Interview with Rowen Squibb from Growborough – 10th March 2010 08:40 am on Paul Stainton’s Peterborough Breakfast Show.
Paul: On yesterday’s show we revealed that Opportunity Peterborough had appointed a Head of City Vibrancy. You may remember we mentioned it once or twice. Now the organisation is currently being restructured, with all regeneration portfolios returning to the council. Steve Bowyer has took on the vibrancy role. He is the vibrant one. And he told us what the title actually means.
STEVE BOWYER TAPE: Vitality, if you like, would be another word. Actually a place where people want to come, and enjoy. Where businesses most importantly want to come and invest. Where it is a place of commercial interest, cultural interest, leisure interest etcetera. So a vibrant city is one where people want to be, whether they be individuals, people who live there, whether they be tourists, whether they be visitors, whether they be commercial companies, businesses, cultural organisations etcetera.
Paul: Well Darren Fower is Head of Peterborough Liberal Democrats. He was critical of Opportunity Peterborough’s project.
DARREN FOWER TAPE: I think questions need to be asked. And I will look forward to seeing what the people of Peterborough say, but from our point of view as the Liberal Democrat group on the city council, we’ll certainly keep an eye on them, as we have done for several years now. And if we find anything of interest, we’ll make sure that you find out first.
Paul: Well another organisation who are keen to raise the profile and awareness of Peterborough and add a bit of vitality and vibrancy to the city centre are Growborough. Rowen Squibb is looking to the heavens as I speak. He’s from the group. Good Morning.
Rowen: Good morning to you. How are you?
Paul: Are you vibrant?
Rowen: Well, it’s Wednesday morning isn’t it? Yes, I’ve been more vibrant.
Paul: It’s been pointed out to me this morning that it is 2010 as well. I was slightly wrong with the year earlier on, but, um, what do you make of this role of Head of City Vibrancy?
Rowen:I mean, these buzzwords come out, and from our side we obviously have a passion for the city, you know, and that’s all of living here, and being here, and being in the communities. So I suppose for us, I mean, obviously both Steve Bowyer and Steve Compton live in Leicester.
Paul: From Opportunity Peterborough.
Rowen: Yeah, the people that head up ..
Paul: Does that matter though?
Rowen: Well I think if you really are vibrant about the city you’d live here yourself, wouldn’t you? So I think one of the ways we could show that there’s this commitment behind Peterborough, we would ask them, if it was possible, maybe they could move here.
Paul: Well it’s a fair point. We’ll put that to Steve next time he’s on. Do we still need Opportunity Peterborough? Because the council are dealing with the regeneration issues, aren’t they?
Rowen: We’re obviously in the same building as them, so we get a good understanding of how they work,and how they’re put together. They’ve been there three, four years, and I think that word delivery, even just now I was sitting in your reception and chatting to this chap, who was going to swim across the Atlantic..
Paul: Dan the big man?
Rowen: Yes. And it’s absolutely incredible. But what’s been delivered? That’s what everyone’s saying. Our phone is obviously going every single day. What has been delivered? And there doesn’t seem to be a Plan B. So not to be critical of Opportunity Peterborough, because they .. there’s not many of them left now, I think there’s only eight people left in Opportunity Peterborough ..
Paul: In the big office ..
Rowen: In a six thousand square feet or something ridiculous. It’s about delivery. And I think at some point we’ve just got to turn around and go look, please can you deliver us something. What has been delivered? What is going to happen? It’s fantastic that the Square’s obviously near completion. Unfortunately it’s been a little bit delayed because everything that could have caused a challenge has been a challenge, but again that was pretty much championed out of the whole cabinet at the council anyway. So we just want delivery for our tax pounds really. We keep on pumping money in. It’s just nice to see something get delivered. And these people, who are still there, I think from our side, one of the things that Growborough has taught us, everyone that’s getting involved in Peterborough, everyone that cares about Peterborough, does seem to live here at this point. Of course, outside investment, we’ve talked about Primark in the past, but other businesses investing is a separate story, but right now, for Peterborough to really up it’s game, and really turn a corner and start becoming somewhere that people are very proud of, we need these people who are there to champion the city, to actually come and live here.
Paul: And you’ve .. very quickly, because we’re almost out of time, .. but Steve was talking yesterday about bringing businesses to the city, bringing the nightlife back to the city, and you’ve got some pretty simple ideas to do that, haven’t you?
Rowen: We’ve tried to break it back down to the bare bones. People say Growborough is building from the ground up. We’re putting together ideas. I personally am not a big fan of casinos, but a casino would potentially be a quick solution.
Paul: It works in other cities.
Rowen: It works in other cities. Most cities now have a casino and it would obviously .. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and even Friday nights, are completely dead.
Paul: And this seems like a common sense idea to me .. free evening parking in the city centre.
Rowen: It might just drive people back. If we offer that incentive to people, make it very easy for them to come here. Ten, fifteen years ago people were coming from Huntingdon, Stamford, Cambridge, St Neots, etcetera, and now they don’t come here. And there is a massive problem. It’s not just about spend on the night-time economy, because that’s going to national chain companies at the moment, anyway, because there’s not many independent businesses there, but it’s about bringing people to Peterborough, then potentially falling in love, deciding to stay here, having an interest in the place, it drives the city forward a little bit.
Paul: Rowen, thank you for that. The only idea you’ve got no chance with is IKEA, by the way. I just thought I’d let you know.
Rowen: You know, you say that, but .. it was your idea anyway. It was the BBC’s idea.
Paul: Laughter. It would make sense. A blinking great building with a field next to it, out near Fletton. Put the shop there, IKEA, Mr Swede! Rowen, thank you very much. Appreciate that. Rowen Squibb from Growborough with some common sense ideas.