The next few years promise to be an exciting time for higher education in Peterborough.
The work that we are all doing now to create a dedicated university will, I believe, transform our city for the next 100 years and beyond.
It will change the aspirations of our residents, giving everyone the chance to attain the highest skills they are able to, in order to apply for the jobs offered by our employers.
The research that we are doing now means that we can be sure of this – and this approach is what will set our university apart from every other across the country.
Almost 80 businesses recently responded to a survey undertaken by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority asking what kinds of courses and skills they would like to see delivered at the new University of Peterborough.
Employers said that skills in mechanical and structural engineering, mathematics, science and certain health and social care skills were in demand now and would be in the future. The most popular areas were business, IT and digital and sustainability skills, with newer and rapidly progressing technology such as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity likely to be in significant demand in the future.
Of course, it’s not just what is taught, but how it’s taught, and employers told us that work-based learning through higher apprenticeships would provide the most benefit.
Our employers have told us quite clearly what skills they need and the industries likely to prosper in future years, which will ensure that the curriculum delivered will both help students into well-paid, secure jobs, while also addressing the current and future skills needs of the local economy.
In further good news, a project management team has been appointed to get us from where we are now to the first students walking through the doors of the new university in 2022.
The team from Mace will lead on the delivery of the university, including planning permission for the building, the actual build project and the creation of the curriculum.
They have a good track record in this industry, delivering projects like the University of Northampton, and their expertise and experience will be invaluable.
The university we are creating for Peterborough will break the mould for what higher education can deliver. It will make other cities think differently and consider how its educational offering is connected to the local economy.
These are exciting times for higher education in Peterborough, and will lead to greater aspirations for our residents, as well as enabling us to keep hold of our talented people, by making our city more attractive for them to live, study and work.
Doubling Peterborough’s green spaces
On Monday I attended the launch of a new campaign from Natural England which plans to double the area of rich wildlife habitats and natural green space across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Peterborough is blessed with natural assets, I often say it’s our best kept secret – there’s Nene Park, Cuckoo’s Hollow, Crown Lakes, The Green Backyard and Eye Green nature reserve, to name just a few.
We also have 1,097 allotments across the city and many smaller pockets of green spaces and parks including Central Park, Itter Park and Manor Farm Park, which have all retained the prestigious Green Flag Award, a sign to the public that the space boasts the highest possible environmental standards.
However, on the whole, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has one of the smallest areas of land managed for nature of any county in the country, relative to size.
The Doubling Nature ambition gives us the opportunity to change this and create an even greener Peterborough.
Council to be carbon neutral by 2030
We certainly have the appetite to deliver – last week at our Full Council meeting, councillors unanimously declared a climate emergency and agreed amongst other things to make the council’s activities net-zero carbon by 2030. Creating more areas which are nature rich is a critical part of responding to the climate challenge.
Our continued efforts in achieving this ambition will make our city more desirable for visitors and offer a healthier living environment for residents.
I believe that a high quality natural environment is not only good for nature, it’s good for people and good for business.
Northminster Car Park
We’ve had lots of people contact us about the closure of Northminster car park for safety reasons following a structural assessment.
Although the report we have received is fairly conclusive that the car park has reached the end of its life, unless there is significant investment in it, I have asked for a second opinion which is being carried out this week.
Once we have this report we will make a decision on the future of the car park, which will factor in the loss of parking, the significant costs involved in refurbishing the building and the development potential for this key city centre site.