Ten challenges for Peterborough in 2022: Part Two

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The brilliant mural at Link Road

Green spaces

As well as the Embankment, the future of several other green spaces remain in the balance, not least the ongoing saga at Werrington field - an update on that can be found here.

In September The East of England Arena announced "a land promotion agreement with Asset Earning Power Group (AEPG) to enhance the existing leisure offer and develop the 165-acre site."

Ashley Butterfield, CEO of AEPG said: “We’re thrilled to have entered into an alliance with the East of England Agricultural Society to enhance the site as a new destination to live in the city with an exceptional leisure and events offer at its heart. This will create enormous benefits for people living and working in Peterborough.

“The site has vast potential. AEPG plans to create a considered development with leading-edge leisure facilities for the local community as well as the wider public. It is expected this will create in excess of 400 jobs.

“AEPG’s team are preparing a master plan for a new type of housing development that will combine a unique lifestyle with aspirational homes set within a beautiful, landscaped environment. A planning application will be submitted in the Spring of 2022 for a scheme that is in accordance with the site allocation and policies of the 2019 adopted local plan."

The end of the three-day agricultural show in 2012 meant that the showground was no longer essential to the future of the East of England Agricultural Society, and the upshot will be more housing on a city green space - which will presumably be bitterly opposed by Orton residents. 

One thing that also should happen, not so far away, is the controversial 34m Olympic climbing wall at Nene Park, for which permission was granted back in March on the banks of Gunwade Lake. 

The climbing wall will be part of the planned Lakeside Activity Centre, providing a year-round, all-weather indoor activity centre, which will include one of the country’s largest Clip ‘n Climb arenas suitable for all ages. However work has not yet started as Nene Park Trust needs to complete a series of planning conditions, and there may yet be issues with the supply chain for materials.

Art attack

Late in 2021 we received the welcome news that Peterborough Presents had secured additional funding allowing them to continue working with communities and creatives across the city until March 2025.

As part of that, the organisation "will create a ‘young producers’ group who will oversee a programme of events in Millfield and work closely with communities to create a very special birthday celebration to mark our 10 years of working in the city in 2024." 

These are the kind of events we have been trying to promote in the city (and exciting news to come on that early next year), and we feel there is real potential for art to take a further hold here, not least because we also now have a strong cultural strategy.

In a conversation last month Nathan Murdoch, of Street Arts Hire, said: "I really feel that Millfield has the potential to host a street art gallery. It's a crazy area in a beautiful way and I love it.

"It's got the smells of food, different languages and cultures; there is everything there. Let's make it a tourist attraction, bit by bit. Maybe it can open people's minds."

(As an aside Nathan had just been on a cherry picker on Lincoln Road depicting Spongebob Squarepants with a chicken piece in all his yellow glory - joining a 30ft Homer Simpson on the side of Chaiwalla!)

Peterborough's creatives undoubtedly have the talent to do it - take a look at the rejuvenated Link Mural, and pieces such as this and this - but for it to progress the area needs investment, a belief, and, many readers would say, a sense of pride in the area as it is now, not what it was 30 or 40 years ago. It's a perfect site for  art to dovetail into Cafe culture, but only if it's looked after.

Imagine a trail leading from the city centre along Lincoln Road, perhaps even comprising digital art and NFTs...of course it would help if we had a tourist office to tell visitors about it, but small steps first eh?


The return of.... 

It's been two years since we had a beer festival and a heritage festival, and assuming it happens a whole four years since the Great Eastern Run, thanks to pandemics and external incidents on race-day.

At the time, in 2019, organisers were trying to work out how the race could happen and 'threats' such as these could be eliminated. Of course, the organisers then were Vivacity - so the question remains as to who will take eventual ownership of the project, and if it remains even viable.

A decision on the beer festival is usually made in spring, while the possibility has been raised of a four-day heritage festival in the future, perhaps with a presumed Bronze Age extension to the museum still to come. 

And then there are all the other events we've missed out on, such as the Straw Bear Festival (will this be back for 2023?) and the Dragon Boat Festival - more information here. We, and other media have to play our part more in shouting about events such as the Heritage Open Days, PAOS open studios, and many many others.

Finally, Is it too early to talk about Christmas? A floppy tree (which the council looked into changing, PM understands - but none were available) and no Christmas market (through no fault of the council after cancellations) were damp squibs for many at the end of the year, sadly. There was a decent craft market at the Cathedral though, and perhaps this could become a longer event (that's on the PM wishlist!)

Empty spaces

Bills renewed their licence at Cathedral Square in September, curiously enough, but there are no further updates on Le Petit Four or Handmade Burger, although PM understands there is certainly news to come on the latter soon. And for shopping, the end of John Lewis left us with a simple question - where would you buy a new laptop in the city centre these days?

We know that at least some spaces will be taken by buildings associated with the new market, for which a decision will now be taken by PCC in late-January. And while most believe that the decision will be approval, what would happen should it be refused - with the market earmarked for demolition a couple of months afterwards? Certainly some of the traders are not convinced.

Sadly many more spaces may be created in the aftermath of any Covid restrictions which might come our way as soon as next week. A quick scan of social media shows several venues openly pleading for support (and we have spoken to at least one business owner working in hospitality who says they will instantly close for good should another lockdown ensue). Footfall may go down even further should a vaccination passport be needed.

For what it's worth, at the time of writing there are nearly 400 Covid cases a day in Peterborough.

City crime

To many of our readers Peterborough is regarded as a less safe place than five or ten years ago. 

Rarely is there a week where knife crime does not appear in our courts, and when we spoke to police and crime commissioner Darryl Preston earlier this month he outlined his five priorities which included more education on knife crime. This even comprises talking to primary school pupils, frighteningly enough, and of course these are not confined to Peterborough.

There are now record numbers of police officers in the county – 1,675, with a commitment from the Chief Constable to increase neighbourhood policing. But the reality is that many of the new officers will work behind the scenes on cyber crime, which could include anything from abuse to fraud, as well as preventing crime in multi-agency approaches.

But none of that will matter to those who have to wait several hours after a break-in because of a lack of numbers -and it's that perception, real or not, that the force has to overcome.

Peterborough has other pressures; rural crime in one direction, and city centre crime in the other.

We recently received an email from someone who felt vulnerable in and around Westgate - she said: "I know hand on heart that around this area the public of Peterborough and visitors to the area don’t like visiting the town centre.

"This has been going on for two years since the lockdown.These people have been allowed to run free in and around North Street. I have witnessed a men asking people for money in the car park along with myself. This happened today - if you walk along that road to the corner of Westgate. I have also witnessed men using this area as a toilet."

One of the biggest roads in our city centre, and people feel unsafe? It's not the only city to experience this, but its unacceptable and needs to be stopped if the Peterborough perception - there's that word again - is to change.