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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Westcombe Engineering celebrated by city

Walking through the city centre yesterday, I met a resident I hadn’t seen for a long time who had spotted a video on our Facebook page about Westcombe Engineering.

Although she had lived in our city for most of her life, she wasn’t aware of just how much this social enterprise delivers back to our city, particularly in terms of its employment of disabled workers.

So, let me tell you a little about it – founded in 1970, Westcombe Engineering was set up to provide permanent employment and work experience for disabled people. All profits are reinvested back into the business and the local economy, with the aim of increasing the life chances of those living in Peterborough.

When it was set up, many expected it to only last a few years or so. However, nearly 50 years later the business has just announced an impressive 60 per cent growth in the last three years, led by its ability to diversify beyond its traditional diesel engine components market into new areas.

On top of this, it also won a regional business award for manufacturing in the last 12 months and in 2017, was included in the Parliamentary Review Publication, cited as a best practice example in the manufacturing industry.

Westcombe Engineering was always light years ahead of its time, but I don’t think even its founder would have predicted the global public demand for businesses to care more about their workforce, their community and increasingly their environment.

westcombe engineers

The video that went out on Facebook this week – which can be found on our Peterborough City Council channel – celebrated the business and its workers. It tells the story of among others, Darren who caught chicken pox as a child and had to have a section of his brain removed. Thanks to Westcombe, Darren is able to earn his own money and has his independence, which he is proud to say has given his life purpose.

If you haven’t seen the video it’s well worth a watch and if you have, please share it with someone else in our city. Westcombe is a credit to our community and has changed the lives of so many skilled and talented disabled people and their families. (more…)

Why we want St Michael’s Gate

On Monday we announced plans to purchase 72 homes on St Michael’s Gate in Parnwell.

It’s a decision we thought long and hard about, after being offered the chance to buy them by current owners Stef and Philips, but it’s one that makes complete sense financially and for the people of our city in housing difficulty and I will tell you why.

Firstly, it allows us to continue offering these homes as temporary accommodation to people in need for many years to come. The alternative would be more expensive bed and breakfast accommodation which doesn’t meet our aspiration to offer everyone their own front door. Since we agreed to lease the properties in 2016 we have been able to provide temporary accommodation to almost 400 families at St Michael’s Gate.

Secondly, it makes good financial sense and immediately saves the council money. Owning these properties rather than leasing them saves £600,000 a year. 

Thirdly, if we didn’t choose to buy these homes, someone else would. Perhaps another council with a housing shortage as severe as ours looking for somewhere to place their homeless families, or a developer wanting to redevelop the land.

I understand that councillor Shaz Nawaz, leader of the labour group, has commented about the fact we are paying above the valuation price for these properties. It is true, we are, but for the many good reasons stated above.

We respect and understand the valuation, but we also know that a property’s real value is in fact what someone will pay for it, and if we did not buy them another council would. In addition, if other councils were using these properties to house their homeless families, we would then be providing council services for all of these families, placing further burden on our already stretched budgets.

Councillor Nawaz has also recommended that we should have bought these properties back in 2016. I’ve got news for him – we never had the chance! The first we knew about them was when we were offered them for rental by Stef and Philips three years ago.

I am pleased to say that we are also setting aside money to install new windows for the residents. Over the past year we’ve made a variety of repairs and modernisations, including new boilers and heating systems in all homes, paid for by the Local Enterprise Advice Partnership (LEAP) fund. 

Providing enough homes for everyone in our city has been one of our biggest challenges in recent times, because of the steep and sudden rise in demand. But our homeless strategy is working – we no longer have to house homeless families out of the area and the number of families in B&B accommodation has been reduced from 146 in September 2018 to 73

This has been achieved by working with hundreds of families at risk of homelessness – with the aim of keeping them in their own homes, by working with our partners to build hundreds of new homes, by buying 51 homes on the open market and by working with landlords to secure an additional 48 homes.

But if we don’t act now to purchase one of the largest sites used for temporary accommodation in the city, we risk losing the ground we have worked so hard to gain in recent times. (more…)

Posh ground deal now a step closer to completion

Peterborough United is a club that is dear to my heart. I’ve been a fan for 56 years after being introduced to the club by my wife Barbara – it’s where we went on our first date!

So it was a great honour to walk onto the pitch on Saturday ahead of their second home game of the season against Ipswich Town, which they went on to dominate, before conceding an equaliser in the last moments.

Donning my trusty blue and white Posh scarf, I joined the owners of the club to sign a Heads of Terms agreement, which signals the final stages of sale of the ground back to the club, where it belongs.

Signing on the pitch

For those of you unaware of the history, back in 2009 the council bought the stadium and its surrounding land from a property developer to ensure its ownership stayed in the city.

Since then, the city council has unlocked the potential of the surrounding land, leading to the creation of the Allia Future Business Centre and the Vista carbon neutral development which is home to 295 households.

And there is more to come. When the stadium is returned back to the club – hopefully by the end of the year – the council will retain the London Road car park, which will be used to build 82 affordable city centre apartments, through the council’s Meadesham Homes partnership.

As well as generating some really good business and housing developments for this area of the city, the finances stack up as well.

The council has exceeded its expectations in terms of its return on investment from the sale, by generating a hefty £3.9million. Plus, the extra homes and businesses mean we will continue to collect £491,000 a year in business rates and a hefty £2million in council tax.

At a time when every penny counts in the council’s budget, this income is not to be sniffed at and represents a good deal everyone in our city.

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Still a fan half a century later

Before I write about anything else in my first blog of 2018, I would like to say a huge well done to Peterborough United for a fantastic game at the weekend.

I took the journey to the Villa Park ground with my grandsons on Saturday fully expecting an entertaining game, and by the time the first half ended, it was clear it would be just that.

All the players really stepped up and delivered a superb team performance, with Jack Marriott and Ryan Tafazolli delivering a perfect header from the corner to secure a 3-1 win.

My grandson Lewis went as far as to say it was the best football match he’d ever seen. Let’s hope he sees an even better one against Fleetwood or Leicester at the end of the month.

New developments

Sticking with the POSH theme, it’s a little known fact that my wife Barbara and I went on our first date together at the London Road ground just over 54 years ago. It was a memorable date for many reasons and we’ve been POSH fans ever since.

We got married in 1964 and just a few years into married life, I remember hearing exciting plans for a new development at North Westgate, a promising area near to the train station.

NorthWestgateDevelopmentMapView

Over the years many developers have come forward with big ideas on how to regenerate this site, which lies in an important location but is very much under-used, none of which have come to fruition.

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