Chris Haworth from Carter Jonas expresses his frustration at the lack of progress on major development schemes in Peterborough. Broadcast at 07:20 on Tuesday 18th May 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. The interviewer is Paul Stainton.
STAINTON: Now last week MP for the city Stewart Jackson criticised Opportunity Peterborough for not selling the city enough.
JACKSON: (TAPE) One of the big things that we haven’t done, and a big failure, and I have to say I lay it at the door of Opportunity Peterborough, because it’s no-one else’s fault. We have not sold Peterborough on the national stage as robustly as we should. We haven’t had ads on the sides of taxis, ads in the Financial Times, radio ads, nationally. We need to get really serious about businesses coming to this city.
STAINTON: (LIVE) Well that’s Stewart Jackson MP for Peterborough, very critical. Now a large property consultancy firm has also come out in criticism. Chris Haworth from Carter Jonas in Peterborough is on the line. Morning Chris.
HAWORTH: Good morning.
STAINTON: We had the response from Opportunity Peterborough to what Stewart had to say. They said they are selling the city. They are going round. They are placing adverts. They’re doing lots of deals behind the scenes. Why are you critical?
HAWORTH: Well I’m not sure I’m actually really critical of Opportunity Peterborough. I mean what Stewart Jackson came out and said I think was absolutely right. We do need to be promoting the city, and that’s perhaps something that hasn’t been done in the past. And I think if he’d probably offered that criticism at Opportunity Peterborough a few years ago he’d have been right. I think actually we’ve got some very good leaders in Steve Compton and John Bridge now who are taking it forward. Where I think he should have laid the blame is at the Peterborough City politicians. They’re the ones who’ve been sniping away behind when some of these development proposals have been coming forward, and Opportunity Peterborough have had a very very difficult job in moving the developments forward.
STAINTON: So you’re laying the blame rather than on Opportunity Peterborough at the people who run the city right now?
HAWORTH: Yes. Absolutely right. I think there’s also been a problem as far as the officials are concerned, there’s been an attitude in Peterborough that things are going to take a long time. I remember a meeting a public meeting a few years ago, one of the city planners, when he was asked when we might see development on the Station Quarter, he said well we might see something there in the next fifteen or twenty years, and we were all aghast. There’s actually no reason why it should take that time to do it. Having said that, I mean I think we’ve now got some good leadership in Opportunity Peterborough now. I met the new Head of Planning at Peterborough City Council Simon Machin last week, and he has got the most fantastic collaborative approach to driving planning forward. So I do think the building blocks are in place for things to happen in Peterborough. And Steve Compton is talking about some of the things that have been done, the jobs that have been created, ten thousand pounds of Lottery funding to help young people, those are great. But what we’ve got to get moving is really the big schemes, North Westgate, the Station Quarter, those are the sort of things we need to see happen in Peterborough. And I think there has been a culture in Peterborough, well let’s get another study done to see what we need to do. And we’ve had so many studies done now.
STAINTON: Just get on with it, is what you’re saying. Just get on with it. Come on.
HAWORTH: Get on with it. Absolutely. we want to see the cranes on the skylines. And that’s the role that Opportunity Peterborough now needs to have, is to unite everybody. Unite all the politicians, and actually allow us to move the city forward.
STAINTON: What effect does this lack of activity, this inactivity, have on Peterborough as a city, do you think?
HAWORTH: Oh I think it’s enormously important. As far as the business community is concerned, it stifles their opportunity to carry out their businesses. It couldn’t be more important. I mean it’s not only .. housing is extremely important. If you’ve got somebody who’s looking to move into the city, a business, then one of the first things they want to know is where’s their workforce coming from. So providing the housing is important, but also providing the buildings and the right environment in the city centre. The station, for instance, is Peterborough’s shop window. So many people go through that fantastic train line. At the moment it looks awful. If we can see a big new development on there, it will completely revolutionise people’s view of Peterborough, and actually help us to move the city forward.
STAINTON: And at the moment, where are we, do you think?
HAWORTH: I think some of the building blocks are in place. I think Opportunity Peterborough are now starting to get themselves in the right position. I think the city council at last, certainly the officials, are beginning to get there. I think what we now need is to have a united political front in Peterborough, to drive this forward. Now one of the challenges, of course, we’ve got a very very difficult market at the moment, and we’re also going to see cuts in public sector funding. Because what Opportunity Peterborough needs to do is use its limited funds to de-risk some of the situations in the city centre, to encourage private funding to come in behind it. Now that’s going to be difficult, because public sector funding is going to be cut. But we’ve got to have the courage and the conviction and the drive to take things forward in a united way, using a collaborative common vision approach.
STAINTON: Are you frustrated at the moment? Because a lot of people in Peterbroough are, that North Westgate has not been built. Is this part of the outpouring this week, from yourself, Stewart Jackson, and the people of Peterborough? Is it just a frustration that we’re not moving forward, or we don’t appear to be?
HAWORTH: Yes it is, it’s enormously frustrating. Peterborough has got so much. It’s got a fantastic train line, it’s got the great road communications, and yet it hasn’t happened. Now I think as I say I think a few years ago that’s been the attitude of some of the officials, and everybody else, but now we are in a position where the building blocks are there. So we all want to see it happen. It’s unfortunate that things are just starting to get into the right place, when there’s this very severe recession on. It looks as though we’re coming out of that, but there are going to be very serious public sector cuts.
STAINTON: Chris, thank you for that. Chris Haworth from Carter Jonas, critical about the lack of movement forward for the future of Peterborough.