Plans move forward for new Posh stadium

This week, the city council and Peterborough United Football Club announced the next stage in the club’s plans to move its stadium from London Road to a more central location.

As part of a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by the club and the city council this week, potential sites for its new home include the Embankment and other nearby sites in the Local Area Development Framework.

Regular readers of my column will know about our City Centre Development Framework and how we have ambitious plans to provide our city with the retail, leisure and culture that it needs for the next 50 years by attracting inward investment.

Just as a new University will boost our cultural offerings and a transformed train station with better pedestrian access into the city centre will improve our connectivity, a new stadium for the Posh would benefit our whole city.

Our shared vision is to create a new home for Posh that has everything it needs to sustain its playing at a higher level and to work its way through the leagues over the coming years. This new state-of-the-art stadium would also be designed to be used for conferences, concerts, exhibitions and events, which in turn will attract new business, tourism and investment to Peterborough.

Already the club brings in over £7million of revenue to our city each year, boosting our tourism, creating local jobs and improving the health and wellbeing of over 1,000 young people from our communities each week. A new stadium would only increase the benefits for city and residents.

We will now be working closely with the football club to find a suitable location and next steps to achieve this shared aim – watch this space for further updates!

Signing on the pitch

 

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Plans for a new Northminster

At the moment it seems there is not a week that goes by without there being progress on the redevelopment of our city centre.

Last week plans for the new university were unveiled to the public at the cathedral and just before that we announced that investors are being sought for a revamp of the train station and surrounding land to create a new gateway into the city centre.

This week we announced plans to breathe new life into the Northminster area which includes the City Market, the multi-storey car park which is currently being demolished and Laxton Square.

Northminster is an important part of our city centre but it doesn’t receive the investment and number of visitors it should do currently. Many of the buildings were constructed during the 1970s and are showing their age and a number of restaurant and leisure related businesses have closed down.

We know that without regeneration and investment the area will not improve and we have to do something about it.

We don’t have the money to redevelop the site ourselves, so we’re proposing to transfer it to the Peterborough Investment Partnership (PIP).

The council set up the PIP in 2015 and it has led the transformation of Fletton Quays from a derelict, brownfield site to a scheme which includes office space, apartments and a car park, with a Hilton hotel and a gin and whiskey distillery visitor attraction on its way.

The PIP has done a fantastic job at Fletton Quays and the announcement of plans for a Government hub and the construction of a Hilton hotel are the most recent signs of its success.

Initially it would prepare a concept scheme for the site with a view to securing outline planning approval and attracting private sector development interest and investment.

I know that some readers will be concerned about what this means for our market.

Naturally, the market traders would need to vacate the existing site whilst any redevelopment was taking place, but during this time we would look to provide a market from another location.

market northminster

Going forward, there could be a market on the Northminster site or elsewhere but with plans being at a very early stage it is too soon to speculate.

The existing market is 57 years old and in need of modernisation or replacement. This investment in Northminster will one way or another allow us to achieve that.

This is an exciting time for Peterborough. Our city is thriving and we are ready to work with investors and our communities to drive forward the next stage in Peterborough’s growth.

The next four years will be crucial to delivering a Peterborough that’s an even better place to work, live and play for the next 50 to 100 years. (more…)

Peterborough’s high street declared UK’s most thriving

At a time when many high streets up and down the country are struggling, I was pleased to learn that here in Peterborough we’re bucking the national trend.

Our high street has actually grown by one-per-cent. Yes, I know this doesn’t seem like a massive rise, but due to the changing shopping habits of consumers and the rise of internet shopping, this is quite an achievement in today’s world.

AskTraders which completed the study went on to declare Peterborough as having the No.1 thriving high street by comparing cities based on retail growth, bank openings and number of ATMs.

Bridge street

We know our visitor dwell times (the amount of time people stay in our city centre) is 101 minutes, that’s much better than the UK benchmark of 73 minutes.

And it seems businesses agree with this vote of confidence and are investing in our city at an unprecedented rate – which wouldn’t be happening if they didn’t think they could get their money back.

Not only has John Lewis recently unveiled its £21million revamp – the largest spend on any John Lewis store nationally in 2019, but work will soon begin on a £60million extension to Queensgate, which will deliver a state of the art 10 screen Empire Cinema and the Draper’s Arms refurbishment is due to finish next month.

We also had plenty of new store openings last year, with a good mix of large and small chains and independents, like Deichmann, Swarovski, Tap & Tandoor, Hayes Travel and Bean Around BE.AR coffee shop.

Yes, we have discount stores, coffee shops and vape shops, but if you look at where people are spending their money, that’s what they want.

My point is that I believe high streets will always have a part to play, but they need to change with the times and deliver what their shoppers want in order to stay successful.

And there could be more good news on the way for Peterborough’s high street in the form of a Business Improvement District (BID) later this year.

We are currently asking businesses if they would like to set up a BID and so far we’ve had 141 responses from businesses – 67 per cent want it to happen, with the rest saying they don’t mind and only one respondent saying no.

If it goes ahead it will be business led and could potentially release up to £1.75million over five years for investment in the city, which could be spent on things like additional summer events to boost footfall, more floral displays and extra security in the evenings in the city centre.

If any business would like to be involved please complete the business survey. (more…)

Peterborough to take ‘climate action’

On one of the hottest days on record last summer I presented a motion to Full Council urging members to declare a climate emergency and commit to reducing the council’s carbon use to net-zero by 2030.

What followed was quite unusual – every single member in the chamber, regardless of which colour rosette they wear, supported it. If you watch our Full Council meetings live on Facebook, you will know this happens once in a blue moon.

As I said that night, we discuss many important items in the council chamberbut none of them matter if we have no planet to live on.

At a cabinet meeting on Monday members will consider a plan which sets out how the council will start to work towards becoming carbon neutral.

The Carbon Management Action Plan includes a top 20 pledges, which includes replacing the mayor’s car with an ultra-low emissions vehicle, considering leasing additional office space to reduce energy demands and investigating whether we could dim street lighting further. It also commits to reviewing the council’s electricity and gas contracts and moving towards 100 per cent renewable energy tariffs and 100 per cent carbon off-set gas tariffs.

There is lots that we are doing already – many of our schools have solar panels and rain water harvesters, we’re dimming street lights to reduce energy use and building more homes in the city so that people are less reliant on cars and more likely to use public transport. However, the action plan is our first major step in delivering our commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions.

Cabinet members will be asked to endorse the plan and it will then go before Full Council on 4 March for final sign off. We are planning for this day to be designated ‘climate action day’ when we encourage staff and residents to do their ‘extra bit’ to reduce their carbon impact on that day. It is hoped that if someone reduces their impact on one day, then they might be persuaded to do it more frequently.

council chamber

I have solar panels on my roof to heat water which has reduced our energy use and bills – I’ve got loft insulation and cavity wall insulation too for the same reasons. We recycle as much as we can and have reduced the amount of waste we produce.

In the words of a wellknown supermarket chain, every little helps. The action that we can take individually and as a city can make a difference and it also sends out a clear message that we must all change our ways. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to do so. (more…)

City Centre Framework – a new era for Peterborough

As you probably know by now, last week I announced my plans to step down as both council leader and councillor after the elections in May.

I’ve been serving the residents of Peterborough now since I was in my 30s and at the age of 75 both my wife Barbara and I have decided it’s time to achieve the many things we have on our bucket list while we are still able to.

Although I know I’ve made the right decision, there’s a part of me that wishes I could stay to experience the next four years, which I predict will deliver big things for our city. I’ve double checked with my granddaughter and I believe I’m suffering from what the young people describe as FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out!

On Monday, our new MP Paul Bristow and myself met with Paul Grinnell, business editor at the Peterborough Telegraph, to update him on the next stage of the City Centre Local Development Framework.

As regular readers of my column will know, this document looks at the city centre and identifies and plans key areas to be developed in the coming years, such as the station quarter (the area around the train station), North Westgate, Northminster, Rivergate and the university.

We know that the time is now for Peterborough. Our economy and high street are thriving, we’ve got the new university and New Towns funding on its way and crucially, the backing of the Combined Authority to help us make the progression from a small city to a medium one.

aerial view of Peterbrough

The stars are aligned in our favour, but like the Peterborough Development Corporation in the 1960s, the only way to make sure residents get a good deal is to do this in an organised way, with a clear aim – that’s why the City Centre Framework is so important.

It will deliver a city centre that will herald a new era for Peterborough, one in which we can use investor money to secure our ongoing economic success and to create a centre that rivals the likes of Birmingham and Manchester.

Yes, it’s aspirational, but we know investors are interested – just look at the new Government hub relocation to Fletton Quays, the revamp of John Lewis (their most expensive in 2019) and the forthcoming multi-screen Empire Cinema.

That’s why we’ve created a new investor marketing campaign to enable us to cherry pick the right investors to help us deliver this. The next four years will be crucial to delivering a Peterborough that’s an even better place to work, live and play for the next 50 to 100 years. (more…)

Peterborough – overcoming challenges together

At the time of writing this column I am preparing for a meeting of Full Council where we are due to sign off our first set of budget proposals for 2020/21.

As I have said many times, this year is remarkable because of the very severe financial challenge that we face, but it is also remarkable for another reason – for the support we have received from organisations across the city wanting to help us to continue providing services.

I have been impressed by how our partners in the voluntary sector in particular have not only understood our challenges, but have stepped up to help us.

KingsGate Community Church for example, one of the faith groups who partner together to run Peterborough Foodbank and Carezone, providing furniture and white goods for families in crisis.

Take a look at the council’s social media pages today and you will see a video that we have published showing the excellent work of the volunteers at the church.

After publishing our budget proposals in October, KingsGate got in touch and offered to work with us to be able to remove all council funding for the services they provide from April 2021.

We are very grateful to Kingsgate for providing an incredibly important service to our communities, helping those in the greatest need to end the cycle of poverty.

Other organisations too have shown their support. Age UK has agreed to a reduction in funds for some services and Vivacity will be working with us to further reduce its reliance on council funding. (more…)

Happy New Year – here’s to a prosperous 2020

The start of a new year often leaves people with feelings of excitement and trepidation of what the year may hold.

That’s certainly how I feel about 2020. There is so much to look forward to in the year ahead for our great city, but like all councils we are still in the midst of one of the most testing financial challenges in our history. This will continue to force difficult decisions about how we provide the services our residents need with the money available.

But I would like to start the year on a positive and when you look around the city there are lots of those.

We have some really exciting developments taking place; there will be announcements about progress on some of these soon and about new developments.

Fletton Quays has been transformed during the past couple of years and there will be further progress in 2020.

a view of fletton quays

Plans for the gin and whiskey distillery and tourist attraction will be submitted in the first part of this year and construction of the Hilton hotel and skybar will begin soon. It has also been confirmed that Fletton Quays will also host a government hub, bringing together 1,000 staff from 2021. I call that a huge vote of confidence in our city!

Across the wider city centre, there will be some exciting news about the potential development of sites in our City Centre Prospectus. This includes the station quarter, university site on the embankment and Northminster car park and the area around it including the market. This unlocks the potential for exciting opportunities such as major multi-use commercial sport/leisure facilities to be developed.

When you consider that the cost of land in Peterborough is a third of the price of land in London, we should be a prime location for businesses moving out of the capital. The costs of doing business are much more competitive here and our Masterplan looks to capitalise on that.

I’m also excited this year to see our university project progress. We expect to submit a planning application for the new building in the spring, around the same time we’ll be announcing our academic partner, and then work on site begins in the autumn.

Major music acts coming to Peterborough in 2020

On a lighter note, we have some fantastic music acts coming to Peterborough. My family and I have tickets to see Westlife in June and Little Mix will be on stage a week or so later. I’ve heard rumours too of a third concert this summer!

And of course I am looking forward to the 2020 Olympic games and the Euro football tournament.

It is true that we have another testing year ahead of us financially, but there is much to look forward to. The time is now for Peterborough and we are ready to take the city to the next level.

Call for fly-tippers to be given harsher penalties

I was pleased to read that the Local Government Association is calling for tougher sentences to deter fly-tippers.

The LGA found that only five per cent of court-imposed fines for fly-tipping offences in England in the past six years were above £1,000 and only a sixth of them above £500.

We’re determined to crack down on fly-tipping and littering and it will remain one of our priorities when our in-house team to tackle environmental issues and crimes takes over from Kingdom at the end of the month. This new team will tackle problems across the whole council area, as well as the city centre.

We want to work with the government on reviewing sentencing guidelines for fly-tipping, so offenders are given bigger fines for more serious offences. We know from previous experience that we can influence change – a good example being how our councillors visited the Home Office to ask for more help in moving unlawful encampments on if they are having a detrimental impact on the wider community.

Thanks to our lobbying the government has set up a formal review group to see whether police powers can be strengthened to allow unlawful encampments to be moved on much quicker.

Relocation of Visitor Information Centre

And finally, a reminder that the Visitor Information Centre on Bridge Street has now closed.

the former visitor information centre

Instead, visitors to the city are guided towards the Town Hall and those wanting to access services such as blue badge applications and bus passes will need to walk just a few footsteps to the Customer Contact Centre.

Remember that you can find out more about all the events happening in Peterborough, as well as places to visit and stay, at www.visitpeterborough.com.

A happy new year, I hope 2020 is a healthy and happy year for you all.

Times are hard financially but our city is continuing to prosper

In last week’s blog I spoke about the huge budget challenge that we face next year and the need to deliver savings following the publication of our budget proposals.

Lots of you have been reading them and using our online survey to tell us how you feel. Please continue to comment so that we can understand your views before making final decisions.

I cannot deny that we are proposing changes to some services that I wish we did not have to, but we have also gone to great lengths to limit cuts to services. The Peterborough Telegraph’s front page last week implied we are making £33m cuts – I can assure you that’s not the case.

Service cuts are a last resort, instead we are achieving millions of pounds worth of savings by providing services differently, for example jointly with the county council, renegotiating contracts to achieve best value and thanks to additional money from the Government.

At times like this it’s easy to lose sight of the many services we provide for our residents on a daily basis and the successes that we achieve.

We’re looking after more older people and ensuring those in hospital have the support they need to get them home as soon as possible, maintaining some of the lowest delayed discharge rates in the country. We continue to invest in our Family Safeguarding approach to improve the lives of our most vulnerable children and young people, meaning the number of children in care is lower than most other councils of our size.

Our highways and transport services are some of the best in the country. It’s just been announced that we’ve been ranked joint top authority in the eastern region in this year’s National Highways and Transport survey which is fantastic.

We’ve ensured that the ever-increasing demand for school places has been met by continued investment in new and improved school buildings. As a result, more children than ever before are being offered their first preference school. Plans are on track to deliver a dedicated university for 2,000 students by 2022.

We’ve led the successful re-development of Fletton Quays which is modernising the city’s skyline, further boosting the economy and creating hundreds of new jobs and housing. We’re unlocking the economic potential of the Station Quarter and North Westgate in order to make them attractive to investors and a city centre development framework is being developed to secure our future as a larger city destination, supporting future tourism growth and increasing opportunities for residents. We’re launching a Business Improvement District in the city centre to help businesses to prosper locally, compete nationally and also to help drive inward investment.

We continue to tackle homelessness by securing housing locally to meet the predicted long term need for housing in the city. Over the past 12 months we’ve removed the need to house homeless families out of the area and the numbers in B&B accommodation has been reduced from 146 in September 2018 to 73 in October 2019.

Never have times been harder financially, but I strongly refute accusations made by some politicians that our city is not prospering.

Yes there is lots of work to be done to help everyone in our city who needs it and yes we need more funding to provide the services that we need to. But thanks to the dedication of our staff, our partners and the majority of councillors, we are making a difference to people’s lives on a daily basis.

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Budget Proposals – facing 2020/21 together

I’ve been involved in politics for most of my life, but without doubt the financial challenge that we face in 2020/21 is the toughest I have known.

Since 2013/14, when the Government’s austerity measures began, it has become harder each year to fund the services our residents need with less and less funding. We’ve seen our grant from Government drop from £55m to £10m over this time and at the same time demand for services in some areas has gone through the roof – homelessness, older people requiring care, children needing school places and increasing numbers of those with special educational needs.

This means we have a gap in our budget of over £23m and like any household whose income is reduced, we have to reduce our spending and make some very difficult decisions.

You can read our budget proposals in full on our website or you can pick up a hard copy from the Town Hall or any city library.

If you choose to read them, you will see that we are finding savings and additional income in a variety of ways. We’re renegotiating and getting best value out of our contracts, increasing our commercial income, providing more services with Cambridgeshire County Council and our partners and building on our success of delivering services in different and more effective and efficient ways, for example using technology.

Many of the proposals will help improve our situation long term, so that we can reach a stage where we can provide the services that our residents need without having to make huge savings every year.

For example, we’re making ongoing savings by jointly providing some services with the county council, such as the integrated lifestyle service which helps people reduce their risk of illness by making lifestyle changes, and the contract to run children’s centres in the city.

I can’t deny that there are proposals recommending decisions that I wish we did not have to make and that will not be welcomed by the public.

It is only after we have exhausted all other avenues, that recommendations for reductions in some services have been proposed.

If you can think of other ways that we can deliver the savings that we need to, please tell us as part of the consultation process.

how the council spends money

I have asked all our councillors to do the same – in fact, I have been asking all our members, regardless of what party they represent, to do the same for some time.

So, I was disappointed to hear the Labour Group leader Councillor Shaz Nawaz say in an interview on the radio on Monday that it was too late to suggest ideas. All he has found time to do is criticise the council. What he has not found time to do is make any alternative suggestions to balance our budget, despite being asked on many occasions to suggest ways the council can save money. We have not yet received one idea to date.

Councillor Nawaz, it is definitely not too late. I challenge you to come to me with meaningful proposals, which I promise I will be considering carefully, as my experience tells me that our residents need to see us working together as politicians in such challenging times.

If you would like to give your views or suggest alternative proposals, you can complete an online survey. The consultation closes on 16 December at 5pm and Full Council will debate the proposals on 18 December. (more…)

Why we are making savings and meeting needs of residents

Today we publish proposals which are a first step towards delivering a balanced budget next year and being able to continue meeting the needs of our residents.

I will be able to talk more about these proposals next week and you will be able to read them in full on our website from 5pm today (Friday).

Overall we need to make savings totalling £33million in 2020/21 to be able to provide the services that our residents need and rely upon and to manage the increase in demand.

Budget scales

One of the areas where we continue to see a large spike in demand, because our population is growing older and people are requiring more complex care, is adult social care. For example, the number of people we provide paid for care packages has increased by 402 between 2015/16 and 2018/19 – rising from 3,468 to 3,870. We are meeting this demand by changing the way we provide services, in particular through the use of technology.

In the past year we have installed assistive technology in dozens of homes across the city. This has allowed those residents to keep their independence in their own homes, provides peace of mind for relatives and has helped the council to ebb the tide of soaring national adult social care bills.

People like Rolly and Jean who you may have seen on our social media channels this week. We installed technology in their home to allow Jean who suffers from dementia to remain living there safely and confidently. A few years ago she may have had to live in a care home for her own safety, but through some extra support at home, they can remain living together.

The technology that is now available is fantastic. Examples include voice activated devices which can be used as medication reminders and bed sensors, smoke alarms and property exit sensors which automatically trigger an alarm if, for example, someone with dementia tries to exit the house at 3am or if someone with mobility issues doesn’t return to bed after 30 minutes.

Each year the council spends £11million on nursing and residential care homes, at an average cost of £768 per person per week. Without assistive technology this bill could be much higher.

In fact, we estimate technology saves the council £500,000 every year – that’s money we can use to provide care for the growing number of people requiring it and other essential services such as providing homes for those in housing difficulty and supporting vulnerable children.

Please take time to read the budget proposals and tell us what you think. We need to know that before we can make decisions.

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