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Letter: 'Our ideas to improve the Embankment without building on it'

The Save Peterborough Embankment Group would like to publicly state that we are 100% behind the development of a new arena in Peterborough. However, we do not think that the Embankment is the right location for it.
Pic Paul Benton
The Embankment

We appreciate the benefits that such a building would bring to Peterborough’s economy. But we feel that this has to be balanced with other factors. Here are some of the reasons why we oppose building development (of any nature) on the Embankment green space.

1 The Embankment is marked as an "informal parkland" and "amenity open space" as specified on the ARCGIS [an interactive web map] map of the area. Amenity open space (or green space) is an area which provides leisure opportunities for local residents living in urban areas.

They are also designated to improve the lives of people living in the area through activities such as sports and recreation. Any loss of green space will result in a negative effect regarding the wellbeing of local residents, especially as more and more of the city centre office blocks are turned into flats with no private green space or even balconies to provide them with light and air.

2 We are still in a pandemic. The pandemic has caused us to social distance. Forcing Peterborough’s city centre residents into a small river bank area and limiting their access to space for group recreation will be detrimental to both the health and wellbeing of local people. Therefore we need to retain our unique city centre green space to protect the health of city centre residents in the future.

3 The Embankment has a long history of holding outdoor community events including the Bridge Fair, music festivals, comedy festivals and one of Britain’s biggest outdoor beer festivals. Forcing these events inside will lead to a loss of reputation (the beer festival, for instance) and will have more of a cost attached. This means some of our community will lose access to these events.

Events such as these have attracted people to the city in the past and have helped benefit the local economy and we believe that development of the Embankment would have a negative impact on the city’s cultural capital.

4. Even though it is not obvious from a glance, the Embankment, like all green spaces, is a biodiverse habitat and useful tool in capturing the city centre carbon output. Moreover, the Embankment is a river flood plain acting as a catchment area.

Additionally, with the threat of climate change and sea level rise, any potential building on the Embankment will disrupt the city’s ability to soak up any flood water and further threaten nearby residential properties or those further along the river. Estimates for sea level rise of this nature are currently put at 2050.

We have listed a few websites below which contain evidence backing up some of these claims. There are so many scientific studies regarding the benefit of green space, mental health, wellbeing, biodiversity as well as scientific evidence regarding the threat of climate change – here are just a few:

Green space and mental health

The Government Review on Improving Access to Green Space 202

Mind on the benefits of nature and mental health


The Save the Embankment Group currently has a membership of over 1,600 local residents. There are likely to be many more people in Peterborough unaware of the plans to develop the Embankment.

Therefore the group’s main priority is to preserve and raise awareness of how vital this green space is for city centre users while there is no comparable outdoor space for local residents.

Arena aside, an equally robust argument could be made for the regeneration of this green space for outdoor recreation and cultural events and a new riverside economy which could be of direct economic benefit to Peterborough City Council as well as in the social and cultural value of the city.

Still, the majority of the Save the Embankment Group believe that this well-loved green space has been neglected in recent years and needs to be made more user-friendly and so we recently conducted a poll of our members.

Here are some of our ideas to improve the area without building on it:

• Static picnic benches

• An area of the river to paddle in

• Live music events

• Themed markets

• Planting and permaculture workshops

• Chelsea Gardens Style installations

• More history boards charting the area’s importance

• More environment boards charting the wildlife, etc

• Cultural grassroots events to celebrate the diversity of the city

• Events with BBC Cambs

• Landscaping

• Toilets

• More bins (waste and recycling)

• LED lights on the paths

• Seasonal markets

• Medieval Fayre

• Cycle hire

• Cycle paths

• Children’s playground

• Small café/ice cream stall

• Punting

• Space to showcase art

• Garden development with walkways

• Built in BBQs

• Wildlife and water features

• Graffiti wall

• Natural amphitheatre for outdoor performances

• Wildflower meadow

• Park rangers

• Encourage festivals held by Peterborough’s different communities (such as Portuguese, Italian, etc) to take place on the Embankment.

Members have also pointed out the family-friendly benefits of the Embankment including that the slope to the east is the only place where children can go sledging in the area when it snows.