This is my first column of 2021, so I would like to start off by wishing everyone a happy New Year.
The past twelve months have been a year like no other, resulting in big changes to our daily lives and having to sacrifice some of the things we all love doing.
There is light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine rollout continuing but with the new lockdown under way, I must once again implore everyone to follow the guidelines and take extra care.
So to recap the lockdown rules, please don’t invite people into your home who you don’t live with all the time, don’t go out unless it is essential – and when you do take particular care because of this new variant of the virus is so much easier to catch.
Avoid crowded areas, don’t gather together in groups, don’t ignore signs or the advice of our marshals who are out on the streets to help and support you.
You also need to continue to wear face coverings in shops, keep socially distanced and wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.
We appreciate that the current situation is very difficult for some people, and there is support for those who may be lonely or isolated, or who suddenly need very practical support– and I would encourage them to phone the countywide co-ordination hub on 0345 045 5219.
For anyone whose mental health is being more severely impacted, there is the Lifeline support number 0808 808 2121 which operates daily from 11am to 11pm and for people with a mental health crisis you can phone the NHS 111 number and ask for Option 2.
Council projects able to progress despite pandemic
Not many of us will look back on 2020 fondly, however there were silver linings like the heart-warming way our communities pulled together to help one another.
There were many unprecedented challenges for the council but at the same time we’ve made great progress on a number of significant projects.
Our ambitious regeneration plans moved forward at pace over the past year and will play a key role in ensuring Peterborough remains a great place to live, work and play for many years to come.
Fletton Quays is one of our proudest achievements, featuring our council’s offices and hundreds of state-of-the-art apartments. The site’s development is coming along nicely with work on the new Hilton hotel progressing, along with the construction of a government hub, set to be completed in 2022.
Construction of our new university is also under way and the benefits it will bring to our city and the region will be enormous and last for generations.
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.
Meanwhile, our exciting work to redevelop Northminster is moving forward and we hope to submit a planning application later this year, so watch this space.
Towns Fund to be dedicated to five key projects
Another significant achievement of the past year was our successful bid to the government’s Towns Fund, granting us £22.9 million. The funds are earmarked for the following five key projects which we are moving forwards:
- Riverside Development and Connections – Creating a masterplan for the Embankment, the new University campus and Middleholme.
- New and improved visitor and cultural attractions – These include a new library and cultural facilities for the city, as well as improved visitor attractions.
- Developing the Station Quarter – Creating a welcoming route from the train station into the city centre and opening up space for new homes and offices.
- Enterprise and Skills infrastructure – Building a new enterprise training and business incubation hub to support new city businesses and start-ups, and a training centre for green technology skills.
- Future green city – Creating safer, easily accessible routes for pedestrians and cyclists to the train station and city centre from key sites around the city.
These projects have been specifically designed to increase the wellbeing of residents, boost visitor numbers and adhere to the city’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Peterborough’s time really is now and we are fully committed to creating a city of growth, prosperity and opportunity.
A huge thanks to our key workers
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank all of our key workers, council staff and dedicated band of volunteers for their sterling efforts over the past year.
So many of our residents are key workers – doctors, nurses, police officers, social workers, supermarket workers and many, many other professions – they all deserve special praise and their continued efforts in these difficult times are truly invaluable.
As always you can rest assured we will continue to work to keep you safe and keep the city moving forwards.