Construction of ARU Peterborough begins

Our exciting regeneration plans for Peterborough are the most ambitious this city has seen for decades and a real source of personal pride.

A key part of these plans is ARU Peterborough, the city’s new £30 million university and this week marked the very start of its construction.

On Tuesday I gathered with James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and Professor Roderick Watkins, Vice Chancellor of ARU, for a special sod cutting ceremony at the site.

Sod cutting

Despite the freezing conditions this event really warmed my heart because it felt like such a significant moment in the project, which has been several years in the making.

I can’t wait to see ARU constructed and the benefits it will bring to our city and the region will be enormous and last for generations to come.

Our ambition is to launch a job creating, employment-focussed university that will deliver courses targeted specifically towards industries across Peterborough where demand currently outstrips availability of skilled workers.

The university is on track to open in September 2022, catering initially for 2,000 students, with numbers projected to rise to 5,000 by 2025 and 12,500 by 2030.

In the first five years after opening, it will create an initial 170 university jobs and 300 supply chain jobs, in addition to 50 temporary construction jobs while it is being built.

The ARU is part of our commitment to ensuring Peterborough is a great place to live, work and relax for years to come.

With the Fletton Quays development progressing at pace, the city centre recently transformed and the regeneration of the Station Quarter, North Westgate and Northminster all in the pipeline, the city’s time really is now. (more…)

New Covid marshals join dedicated team

With the national lockdown ending this week and Peterborough moving into Tier Two of the new system, our efforts to control the spread of Coronavirus are continuing in earnest.

Rates of the virus across Peterborough remain high – they’re not reducing at the same rate as many other areas – so we are doing everything we can to get our residents and businesses to pull together to stop Covid in its tracks.

One of the most visible ways we are making a difference is through our dedicated team of Covid marshals.

Ten marshals have been out on patrol in hotspot areas over the past month, speaking to residents, shoppers and businesses, offering advice and guidance about the national safety rules and explaining how people can keep themselves and others safe.

covid marshal

Twenty new marshals joined the team on Monday to increase the amount of time spent engaging with people in those areas where there is a higher prevalence of Covid.

The marshals have been a really positive addition for us, offering a reassuring presence in our communities and providing us with valuable feedback. Police patrols are taking place daily as well, with enforcement action taken when needed.

We are also working with a large number of community organisations such as Age UK and Youth Inspired, faith groups and others to make sure as many people as possible are getting advice. We are translating key messages into other languages and working with community leaders to spread the word widely.

Other measures include advertising public health advice on information boards, lamp posts and roundabouts, using an LED van to share messages, radio advertising, supporting businesses to ensure they are operating safely and allowing staff to work from home. And don’t be surprised if you get a message pop up on your mobile phone when you’re out and about, as we’re trialling text message advertising too.

So as you can see, we have lots going on, but we need your help to control the spread of the virus.

Please remember to only meet indoors with people you live with or who are in your support bubble. You can now meet with up to six people who you do not live with outdoors whilst keeping your distance.

As ever, you can rest assured that we will continue to work hard to keep you safe and to keep the city moving forward. (more…)

Take action to save Peterborough from rising Covid-19 levels

This year we’ve seen residents across the city pull together on many occasions to help one another and to encourage others to follow the rules to reduce rates of the virus.

I strongly believe it is this sense of community spirit, which makes Peterborough such a great place to live and work, which has helped to keep our rates of the virus below many other places across the country.

It is this same spirit and determination that we need to see once again from our communities, with Coronavirus now spreading across Peterborough at the highest rate we have seen since the first lockdown.

Currently we are seeing more than 200 people per 100,000 infected with the virus and it’s affecting people across the whole city – all age groups and backgrounds. Worryingly, we are seeing more people over 60 catching the virus who are potentially at greater risk.

Unfortunately, quite a few people got infected in the week before lockdown started – going out to ‘beat the lockdown’.  This is understandable, but as we warned you at the time, it means we now have further to go to halt its progress. And because of this we all need to do more.

This week our Director of Public Health, Dr Liz Robin, issued a video blog urging people to take action now to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our health services. If you haven’t seen it, please watch it on our YouTube channel.

I will reiterate her advice, because we are now seeing more people in our hospital and they are sicker than they were before, so we need to work harder to prevent our figures from spiralling out of control.

You must:

  • Reduce contact with people outside of your own household to the absolute minimum, as this is how the virus is passed on.
  • Only leave home for essential reasons – to go to school, college or work if you cannot work from home, for medical or safety reasons, to get food and other essential shopping, or to provide care for others.
  • Work from home if at all possible.
  • Self-isolate if you test positive or are a contact of someone who is – there’s lots of support to help you do this, so there’s really no reason not to.

If we don’t take action now we risk more people getting sick and potentially dying – and not just from Coronavirus. The increased pressure on hospitals and health services will affect us all.

News of a potential vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel – but it will be months before it can help us all and we need to all make a final push for Peterborough now and stop Covid in its tracks.

A Virtual Christmas Switch-on

Normally at this time of year we’d be preparing to welcome thousands of people to the city centre for our Christmas lights switch on.

Our 40ft Spruce Christmas tree is already in Cathedral Square, but sadly the public switch-on cannot take place due to the pandemic.

However, residents can still get into the festive spirit with a virtual Christmas lights switch-on instead. The 15 minute pre-recorded event will be streamed online across our digital platforms on Wednesday 2 December at 7pm.

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Community Radio presenter Kev Lawrence will once again be hosting the switch-on and there will be special appearances from local guests.

xmas switch on

Please don’t turn up to this event – it is being pre-recorded to avoid large crowds gathering.

Once Peterborough reopens, subject to government restrictions being lifted, there will also be fairground rides from 2 December as well as a Christmas craft market from 2-6 December.

POSH in Parliament

I was delighted last week to see the national spotlight shining on the council and Peterborough United Football Club in the Houses of Parliament no less.

During a parliamentary debate, North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara highlighted the economic and health and wellbeing benefits of bringing spectators back to football grounds, even in a limited capacity, once lockdown restrictions are eased.

He also invited Nigel Huddleston MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to visit Peterborough, an offer he is very keen to take up.

posh logo

In addition, he said that opening the stadium – even in a limited way – would benefit the club in celebrating the life and career of Posh legend Tommy Robson.

Tommy, who made a record 559 first team appearances for the Posh, sadly passed away last month. Earlier this year he was given the Freedom of the City for his phenomenal contribution to the club, as well as his dedicated charity work.

We will continue to work closely with the football club and MP Vara to promote the many benefits that our much-loved football club delivers to the city.

We will also continue to work with the club to see what we can do locally to remember Tommy and his incredible achievements.

Temporary car park on former Northminster site

Finally, a reminder that our new temporary car park on the site of the former Northminster multi storey car park has opened to the public.

We’ve opened the car park to give residents, shoppers and businesses a helping hand in the run up to Christmas and are confident it will help the city centre to thrive once lockdown restrictions are eased.

As ever you can rest assured that we will continue to work hard to keep you safe and to keep the city moving forward.

Budget proposals for 2021/22

Last Friday we published a first set of budget proposals for 2021/22 which begin to explain how we will deliver the services that we know our residents need with the funding we have available.

Budget setting has been a challenge in recent years with our funding from government reducing by over 70 per cent in the past decade, but the Covid-19 pandemic has raised the bar on this challenge next year.

To put it simply, we need to make savings totalling £36m – that’s almost a quarter of our net revenue budget, i.e. the money we spend each year on providing services.

In recent years we’ve had to make many millions of pounds worth of savings to balance our budget. We’ve done this by reviewing all the services we provide to make sure they are as efficient as possible, by reviewing contracts to get better value and by increasing our income generation – we now generate £78million of external income annually.

At the same time our population continues to rise – we now provide services for more than 202,000 people, we have more older people requiring care, more children needing school places, more children with special educational needs and more children in care.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has placed an unprecedented strain on the council, as it has many businesses and organisations across our city.

These include a forecast loss of £2.4million in parking revenue, a council tax deficit of £2.8million as many people are unable to pay and an increase in households receiving council tax support, as well as an additional £13.8 million on providing enhanced Adult Social Care services.

This first phase of proposals details how we will save £2.7million but the scale of the challenge will require additional funding and solutions – we cannot meet the challenge by savings alone.

stacks of coins

As a result we are discussing with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and our MPs about potential solutions to the financial situation.

This will not just help us to continue to deliver essential services, but will allow us to continue our highly effective support in fighting the effects of Covid-19 in Peterborough.

And let’s not forget how successful that work has been.

We’ve worked with communities to reduce infection rates from a position of having the sixth highest rates in the country, to below the national average and our scheme to contact trace people who have tested positive for COVID-19 currently has a 77% success rate.

At one point we were one of the best in the country for distributing £32m in business grants and awarding 100% business rate relief for designated businesses totalling £40.3m, plus we have supported vulnerable residents through the Peterborough Coordination Hub.

We’ve had our first meeting with MCHLG and I am pleased to say they have promised to work closely with us. They recognise that even with the considerable support already provided to local government, there will be individual authorities with unique circumstances, such as Peterborough.

Delivering a balanced budget next year is the most severe challenge we have faced, but we will find a solution so that we can continue to work hard to keep people safe, support our businesses and to keep our city moving forward.

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Embankment joins other sites in future growth of Peterborough

As regular readers will know, there is much to be excited about in terms of plans for future growth in Peterborough.

Fletton Quays, North Westgate, the Station Quarter, Northminster and other city centre locations are all set to be transformed over the coming years.

I’ve been in local government for over 40 years and I can honestly say that our current regeneration plans are the most ambitious we’ve had since the Development Corporation way back in the 1960s.

Another area we are working to enhance is the Embankment and this week announced that we are moving forward with the production of a Masterplan, showcasing the 90-acre site as a year-round destination.

The development will include the new university campus, a proposed new stadium for Peterborough United, retention of assets such as the Lido, Key Theatre and open green spaces for leisure and recreational use.

embankment map

It will open up the city’s river frontage making it a destination in its own right, with the installation of a new pedestrian footbridge to Fletton Quays, subject to funding, and improving the use of open green space along the whole stretch of the river.

Last week I addressed delegates at an Investors Conference about our future plans. It was a really positive event and highlighted everything that Peterborough has going for it.

For example, did you know that over the last Century, Peterborough saw the second highest rate of jobs growth of any UK city and our enterprising population has seen the business start-up rate consistently ranked amongst the top 20 cities in the UK over the last 10 years?

There are over 7,000 businesses operating here, the A1 is on our doorstep, and we will soon be able to go direct to London King’s Cross in less than 40 minutes, a great benefit for commuters and shoppers alike!

On top of that, the city boasts a £30 million full-fibre network installed by CityFibre that reaches nearly every home and business premises.

Peterborough is growing fast, and we want it to remain a city where people and businesses can realise their ambitions. These plans will unlock even more potential within our city, creating a refreshed and welcoming environment where people want to live, work, and visit. (more…)

New swimming pool and leisure centre announced for Peterborough

Last week we announced plans to investigate building a new city centre swimming pool and leisure facility and I’ve had lots of positive comments from residents as a result.

The Regional Pool has served us well for more than 40 years and many residents continue to enjoy and love its facilities. However, it is time to look at providing a modern facility with the potential to provide even more for our growing population. So, we’re now working with the Peterborough Investment Partnership – the organisation transforming Fletton Quays – to develop a detailed business case to assess whether Pleasure Fair Meadow car park could be the site for a new pool and leisure facility.

I must stress that the plans are at a very early stage, but it is an exciting opportunity to explore developing a new city centre swimming pool and leisure facility.

We are fully committed to providing high quality leisure facilities in Peterborough and on that subject, I’m pleased to say that the transfer of arts, leisure and heritage services from Vivacity back into council control is going well.

Vivacity and the council have now opened three leisure centre and five libraries with excellent customer feedback around the safety measures that have been put in place.

This week, following our request Vivacity trustees agreed to extend the service transfer date to 30 September to help ensure a smooth transition for customers, staff and residents of Peterborough. At this point, it is proposed Vivacity colleagues will transfer to City College Peterborough Foundation and Peterborough Limited. And to set the record straight, the current staff who are the experts in these services will be taking the lead in continuing to provide these high-quality services.

The extra time will allow a smooth transfer for customers, staff and all involved to make sure there is minimal impact for you as service users.

Whether you’re a gym member, staff member, library user or have tickets to a show at the Key Theatre, I know you will be watching with interest to find out how the transfer impacts on you individually and on the city as a whole.

As the city recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, we will be watching keenly to see how customers use Vivacity services, by this I mean, whether or not you are happy to work out, visit events and travel to heritage sites largely as before. Vivacity have told us that many customers have already returned, and they have received many positive comments from them. If you have any suggestions on how services could be tweaked, such as the provision of more open-air fitness classes, virtual events or services do tell us.

After re-opening many facilities, such as Vivacity Premier Fitness, Central Library, the Regional Pool and Fitness Centre and Peterborough Athletics Track, we will continue to re-launch your local facilities as soon as we are able. For the latest re-opening times, please keep an eye on the council’s website and Vivacity’s.

I want you all to rest assured that arts, leisure and heritage are of vital importance to the city council as we help the city bounce back following Covid-19. It fits into our plans for the redevelopment of Peterborough through the Government’s Towns Fund bid, plans for a new stadium for Peterborough United and what will be needed to support the forthcoming university

You can rest assured that we will continue to work hard to keep you safe and to keep the city moving forward.

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School promise a safe September

The first week of September is always a key time of year, seeing as it marks the start of the new school year and for many children the beginning of their education.

It may be a while since my school days, but I remember feeling excited to return to class after the long summer break and I’m sure pupils are looking forward to catching up with their friends, teachers and school staff.

As I said in last week’s column, the past year has been like no other for our schools. Everyone involved in education has had to adapt to an unprecedented situation and you have my sincere thanks for doing such a wonderful job in very difficult circumstances.

Having children back in the classroom is the best option for all concerned, giving them the chance to learn, develop and flourish.

back to school image

But I want to reiterate that our schools are safe places to return to and assure everyone that we have worked very hard in readiness for this week.

Over the summer, schools went through rigorous and detailed risk assessments, as well as clarifying how they could meet the ‘System of Controls’ – steps set out by government which a school must follow to minimise the number of contacts a pupil has during a school day.

Having worked through the assessments and put in place necessary measures to ensure adequate cleaning and ‘social bubbles’ can be adhered to, we are fully confident our schools are safe spaces.

But rest assured, we will never be complacent and will continue to thoroughly monitor the situation and adapt as needed. (more…)

ARU Peterborough announced

This week we made an announcement that will ensure the future prosperity of our city and create lasting benefits for our residents, our businesses and our city as a whole for many years to come.

Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) has been chosen as the official higher education partner for a new employment-focused university in Peterborough being led by the city council and the Cambs and Peterborough Combined Authority.

ARU will deliver the curriculum for the new university, which will be known as ARU Peterborough, until 2028, and will soon begin recruiting its first students.

The new £30 million university is set to open its doors to 2,000 students in 2022, with an ambition to offer courses for up to 12,500 by 2030. The curriculum will be designed to meet local economic needs; providing both opportunities for local residents to receive a top-class vocational education and a well skilled local workforce for businesses to employ.

a r u peterborough launch

Establishing a university for Peterborough will bring immeasurable benefits for people in our city and across the wider region.

Our residents will be helped into well-paid, more sustainable jobs fit for the rapidly evolving skills and knowledge requirements of the 21st Century workplace.

The curriculum will be matched to the growth needs of local businesses, providing new opportunities for communities to gain access to higher level skills, better paid employment and enhanced life-chances.

Crucially, it will stop our talented young people from leaving the city to learn and set up life elsewhere, as well as helping Peterborough attract new talent, some of whom we hope will choose to put down roots in our wonderful city, raise families and start and grow businesses.

For our businesses it will ensure a good crop of people to choose from when advertising for jobs – people who have the training and the skills that they need to thrive in their workplace. Both hard skills in key sectors of our economy such as digital technology, low carbon tech and healthcare and medical technology and soft skills such as teamwork, communications, problem solving, inter-personal skills and personal resilience.

Better skilled and qualified employees will in turn help our businesses to thrive and prosper.

And for our city as a whole, the presence of the university will make Peterborough a more desirable place to start a family, to set up home or to do business – which will provide an ongoing boost to our economy.

In ARU we have found the best, most progressive and innovative academic partner to ensure we have a university that opens on time and thrives.

I look forward, not only to the commencement of construction work later this year, but to the day in autumn 2022 when we will be able to welcome our first intake of students to Peterborough. (more…)

City centre to welcome café culture from Saturday

This Saturday, pubs, bars and restaurants in our city centre will begin to open again, along with many other places we have missed, such as hairdressers, cinemas and hotels.

Our vibrant city is blooming into life once again, which will help to protect our local economy, not only local businesses, but also the jobs of thousands of city residents who are employed in the service industry.

In the city centre, we expect roughly 50 per cent of pubs, bars and restaurants to open their doors. Others, understandably, will wait a little longer until they can make the necessary changes needed to their buildings to make social distancing a reality.

guildhall

You can rest assured the council will continue to work hard, along with Opportunity Peterborough and the combined authority to keep services going, residents safe and well and to keep the city moving.

Along with providing advice and guidance to businesses, we are also talking with them individually to give opportunities to extend outside their building to allow more tables and chairs on the street and in public places like Cathedral Square and Bridge Street.

By following the government’s advice and relaxing planning laws – where we can – we hope to introduce a café culture, similar to those you see in European cities which will make the most of the summer months. This will give businesses the space to situate tables further apart, without losing customers and we hope will provide residents with the confidence they need to feel safe.

I’ve spoken to many residents over the past couple of weeks, either on the phone, by email, or out on the street (while observing social distancing). I know many of you can’t wait for a refreshing pint in a pub beer garden, or a well-earned night away from the kids at your favourite restaurant.

However, I also know that there are many that feel a little more cautious about this ‘new normal’ and of venturing outside of your own locality.

If you do decide to come to the city centre over the coming weeks, we’ve put together some advice to help inform you on what to expect which is on our website.

My top tips would be to phone or research online to make sure that the bar, pub or restaurant you want to visit is actually open, and whether or not they are accepting bookings only and to walk or cycle if you are able.

Car parks will be open – council car parks will be free until 13 July – and to be aware that if you’re taking public transport or a taxi you may be required to wear a face covering. (more…)

Plans for our return to the city centre

Three weeks ago the Prime Minister lifted restrictions on our movements slightly to allow more people to get back to work and for unlimited outdoors exercise – all whilst observing social distancing of course.

We now know that outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June and all other non-essential retail outlets from 15 June, if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 guidelines to protect workers and shoppers.

On Peterborough Market, traders selling essential items such as food, DIY and hardware goods have been able to continue trading during the lockdown. We now plan to undertake a health and safety audit to ensure the Government’s social distancing measures can be implemented safely, before allowing traders selling non-essential items to return.

We have been planning for the reopening of the city centre for a number of weeks, together with local businesses and business representative groups such as Queensgate, Opportunity Peterborough and Peterborough Positive, so that there is clear guidance for businesses.

New social distancing guidance and signage will begin to be installed in the city soon and people will start to notice that things they touch a lot such as benches, bins and pay and display machines are being cleaned more regularly.

We are also working with businesses to see how areas such as St Peter’s Arcade and the Guildhall can become part a wider café culture in the city – I’ll be able to tell you more about this soon!

guildhall peterborough

Of course, all of this will cost money, so I am pleased the Government has allocated us £181,000 from the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund to pay for some of the changes that will be necessary.

We know that COVID-19 has had a harsh impact on businesses in Peterborough and that’s why we are looking at how we can re-open our city centre as soon as we are able to, as safely as possible. We know our city’s economy is strong which means we are in a better position than most to weather the crisis. (more…)