Political consensus at Peterborough City Council is a rare thing these days, but there was widespread support last week for a new pedestrian and cycle bridge to link the new Fletton Quays development with the Embankment.
However, Conservative council leader Cllr John Holdich warned that government cuts mean for now it’s a choice between funding the bridge or looking after children and older people.
The debate was set up by a motion from Labour’s Cllr Richard Ferris, but as he was unable to attend his colleague Matthew Mahabadi put the case for the bridge forward.
He said the public often see councillors as “buffet-guzzling irrelevants who don’t contribute anything to the quality of life in this city.”
He ended by urging fellow members to deliver “real and lasting change” and give the city something to be proud of.
Cllr Ferris’ motion said the footbridge “should be constructed” but an amendment from cabinet member for planning Cllr Peter Hiller, which was unanimously agreed, said the footbridge “should be considered” as part of the council’s future budgets.
The Peterborough Telegraph’s ‘Build the Bridge’ campaign was mentioned during the debate. Deputy leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald said the PT and opposition councillors were “jumping on the bandwagon” with the Conservatives having led the way on putting in plans for a bridge.
Councillors said putting the new University of Peterborough main campus at the Embankment would be a catalyst for building the bridge.
They also said it would reduce traffic near Fletton Quays, which will have 280 homes, offices, a hotel and restaurants, and that it would be a good link between the new arts hub at the site and the Key Theatre.
Cllr Holdich said the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, which he is deputy mayor of, will not fund the footbridge.
Instead, he said, the authority will spend its infrastructure money on bringing in “jobs, housing and industry to the city.”
Former council leader Cllr Marco Cereste said a bridge had previously been costed between £3 million and £7 million.
He added: “When I first mooted the bridge you all told me it was a vanity project. I think if we want to, and the time is right, we will find the money.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Nick Sandford said: “The fact is without a bridge we are creating a development that will be highly reliant on the private car.”
Cllr John Whitby, UKIP, said: “The need for that bridge is great. It really is vital for the city.”