Marco Cereste Leader of the City Council reports back from the Growth Conference staged for potential investors into Peterborough at the Great Northern Railway Hotel. Broadcast at 08:05 on Friday 18th June in the Peterborough Breakfast Show hosted by Paul Stainton on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
STAINTON: Now investors came to Peterborough yesterday with a promise that the city is open for business. City leaders presented multi-million pound development opportunities to investors at an all-day conference, including the chance to regenerate the South Bank, the Station Quarter and London Road. Here’s what some of the investors thought. (TAPE) (OB)
ONE: Ultimately the big decisions come from the city and come from the leadership. And you know it’s easy enough to look for a comprehensive answer that ticks all the boxes on any scheme or proposal. If you are to make things happen, you’ve got to be willing to compromise, and drive things forward, with the best available opportunities, and just make it happen.
TWO: I thought there was some encouragement today. I think there were two particular things which have made this a little bit different from these in the past. One, I think there is more leadership at the top, which is very very keen. And I think the other thing is that the consultants they’ve got now leading are much more hands-on than previous sets of consultants we’ve had doing this sort of work. Both of those things give me more hope that something really will happen this time. (STUDIO)
STAINTON: Some of the investors who were at this conference yesterday. Council Leader Marco Cereste was the man, one of the men presenting various proposals yesterday. Morning Marco.
CERESTE: Good morning Paul. How are you?
STAINTON: I’m very good thank you. It sounds like you had quite a good response to what you were proposing.
CERESTE: Yes it was excellent. Really really good day.
STAINTON: Some very interesting lines that came out of the meeting yesterday as well, especially from the English Partnership’s David Taylor, who said various things about Bourges Boulevard as well. He expressed a desire to get rid of Bourges Boulevard, the dual-carriageway, to make it more pedestrian-friendly. That’s quite a big project, isn’t it?
CERESTE: Yes. Absolutely. But there is so much space there that it’s more a question of getting the right design and getting the right scheme. It’s a big project, but it’s a project that divides our city. And if you think about it Bourges Boulevard divides our city down one side. It cuts the city centre in half, and stops you from getting reasonably easily to the railway station and the other side of the city. It was great when it was put in there, but I don’t think we need it any more. I don’t think we need anything of that scale anyway.
STAINTON: And you’d also like to get rid of Asda as well, from where it is at the moment.
CERESTE: It’s not that we’d like to get rid of Asda but the Asda site is a perfect site for doing other things.
STAINTON: Yes, and houses overlooking the river. Where would you put Asda though if it was to move?
CERESTE: Well that’s the fifty million dollar question. It’s something that .. for Asda to find and for us to help, if it becomes a feasible thing to do. So it’s very difficult, because they want specific sites and specific areas. I’m not sure that we can actually accomodate them. But we will if we can.
STAINTON: You were looking for investment from these people to regenerate the South Bank, London Road and the Station Quarter, which could lure up to five thousand Government jobs. Is that right?
CERESTE: We are already negotiating with some .. we’ve got people on the case, so to speak, talking to government departments. Now that we’ve got a Conservative government the veto that was on before that would stop the move to Peterborough has been removed. So now we’re talking to them about coming to Peterborough. If you think about it, if you are a government department, Peterborough has got to be the perfect place to move to. And I’m not saying it because I’m the Leader of the Council. It really is if you think about it. You’re forty six minutes outside of the City centre, out of the biggest world city. You’re forty six minutes outside of it. There’s all that land along the side of the railway line which is empty, which could be filled with high-class environmentally friendly offices. And there’s a train running about every twenty minutes. And it’s just got to be the perfect site. So we’re mobilising the troops, and we’re trying to convince government offices to move here to Peterborough and bring at least five thousand jobs.
STAINTON: How impressed were the investors with what you were proposing, and did we manage to get anybody to cough up some cash?
CERESTE: Well the idea yesterday wasn’t necessarily to get people to cough up cash. But I can assure you that everybody seemed to be really impressed with what we’re doing. They’re impressed with the team. They were particularly impressed with the new finance model that we think we can put in place to help find the cash that we need to develop Peterborough, which is completely new, it’s not been done anywhere before. And we think that’s going to be key to the future. And I can tell you that I personally was approached by I don’t know how many people during the break, coffee breaks and lunch, people who genuinely wanted to come and work with us, and invest in our city. All the way from house-builders to two companies that quite honestly they do want to come and build our new shopping centre. We don’t call it shopping centre any more but that’s what it is.
STAINTON: Yes. Somebody on text this morning says: “Is it true Asda are interested in Mancetter Square?”
CERESTE: I honestly don’t know. I really don’t know. I can’t answer that question because I don’t know the answer. It may be, but I really don’t know.
STAINTON: But they are likely to move aren’t they.
CERESTE: No-one has mentioned that to me. So I don’t know.
STAINTON: Hearsay eh? Hearsay. The listeners have got their ear to the ground. I understand someone said yesterday we’ve been promised this type of action before. It never happened. How do we know it will happen this time?
CERESTE: That’s the discussion you and I have had on a number of occasions in the last twelve months isn’t it? But the reality of it is of course that we are .. we have got the money .. let’s take the South Bank which everybody says oh you know twenty years, we’ve still got nowhere. Let’s take the South Bank. Well the four hundred carbon-friendly homes, that’s all been signed up. We’re expecting a planning application literally within weeks. And the builders are saying to us that they intend to start work before Christmas. One of the stands at the football ground, we’ve got some .. we actually showed the visuals the other day. We’ve got money to fund that.
STAINTON: You’re going to start that from the ground up? You’re going to rebuild the whole stand, aren’t you?
CERESTE: We are yes. We’re going to rebuild each stand, one at a time, with different facilities all the way round it.
STAINTON: Which one are you going to start with? Moyes End?
CERESTE: I think it’s called the Moyes End.
STAINTON: Yes. On London Road?
CERESTE: Yes. Yes. I think it’s called the Moyes End. The money’s in place. The visuals looked really really nice. It’s going to be a training centre, skills and training centre for our, you know, for the people of this city, which is going to be a fantastic facility. But it will also act as a facility that will act as a stand for the football games when they occur.
STAINTON: When’s it going to start, Marco?
CERESTE: Well you know again it’s really we’re close. We you know this is not twenty years away. This is within the next twelve months. That will start too I anticipate. We’ve got people literally champing at the bit to come in now and start to work on the North Westgate, the Station Quarter as well. We’re not that far away. I would anticipate that we would .. for what we call City West now, I would be very very unhappy if we didn’t have plans in place, you know, proper planning application, ready to go, within two years.
STAINTON: So within two years the city’s going to look like a different place, and some of these ..
CERESTE: No. we’re going to start the work. You’re not going to build .. you’re not going to do the size work that we’re doing at the moment ..
STAINTON: No but what I mean is there’s a lack of work going on at the moment, isn’t there, because of the climate, so we’re going to see a bit of invigoration in Peterborough?
CERESTE: Absolutely. We think we’ve got .. we believe we also have the way to create the financing that we need as well. So we’re quite confident that if we can get the right investors together, the right developers together. The important thing is that Peterborough has got to grow the right way for the benefit of the people of Peterborough. So we’re not going to accept anything. It’s got to be th right scheme that’s going to make our city grow the right way, so that our people in this city can prosper.
STAINTON: Marco thank you for that. Marco Cereste Leader of Peterborough City Council. Very very confident that a lot of the major projects that have been proposed in Peterborough over the last few years will get the green light in the next twelve months to eighteen months, and we’ll see some invigoration in the city of Peterborough.