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Civic society: Northminster plans are 'overbearing' and 'damaging to city economy'

The potential new Northminster development is "overbearing", Peterborough Civic Society has said.
Northminster regeneration 2
An aerial view of the proposed plans

And the group, which seeks to safeguard Peterborough's heritage, claims the removal of the market would harm "vitally important aspects of city centre planning and regeneration".

It has said the plan should be refused on a number of grounds, including a lack of parking for potential residents and no mention of the future of the market, contrary to LP6 of the Local Plan.

A planning application was submitted to the council last month by Peterborough Investment Partnership (PIP), following consultation, with a view to demolishing the city market and constructing 335 residential units.

There will also be two ground-floor commercial units and a single-storey food pavilion, space for car parking and, if approved, the amount of public realm space free and open to everyone would grow by 65%. 

But the plan, which will be 12 storeys high at its highest point, is viewed as controversial to market traders, nearby residents and some Peterborough Matters readers.

In a response submitted by the society to the plans, Peterborough Civic Society spokesperson Kem Mehmed said: "A surface-level car park has been opened (100 spaces) but the overall loss of about 650 spaces and the retail units has noticeably reduced pedestrian activity here and damaged the vitality of the Northminster area.

"The permanent removal of the market would exacerbate this situation, and should the market be closed before a replacement site is in operation then a significant blow to the viability and vitality of the city centre is likely to be experienced."

Another concern was the "overbearing scale" of the proposal in relation to nearby buildings, and "even Bayard Place and the ABC Cinema (Embassy) are dwarfed by it," Mr Mehmed said.

"Of particular concern is the sheer bulk of the building. Not only is it higher than any other building in the vicinity and seven storeys higher than the maximum recommended, it extends to 100 metres north to south and 60m east to west."

The near-40m-high building would be 10 metres higher than the Cathedral nave roof, although the response states that the council "chose to dismiss this concern when deciding to approve the Solstice eight-storey block, which is a veritable pimple compared with this one".

The society has calculated that the site could be about twice as dense as the four residential blocks on Fletton Quays.

And it said it envisaged problems for those wishing to park to watch events at the New Theatre should a show sell out, now that the 750-space multi-storey car park has been removed and replaced temporarily. 

Mr Mehmed said: "The proposed 50-space car park is for residents of the development and their visitors. At an occupancy rate of, say, two persons per apartment that equates to 670 persons, the vast majority of whom will be adults.

"It is not credible that 50 spaces will be enough, and it must be assumed that tens, if not a few hundred, will seeking a space to park a car not too far distant.

"All the nearby residential conversions of offices to flats and the approved scheme at the Solstice include a generous provision of on-site parking. The nearest public car parks to the site are at Brook Street and New Road, which together have 285 spaces. In a recent survey, the average number unoccupied was found to be four." 

Howard Bright, principal development manager at PIP, said at the time: “We see the redevelopment of Northminster as a fantastic opportunity to bring a new identity to this part of the city. Our ambition is to provide high-quality housing, together with enhanced public realm and more green space for the community to enjoy in this part of the city centre.

“Following our public consultation, all feedback provided has been considered in the finalisation of our plans. We understand the local community’s concerns about Peterborough City Market’s future and have passed all specific enquiries on to Peterborough City Council for their response.

“The other main area of feedback was around the building’s height. After careful consideration, we have reduced the proposed number of residential units from around 355 to around 330, reducing the east wing by two storeys from the 12 storeys first proposed.

“We’re delighted to hit another milestone in the project, having submitted our planning application on Friday, July 23, 2021. We look forward to continuing to work with Peterborough City Council and expect the proposal to go to committee later this year.”

Few dispute that the area is now fairly run-down, and is seen as a key component in the revitalisation of the city centre. 

Last week the Solstice - which has received planning permission for demolition - reapplied for its licence which will come into force in September, while in addition Coyotes and 2020 World Buffet will soon be joined on New Road by a nightclub under the name Rhythm Rooms.

But Peterborough MP Paul Bristow wants further progression, and yesterday shared details of a letter he wrote to junior local government minister Luke Hall to raise the issue of funding.

The letter says: "As you know, your department adopted a scheme-by-scheme approach to providing affordable housing grant to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, following some concerns about the housing programme.

"I am concerned about the proposed Northminster regeneration plan. This historic part of Peterborough is in urgent need of regeneration and investment. I have met with the Leader of Peterborough City Council, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, on this issue and he shares my impatience to get the ball rolling with this proposal.

"The development provides the opportunity to deliver affordable housing on the site, targeted at young professionals, key workers, and low-income earners. My constituents deserve this housing opportunity, which the government's funding can make possible. The CPCA has requested £14m to make it happen.

"The redevelopment of Northminster is being brought forward by Peterborough City Council. The leader of the council has also committed to securing a new future and venue for the city market."