Following a predicted rise in population in Peterborough and despite savage cuts widely forecast, Marco Cereste Leader of Peterborough City Council recommends building as many new houses as humanly possible, pressing on with large development schemes and celebrating the culture on offer in the city. Sharing his fantastic view of Peterborough, Marco Cereste speaks to the BBC’s Andy Burrows at 08:10 on Wednesday 2nd June 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
ANDY: So we’re going to go to Marco Cereste on the subject of population. Will Peterborough be able to cope with the predicted rise in population? That’s what we are asking this morning after the Office for National Statistics predicted that Peterborough’s population will rise by ten per cent in the next decade. Marco Cereste .. should be able to join us now. Good morning Marco.
MARCO: Hi. Good morning.
ANDY: Leader of Peterborough City Council. Now have you started making preparations for this population rise?
MARCO: We’ve been making preparations for a long time for the population rise. I’ve been banging the drum about our population rise that we’ve been anticipating certainly for the last year whilst I’ve been Leader anyway.
ANDY: Mick Leggett (CE Cross Keys Homes) thinks that the housing waiting list could be more than ten thousand by twenty twenty. How can you lower that number?
MARCO: I think it’s a question of continuing our drive for growth. We owe it to the people of this city to provide them with a decent home where we can, and those who are less able to provide it for themselves, or for whatever reason would like social housing, and we owe it to the people who want to come and live here to make sure they’ve got something decent to live in.
ANDY: Is Peterborough building enough housing Marco?
MARCO: We’ve had the best housing starts ever, well probably in the last fifteen years anyway, last year, where we built what was I think eleven hundred and twenty five new homes were completed last year. So it’s not bad. It’s not bad. I still think we need to push for more, but you know, you know my vision for the city. If we just want to build enough homes for the people that are born here, and our own children and grandchildren, we want a university, and we need social housing for those people that need social housing, we need about twenty five thousand homes over the next twenty years. There’s no question of it, unless we suddenly stop being as virile as we are anyway.
ANDY: Well Jessica Slater, we spoke to her, from NHS Peterborough in the first hour of the programme, and she says that there’s been planning in high rises for the elderly for many years now. (TAPE)
JESSICA: We’ve known that there’s a growth in our older population coming, and that we’ve known that for quite some years really. So our long term planning and our strategy has very much incorporated and accommodated that growth. (LIVE)
ANDY: So therefore it’s kind of an endorsement of the way things are going, in that the right planning is being put in place.
MARCO: We believe so. We believe that as a city it’s a tremendous city to live in. There’s a huge demand to come here, you probably saw three or four weeks ago we announced over two thousand new jobs in the city. They keep coming. I can tell you that based on the planning applications that are going through the system at the moment we’re probably going to create another thousand or so jobs in the next twelve months. The South Bank Carbon Challenge, after all those years has been signed. We’re expecting a planning application in any day now. The developers are talking about starting on site by Christmas, but even if they start by the Spring that will be fantastic. That’s probably three to four hundred jobs. The city is really, really doing well. I just wish that everybody could understand how fantastic this place really is and how well placed we are to continue to thrive and prosper even in what is clearly going to be a really difficult few years.
ANDY: You mentioned a few moments ago, Marco, that you plan to help first time buyers get mortgages. Any more news on that?
MARCO: Yes. We’re building that at the moment. All these things unfortunately when the local authority is involved in all this sort of thing it is something that takes time, because you have to go through certain hoops, and quite rightly, you have to follow the rules, and do all the necessary due diligence. But we are definitely working on some financial products for the city, which will help the people in our city get a mortgage.
ANDY: What do you think of the fountains on Cathedral Square?
MARCO: (CHORTLES) I though they were lovely. I though they were absolutely great.
ANDY: Do you know what, it is nice, isn’t it? I know that there’s been much comment and cynicism, and they’ve been maligned by many, but do you feel now that you can move on, and that it looks good?
MARCO: Well I think the fountains are really great. I mean I love this city. I mean you know I just think I just wish everybody would just wake up in the morning and say, isn’t Peterborough a great place, ‘cos it really is, you know. And the fountains are just an example of what can be done and I think St. John’s Square behind the Guildhall and behind the church is going to be absolutely fabulous. I can just picture the grass terraces, the music playing behind the church, or a play going on behind the church, people sitting on the grass in the sunshine.
AND: Crikey Marco, it’s some sort of Utopia. hang on.
MARCO: (ROARS) Well look we have got a fantastic city. I think we’ve got to start appreciating how nice it really is.
ANDY: Well that’s the thing. What was interesting yesterday, me and a couple of colleagues, we went round Cathedral Square and just enjoyed the space, and saw the fountains, and spoke to some of the members of the public. But there is a scepticism, and there’s a cynicism that’s still sort of deep-rooted in many people, that you know they can’t actually celebrate anything at the moment, because .. for whatever reason, I don’t know what it is. But how do you move people on?
MARCO: Well I think you just keep doing it right. I mean I don’t think you can force people to get up in the morning and say, Peterborough is a wonderful place, although I do believe that the vast majority of people who live in this city realise what a lovely city it is. But I think the only thing you can do is, you know, you’ve got the fountains, fine, we’ve finished the fountains. We finish St John’s Square. We do the Bridge Street. We start delivering City West, so we get rid of the building site behind the shopping centre. We have a new shopping centre, with new offices, homes, all in the city. We redevelop the station, so we get a really nice station when people come into town. You know, the South Bank is on its way. We can only do this a bit at a time. And I think as people see …
ANDY: Marco. Marco. I know you’re in mid-spate, like a fountain, but can you just hang on for a second? I’ll talk to you off the back of the travel, because we’ve just got a couple more questions to ask you. So just bear with us. Marco Cereste.
ANDY: Back with Marco Cereste Leader of Peterborough City Council next.
ANDY: Eighteen minutes past eight. We should be able to speak to Marco still, Marco Cereste. Good morning Marco.
MARCO: Good morning.
ANDY: Thank you for bearing with us. And apparently Ben (Stevenson: Producer) just told us that we’re going to go for a walk round the Square with you later on.
MARCO: Yes. About two o’clock, if you’re free. Yes.
ANDY: Beautiful. I’m free and I’m looking forward to a coffee and a baguette.
MARCO: We can manage that.
ANDY: (CACKLES) Listen, before you do go, David Cameron takes his first Prime Minister’s Question Time today. What would you ask him Marco? One question you’d ask David Cameron if you had his ear.
MARCO: That’s a really good question. I think for me at the moment is I’d want to know how are we going to continue funding really good quality education in this city.
ANDY: Ok. That’s a good question to put to David Cameron. We might even put it to Stewart Jackson a little bit later on, we’re speaking to him.