Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich: Exciting times for North Westgate

John Holdich ENGEMN00120131211162123
John Holdich ENGEMN00120131211162123
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In the summer I promised I would pull out all the stops to see the long-awaited redevelopment of North Westgate.

It’s a site that some say has been cursed, with developer after developer coming up with grand plans to regenerate it, only for them to fall by the wayside.

In fact it was more than 40 years ago that the city centre site was first identified as a major redevelopment opportunity by the Peterborough Development Corporation in the 1971 City Centre Plan. But one of the key issues which has stood in the way of its redevelopment is complex land and property ownership, with more than 30 parties involved.

North Westgate is such an important part of our vision for a vibrant city centre and that’s why I’m pleased to announce that as part of the council’s phase one budget proposals, published tomorrow, we’re looking to directly support the comprehensive redevelopment of the site.

It’s too early to say what that scheme could look like, but I can tell you it won’t be a quick or overnight fix. We’re proposing to invest £15m capital funding over the next three years to buy land and property in North Westgate so that we can take a lead role in its redevelopment, rather than leaving it to the commercial market which has consistently failed to deliver. At the same time as buying land we will be working up a viable scheme with partners which allows us to achieve our vision for this massively underutilised part of our city centre.

In the past few years we’ve demonstrated that where the council takes a lead role it can get results and unlock regeneration potential. Take the city centre as an example, we’ve invested heavily in the regeneration of key areas such as Cathedral Square and Bridge Street and the benefits are clear to see with new restaurants and shops choosing to invest in the city on a regular basis, helping to drive up footfall. Fletton Quays, a site that was underutilised for decades, is another success story. We created Peterborough Investment Partnership, the joint venture between the council and Lucent, which has kick started regeneration of this key riverfront site with the start of construction imminent. Only this week Weston Homes was granted planning permission to build 280 high quality flats on the site.

If the budget proposal to invest in North Westgate is approved, we will then enter formal talks with the key landowners, including Invesco and Hawksworth, so that we can progress what will hopefully be a shared vision as quickly as possible. We’ll also begin discussions with organisations such as the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership and the Homes and Communities Agency to secure their support for the comprehensive redevelopment of the site. If our proposals for a devolution deal for Peterborough and Cambridgeshire progresses there could also be new funding we could use as part of this, too.

These are exciting times for our city with numerous exciting projects coming forward including Fletton Quays, the Serpentine Green expansion, the ongoing redevelopment of the city centre and the former hospital site, following on from the recent investment at the railway station. It seems that the best chance we’ve got of adding North Westgate to that 
list and realising its potential once and for all is for us 
to take the bull by the 
horns.

We fully launched our new SaferPeterborough Prevention and Enforcement Service last week and since then officers have been leading on an operation to tackle the misuse of Blue Badges.

Since April we’ve encountered 46 incidents of badges being used fraudulently. These people are taking parking spaces away from those who genuinely need them and are avoiding paying parking charges like the rest of us have to.

Many of these reports are still under investigation, however we’re progressing one prosecution through the courts and many other residents have received warning letters.

If you allow your Blue Badge to be misused you risk losing it as our officers have the power to seize a badge if they believe it to be misused. Not only that, if you’re the person misusing a badge you risk prosecution which could lead to your face and name appearing in the media and a fine of up to £1,000.

My message to you is watch out - our new Prevention and Enforcement Service gives us greater resource to be able to tackle issues such as this, so it’s not worth risking it.