Marco Cereste Leader of Peterborough City Council discusses the completed purchase by PCC of the London Road ground, and outlines his plans for the city. Broadcast at 08:10 on Monday 18th January 2010 in the Paul Stainton Breakfast Show with Andy Gall on BBC Radio Peterborough.
AG: So the future of London Road’s been secured. Peterborough City Council have bought the London Road ground for around eight million pounds. The deal’s supposed to not only secure the future of football in the city, but develop the riverside area. And PISA Chairman Ady Mowles we spoke to earlier about that, and now we do have Marco Cereste. So you announced the news ahead of Saturday’s game. You must be relieved that the deal is finally done?
MC: Yes I’m very pleased. We can now get on with the complete regeneration of the whole of the South Bank, which is something really important I think for the city.
AG: And when you say the development of that, is that .. because when we looked at the plans that you had, the aspirational plans for the city, there was talk of .. it was mooted that there might be the whole sporting complex, or the sporting aspect of the city would be to the north, rather than the south.
MC: Yes but looking at it properly it doesn’t work with the north. But if you think about it, on the south, already having the stadium on the south part of the South Bank, and you’ve already got the wonderful international rowing lake up at Longthorpe, if you think about it you could develop the whole of the river embankment from the South Bank all the way along the edge out to Longthorpe. At the moment it’s just basically abandoned land. And we could turn that into probably one of the finest sports villages in the country, if not the world.
AG: Is there any immediate short-term plans that fans will notice almost within the blinking of an eye, changes, or will it take .. ?
MC: Well we are doing the scoping right now. It would have been really difficult to have done anything, we wouldn’t have wanted to spend a lot of money on it without actually knowing that we’d secured the stadium. So we are beginning work on it straight away. A bit has been done. It seems to be something that’s very feasible. So, you wouldn’t want us to spend money unnecessarily.
MC: No. Absolutely not. So now we will do the work properly, and we’ll try and attract the right businesses. Obviously it can’t just be sport. You’re going to need hotels. We’d like to put the university in there, because that way the university can offer sport as part of its curriculum and use the stadium as well.
AG: A lot of fans are saying the stadium in its current incarnation isn’t actually up to the job.
MC: Absolutely right. I completely agree. And of course one of the things we’re going to have to .. we’re going to need to do as a council is we’re going to have to take down the individual stands to make it .. to bring it up to scratch. And the project for the first removal of the first stand will be to a: rebuild it and bring it up to standard, but b: to provide ..
AG: Rebuilding it in its current location?
MC: No no no. probably not quite in its current position and probably not quite in its current .. well definitely not in its current size.
AG: Where would it go then Marco?
MC: It will go at the north end of the football ground, but it will probably be moved back, you know, if not the width of the carpark behind it, something like it. Because we’d want to create a concert venue there as well. So you’ll have a skills and enterprise .. a skills and education training centre underneath. You’ll have a stand which works as a stand during the football matches. And then you’ll have already the beginnings of a concert centre above it.
AG: Marco, this sounds great, and this .. I love talking to you, because the future’s bright when I hear Marco, but how are you going to fund it?
MC: Well we’ve already got eight and a half million pounds that’s been given to us from the Government to provide a skills and training centre. And so it’s just a question of finding a little bit more ..
AG: Finding it from where though, especially in the current climate? There’s not much money.
MC: Well I agree with you. But believe it or not there are people that want to bring concerts into this city, and one of the ways to do it is to .. if you like .. pre-sell the concert venue to a concert organiser.
AG: Hmm. OK.
MC: And that way they pre-book it, they pre-sell it, the city doesn’t take the risk, the Posh doesn’t take the risk, and we’ve already got, we already know that once a fortnight there’ll be a concert in Peterborough that’s somebody worth seeing.
AG: It’s a bit like the O2 Arena.
MC: Yes. But we .. the O2 Arena is a bit bigger than London Road. (laughs).
AG: Ok so that’s what you’re looking at doing in the long term.
MC: Yes that’s right. And then each .. as we develop each stand .. one stand you may have a health facility. One of the things which we have seen which is really fabulous is in another football ground, I think it was at Preston, part of the ground is actually a hotel.
AG: This is starting to sound a little bit like Chelsea Village, isn’t it? You’re going to have like a shopping centre and everything in there. And I suppose there’s a danger then that people start to panic that it’s .. that the football is becoming a little bit overshadowed by everything else.
MC: No no no no no. The football the football has a lease, to the football ground will use, you know the football club will use it, and no threat to the football. The whole point was to secure the future of the football club.
AG: Indeed and that’s it. there has been a sigh of relief there because you know it’s gone on for a long time politically sort of ebbing and flowing about what the Council are going to do with that. So you have aquired the ground. And let’s see from there where it moves on. But for the time being we can celebrate that. But we’ll look to the future as well with a jeweller’s eye. Just before you do disappear, on the text it says:” Marco must be a pipe, dresing gown and slippers man. Great news that the Council have the ground and the land.” So Marco, we are asking about dressing gowns today. Do you have a dressing gown?
MC: I do, yes I do yes. I don’t smoke a pipe.
AG: You don’t smoke a pipe then. Is it just one dressing gown or do you have more?
MC: I’ve got two.
AG: Two. The decadence of the man. Oh yes. Adrian in Dogsthorpe says: “They’re all talk Andy. Peterborough City Council just talk.” What do you make of that.
MC: Well you know it’s just cost me eight point six five million pounds. If he thinks that’s talk you know what I mean. (laughs). I’d like to be talk like that that way when it’s for me personally as well.
AG: You do sound like there’s some biscuits on the gravy train. And Marco, thank you for talking to us this morning.
MC: Thank you. So Marco Cereste take care there, Leader of Peterborough City Council.