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.
When I became leader of the council 18 months ago my post bag was full of letters and emails from residents about issues such as anti-social behaviour, begging, illegal parking and poor quality housing.
I listened to those residents and looked at what we and fellow agencies could do to better tackle these issues, at a time when funding is scarce and manpower is limited.
This week we fully launched the SaferPeterborough Prevention and Enforcement Service (PES) which brings together council, police, fire service and prison staff into a single managed service. The team has been in place since April, however council staff now have the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme powers issued by Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s chief constable to be able to enforce against a greater number of issues.
The idea is that together we can offer a quicker, more visible response to the issues that you have told us impact on your quality of life. Council prevention and enforcement officers, who you might see walking round in new blue uniforms, now have the ability to take action against a wider range of community issues including littering, dog fouling, begging and cycling on pavements. They also retain existing powers including parking and housing enforcement.
We’ve had to make some very difficult decisions in the past few years, not least because of the huge budget challenges we’ve faced.
The decision about whether to work with social housing provider Stef & Philips has been one of the hardest I’ve faced, because of the families whose tenancies are not being renewed.
I became a councillor because I wanted to help people, so believe me when I say that I wish these residents did not have to find somewhere else to live.
The reality is that we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Whatever decision we make Stef & Philips will still require the current tenants to leave to be able to offer the properties to our council or another council for homeless families.
However, we can support them to secure alternative accommodation which we are doing, and we can make use of the properties on St Michael’s Gate to house homeless families who are in desperate need of temporary accommodation.