The football club has issued statements that would suggest that plans are well advanced for a proposed site on the Embankment but, despite this, various questions asked of the Conservative administration to confirm these plans have been met with denial that any plans exist.

There may be mitigating reasons for allowing the use of this open space: for example, the site of the current stadium could be converted to open space provision for local residents to enjoy.

Also, the remaining open space on the Embankment could be enhanced to encourage better usage and enjoyment by residents and visitors to the city and increased value for nature.

Let’s be in no doubt that this situation has been brought about by an arrogant Conservative administration that feels that the Cabinet and the Cabinet alone is able to make decisions that affect the citizens of our great city without consultation with councillors or the people of Peterborough themselves,

After over 20 years of the Conservatives running the council they have lost touch with the electorate and are too focused on vanity projects. This city needs new ideas and a more open and responsive council.

Supporting the Liberal Democrats in this round of elections is the key to delivering the change this city so desperately needs.