07:08 Tuesday 8th December 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: Plans for the Fletton Quays development in Peterborough lack vision and should be deferred until better plans are made. Those are the views of the Peterborough Civic Society, ahead of the decision on whether outline planning permission will be given to 280 homes, 14,000 square metres of office space and a hotel on the huge riverside plot. Peterborough City Council’s planning committee will assess the latest proposals this afternoon. This has been rumbling on for years, and the South Bank is still bare and still really a bit of an eye-sore. Back in July our reporter Will Fyfe went down to the site for a look round.
WILL FYFE: For sometime now Peterborough has been considered one of the fastest growing cities in the UK. But if you step just 500 yards outside of the busy city centre over onto the other side of the River Nene you’ll be confronted with something more like this, no cars, no people and certainly no shops. I’m stood on the South Bank of Peterborough. In theory it’s 20 acres of prime riverfront land, but in reality it’s nothing more than a derelict car park. Just over the water in front of me you can see the outline of the iconic Peterborough Cathedral. The site used to be home to a Matalan and a B&Q about ten years ago, but they decided to move across to the other side of town. And it’s very obvious standing here that in that time nature has risen up and taken back the site. There’s literally buddleia bushes about nine, ten feet high where cars should be parked in the car park. And alongside a lot of the vegetation here there’s also a darker side, graffiti, beer cans or drug paraphernalia. For all the shortcomings however, pretty soon we could see quite a big change on this side of the river. £120 million has been put on the table by investors who want to see this land become the site of more homes, offices and leisure facilities, even including a 160 bed hotel. So what would people think to such a drastic change? I caught up with June and her son, who have been walking their dog down by the site for the past decade.
JUNE: The only thing is it’s been left derelict, and it’s such a shame, because we just think, when we go to York or Lincoln and you’ve got that river and you’ve got some life on there, it’s pleasant, and it draws in the people. So there’s fors and againsts. Maybe if they did do something nice it would attract people to be on the river. It will just go to derelict rack and ruin, and I’m not being funny, and then you’ll get squatters maybe. Like I say it would be nice. It depends what was over there.
SON: They could do up maybe the trees as well and make it look a bit more better, the river front, because everything’s just overgrowing.
WILL FYFE: So describe it for us now. We’re literally stood on the opposite side.
JUNE: Just over-run with overhanging trees and bushes, innit.
WILL FYFE: If the idea makes it through planning then we could very soon see this stretch of waterfront turned from rubble in to riches.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Will Fyfe reporting there back in July. So in terms of who is responsible for these plans which have been put forward for this development, Peterborough City Council is in a joint partnership with a developer called Lucent. Together they form the Peterborough Investment Partnership. Lucent provides the funding. The City Council provides the land. They’re working together to come up with a vision for this area. However, David Turnock from the Peterborough Civic Society thinks there’s not really enough vision going on. Morning David.
DAVID TURNOCK: Good morning Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: What’s the problem then with these plans?
DAVID TURNOCK: Well I think fundamentally we’re behind it. Everyone wants to see redevelopment of the Fletton Quays. It’s what we need and what Peterborough really really lacks. But we think it should have greater vision. For example some of the people you were talking to there talked about places like York and Lincoln, where you can walk along the riverfront. And that’s really what we want. Something to bring life back into the area. But at the moment it’s going to be very difficult to get there, because there won’t be a new bridge linking this site with the Embankment to the north. That was a previous proposal, and that’s now been omitted from the scheme.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So you’re concerned really that this will be a shiny new ghetto, where no-one will go unless they live or work there.
DAVID TURNOCK: Exactly. You’ve got it right. There’ll be some offices there, and those will use the old railway sheds which can be nicely refurbished which is a good thing. But then there’ll be a lot of flats. There’ll be a hotel. So there won’t really be a need to go there if you’re just an ordinary Peterborough person wanting say to go for a Sunday afternoon stroll. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a nice quayside there, and you can walk along there and watch the boats coming and going, and watch people sitting around the cafes, having an ice cream and stuff. But at the moment we just think it will turn into a cul-de-sac for people who live or work there.
DOTTY MCLEOD: There are going to be some restaurants and shops and stuff though, so people might head over to those.
DAVID TURNOCK: There are, but it’s fairly limited. Obviously you don’t want to hurt Bridge Street and the rest of the retail centre of Peterborough. So there’ll be a limited amount of shops and restaurants, but that will generally just serve the residents who are going to live there. Some of the previous proposals were to have some arts venues there. Now obviously arts venues take some money to subsidise and run, and Vivacity the trust in Peterborough will tell you that. But actually what you want is some sort of civic space where there’s things going on . If it’s a street theatre performance, you know, just a place where people want to be, want to hang out in really.
DOTTY MCLEOD: You certainly paint a very vivid and quite beautiful sounding picture of what this development could be David, but a lot of people might be thinking, come on, this has been going on for years and years and years. We just need to get things moving now.
DAVID TURNOCK: Well you could say the same about the North Westgate scheme. That went to planning committee as this is doing later today, and that went to committee a couple of months ago. And that went through tweaks and proposals before it could be then unanimously approved by the planning committee. And that’s what we’d like to happen with Fletton Quays. At the moment it’s getting there and it’s a competent scheme, but it doesn’t seem good enough. And it’s interesting that we’ve spoken to a lot of our colleagues, and one of your respondents mentioned York and Lincoln and places like that. We’re part of a nationwide group called the Civic Voice Group, and we’ve spoken to people in Canterbury, York, those sort of places, and they say the scheme we’ve got here on the table at the moment is just bland, indifferent, a typical developer’s scheme. There’s no life, there’s no fun in it.
DOTTY MCLEOD: We did ask for a comment from the Peterborough Investment Partnership, and they’ve given us this statement: “The partnership has developed a commercially viable deliverable scheme which will regenerate a site that’s been derelict for far too long, bringing vibrancy and life back to the South Bank. It’s a scheme that enhances views of the Cathedral, protects the railway sheds and the Mitchells mural that are important parts of Peterborough’s heritage. It delivers much needed new housing in a quality scheme along with what will be a lively and active river frontage. Our application has a recommendation to approve from the Council’s planners, has no objections from statutory consultees like Historic England, the Environment Agency or Natural England, and was received almost entirely positively in the public consultation process. We’re proud of our scheme and the contribution it will make to Peterborough, and we look forward to its ultimate delivery.” They do have a point don’t they David in that your organisation is more or less the only one that’s objecting at this stage.
DAVID TURNOCK: That’s not true actually. There’s been about ten objections registered.
DOTTY MCLEOD: But ten objections on a scheme of this size is not many.
DAVID TURNOCK: Well it’s not, no. But we’re not talking about something which is very bad, we’re just talking about something that’s bland and not good enough yet. And regeneration, a council that’s trying to regenerate an area has to give something more to it. At the moment we’re just talking about a competent developer’s scheme, and it’s great to make those sort of comments, that you know it will redevelop and it will bring life and energy to it, but it could be so much more. And that’s they key thing. How much more could it be? And if you think historically, Peterborough has rather turned its back on the river. We don’t really have much that overlooks the river. We could do so much more here to bring life into the city. This could be a centre of boating through out onto the Fens. There could be so much going on here with theatre and things, and it’s just a competent scheme of flats and offices. It’s not much more than that.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well David thank you so much for your time this morning. David Turnock there who is from the Peterborough Civic Society.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So the Peterborough Civic Society says the plans lack vision, should be deferred until better plans are made. But the issue of what to do with the South Bank in Peterborough, it’s been going on for years and years. Is something better than a derelict site? Or are the Civic Society right? Should we wait until there’s something better on the table? .. Councillor Charles Swift represents North ward in Peterborough. Morning councillor.
CHARLES SWIFT: Good morning young lady.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Now you’ve been of course in Peterborough Charles for many many years. How long has this patch of land been derelict?
CHARLES SWIFT: Well this patch of land has been derelict for about twenty odd years. But there have been plans, several plans over the period of that time. But I have to say to you quite honestly and truthfully, and I’ll come on if you don’t mind me just saying, that I’ve got a lot of sympathy for the Civic Society, because all they’re coming along with is a few houses, a few office blocks. But my main concern, my really main concern, is the amount of money that Peterborough City Council are putting into this project. We’re putting multi-millions of pounds worth of land, prime sites being made available. And to be quite truthful, we shall see no return from the money that we’ve outlaid for at least 25 or 30 years. And I think it’s a scandal that we’re talking .. and these office blocks that they’re talking about, they’re talking about moving the Town Hall from Bridge Street down to that particular area, when the Town Hall to my knowledge has been refurbished seven times in my period in the building. And just recently we refurbished all the office blocks and everything else. And I would like honestly to know what the true financial outlay is. because at the end of the day I can see the only people that will make any profit out of it is these speculative developers.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Of course the Council might say that them putting in some investment of their own is the only way to get this spot developed, which you know the city needs.
CHARLES SWIFT: Well you’ve only got to look at the other side of the river and the Rivergate and that beautiful frontage where you can walk on the front there. What I would have liked to have seen is some old people’s, senior citizens’ complexes on there, some nursing homes overlooking the Embankment. Because on the other side of the equation you’ve got the railway running right the way through the centre of it, and that’s going to be a noisy outlay that is, particularly with all the extra traffic that is going to come from Felixstowe Docks very shortly. And so a simple development on there. And again, luxury houses, they’re not going to be for the ordinary people to live there. And than there’s the wicked traffic block coming out of that complex onto the main London Road, isn’t there?
DOTTY MCLEOD: Who do you think the luxury apartments are being targeted towards Charles?
CHARLES SWIFT: Well they’re not being targeted towards you and I. There’s no question about that. We shall be like Cambridge before we’ve finished, where houses are there just for certain elite people. They’re not built there for the ordinary people that want to walk into town. They’ll just be for the people that can afford to spend about half a million pounds on housing.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Of course there will be presumably certain requirements for affordable housing on the site, or is that not your understanding?
CHARLES SWIFT: Now that’s the biggest joke in creation. That’s the biggest joke that’s ever been (told). Affordable housing is affordable nonsense in my opinion. We used to build council houses years ago for people to live in. Not subsidised what we call affordable property, £50,000 to £60,000 before you even start looking at it. No it’s a nonsense, affordable housing.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So what should the planning committee do today? This is recommended for approval.
CHARLES SWIFT: It is really beyond the point of no return. But to be quite truthful about it, I think they did ought to sit down .. the developers ought to sit down with the Civic Society. There’s enough brains between the two of them. And the Civic Society, with them, and get their act together, and come up with something respectable and decent, and for the citizens of Peterborough. The ORDINARY citizens of Peterborough.
DOTTY MCLEOD: But you think that really you said this has gone past the point of no return, and this is looking like maybe an opportunity missed.
CHARLES SWIFT: Well we’ve got to do something about it, but on the other hand .. I remember sixty five years ago canvassing houseboats on the side of there. But we’ve bought the land, we’ve had Bridge House there, we had B&Q and Matalan. We spent multi-millions of pounds reallocating properties from that particular area. And we shall make nothing as a City Council in return.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Interesting stuff. Councillor Swift, thank you very much for your time.