A row has broken out after yet another multi-million pound development plan was unveiled for Peterborough’s derelict North Westgate.
Developer Peter Breach, chairman of Hawksworth Securities, is seeking public support for new proposals for a £100 million residential and offices-led regeneration of the 10 acre site.
Ironically, his move comes just months after he actually secured planning approval for a £130 million cinema-led development for the same site.
That approval triggered an unsuccessful high court battle by Mr Breach as he challenged the council over its approval of a cinema-led extension to the neighbouring Queensgate shopping centre, which he claimed would make his plan unviable.
It was the latest setback for the sprawling North Westgate, with its multitude of landowners, that has proved to be a barren opportunity for developers since the 1970s.
Mr Breach previously submitted development plans for the site in 2003, which were later withdrawn.
This scheme will do well and will reach completion.Peter Breach, chairman, Hawksworth Securities
Property group Hammersons submitted an application for North Westgate in 2007, which is still listed as awaiting a decision.
It has all triggered frustration among civic leaders who have vowed to develop the site themselves.
Council leader John Holdich said: “I was amazed Mr Breach is having another go at this. It has come as a shot out of the blue.
“Mr Breach has been around for 20 years trying to do this development.
“We don’t want to be in our graves when building work starts on this.
“We have always been willing to work with him and have always been rejected.
“But it is worrying.
“He does not have a good track record in delivering on this development.
“If his plans are approved I would have to make a decision about whether to stop the council’s own work on this site. Yet we have no certainty that Mr Breach will be able to complete his development.
“We will have to wait until Mr Breach submits a planning application and then we will have to see how credible his plans are but I understand the his proposed development is residential-led and I will be interested to see the commercial side.”
At the beginning of the year the council unveiled its own masterplan for North Westgate with a completion target of 2023.
Cllr Holdich said: “The council is very much on its way with the North Westgate development.
“We will continue with our plans.
“We are making good progress in buying up land with the aim of creating a commercially viable business opportunity.
“Together with key partners and landowners, we would then play a vital role in expanding the city centre from Peterborough Railway Station all the way to the soon-to-be open Fletton Quays regeneration site in the south of the city.
“This is a vital stage in the regeneration of this site and we are therefore taking our time to ensure this is done thoroughly and properly to secure its future use as an outstanding city centre development.”
But Cllr Holdich added: “We remain open to working with all landowners on plans to redevelop North Westgate.
“This is a prime regeneration site for the city, which has remained underutilised since plans were first announced for its redevelopment in the 1970s.
“We will certainly be attending the public meeting to find out more details and how this might fit into our own redevelopment plans.”
Mr Breach’s new proposals include 250 apartments, 160,500sq ft of office space, a string of restaurants, bars and cafes and retail units, a large food market and a 120 room hotel.
He said: “I am looking to co-operate with the council.
“The details of the plans are still to be worked out but I am expecting the development to be completed by Christmas 2020.
“I want to have a good relationship with the council.
“I think the council is being quite stand offish.
“If Cllr Holdich feels something better can be done then a discussion should be held in the best interests of the city.
“Let’s hear what any improvements should be and we can incorporate them.”
Mr Breach also moved to reassure the council that if his plans were approved the regeneration of North Westgate would take place.
He said: “This scheme will do well and will reach completion and I have no doubt it will do well because there is a great demand across the whole of the UK for residential accommodation in cities.”
But Mr Breach warned he did not need the council to work with him to make the proposed scheme a success.
“I have a choice of backers for this - including one company that is partly foreign owned.
“Peterborough is a very interesting city and is attracting investor attentions. It is only a short train journey from London but in the capital development is over priced and investors are looking further afield.”
Architects Chapman Taylor have drawn up the proposals, who have been involved in developments in China, Australia and Russia that have operated well.
Work that will help anchor North Westgate to the city centre has been given the green light with a revamp of Westgate. Work will start on July 2 and will transform Westgate into a pedestrian-friendly and vibrant shopping street with the creation of a wider pavement along one side.
Cllr Peter Hillier, cabinet member for economic development, said: “The work is expected to take six months to complete and will create a new-look shopping street that anchors North Westgate to the historic core of the city.”
Members of the public are invited to have their say on the new development proposed for North Westgate.
A public consultation event will be held at Centre 68, in 68b Westgate on June 27 between 1pm and 7pm.
Peter Breach, chairman of Hawksworth Securities, said: “We invite members of the public and all other interested parties to attend a public exhibition where draft proposals will be presented for the regeneration of North Westgate.
“The project team will be in attendance to listen to views and answer any questions.”
While a planning application has not been lodged with Peterborough City Council, Hawksworth Securities has submitted a request for a screening opinion for a mixed use development on the site.
The proposal is for redevelopment of the existing site to provide 25,000 square feet of residential space made up of apartmentsof one, two and three bedrooms, 16,500sq ft of office space, retail units, restaurants and cafes, a food hall, a hotel, leisure, together with associated car parking,
The works would involve the demolition of most of the existing buildings in North Westgate with the construction of new buildings and the alteration and refurbishment of existing buildings.
Westgate church would be made a central feature of the development and the Brewery Tap pub would also be retained.
The proposal provides for up to 300 car parking spaces.