North Westgate – Currently A Barnacle

08:08 Wednesday 22nd February 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: .. plans have been approved for the redevelopment of the old Royal Mail sorting office. At the moment it’s just a massive car park. Well included in the plans is a block of offices, a supermarket, a landscaped area for the public, and the potential creation of around 600 jobs. Now the site on Bourges Boulevard is set to be part of that railway station regeneration. It will improve the look of the whole area, as you come into Peterborough from the railway. Earlier, Councillor Lucia Serluca, who chaired the meeting last night, approved the plans, because she thinks it’s vital to revitalising the city. (TAPE)
LUCIA SERLUCA: They are going to put a 4,300 square metre food store, and an 805 square metre for other shops and offices. And obviously it will create over 600 jobs over there. It will just .. it will be a great gateway into the city really from the train station, and the development and the regeneration there can only aid in the way Peterborough is moving forward. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well if you were listening yesterday you know we discussed the plans, and MP Stewart Jackson voiced concerns that he thought the North Westgate development was still being neglected, and needed to be brought back to the table. But when we asked Council Leader Marco Cereste if work to regenerate North Westgate was a possibility, he didn’t seem very keen. (TAPE)
MARCO CERESTE: I think North Westgate is probably three to four years away. But the rest of the city, I think you’ll see starting very shortly. So, you know, stuff will happen down North Westgate, but you’re not going to see a new shopping centre tomorrow. It will take a little while whilst we sort all that out. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Funny, isn’t it, because only a few months agao I’m sure Marco said that he had people biting at his hand to develop North Westgate. But there you go. David Shaw was with us yesterday. We don’t normally bring people back the day after David, but we thought you had a few points to make. You went to the meeting last night, didn’t you?
DAVID SHAW: I did. Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Now you’re the town planner for Hawksworth, developers keen to get started on developing North Westgate, which is going to end up a barnacle on the backside of Peterborough, isn’t it, if it’s not careful.
DAVID SHAW: No, I think it’s going to be the oyster in the middle.
DAVID SHAW: That’s what we hope. And that’s what we’re planning for. Marco’s quite right. It is going to be three or four years away, but only if we get on with the planning now.
PAUL STAINTON: What’s holding us back?
DAVID SHAW: What’s holding us back is wanting to really sit down with the City Council and sort out exactly what that plan is. Every time we come in with a plan, they say, well actually we just want to prepare another city centre wide plan before we get on with it. But yesterday they were quite happy to grant the planning consent for the ING site, which puts a bookend around the station. We now know exactly what’s going to happen there. And so it leaves the whole of North Westgate, which I really would urge them to now get on with. We know what’s around it. We can get our sit down with them and plan it, and make sure that it is delivered in three or four years time, not in seven or eight or nine years time.
PAUL STAINTON: Wyndham Thomas is also with us, former Chief Executive of the Peterborough New Town Development Corporation. Now, you’ve worked with David for many years.
PAUL STAINTON: First of all, what do you make of the plans for Bourges Boulevard, and where do you think it leaves any proposals for North Westgate?
WYNDHAM THOMAS: Well I’m not sure what the ownership pattern is. Because land ownership is going to be a crucially important factor. Who owns what land, and what they want to do with it. Secondly of course, the City Council’s got to make up its mind, I suppose, if it hasn’t already, exactly what it wants there. And then to cooperate with the developers. If you’ve got developers with the resources and the wish to carry through a development, they should be encouraged to develop their plans and implement them.
PAUL STAINTON: Have Hawksworth got the money? Are they waiting to build it, david?
DAVID SHAW: We have. As I say, as I might have mentioned yesterday morning, to move these things forward, you have fairly small companies that start the thing off. Once we have planning permission, there will be a host of big funds, institutions, that want to actually build it. So we have the resources to get to the planning stage, to get it through there, move it on, and we know that there are big occupiers wanting to come in here, and we know there’s big investors wanting to take it.
PAUL STAINTON: There is a danger here Wyndham, isn’t there? We get a lovely Station Quarter. We’ve got Queensgate. We can get into town lovely. And there sits the Brewery Tap car park, and North Westgate as some sort of carbuncle.
WYNDHAM THOMAS: Yes. They are impediments, there’s no doubt about that. But on the other hand, Hawksworth have a reputation for getting things done. The City Council I think should work with them as the best available source of action, and the finance to carry through the development. I can’t see what’s holding it back.
PAUL STAINTON: Because we do need to join us the city and the station, don’t we, effectively?
WYNDHAM THOMAS: Yes, I suppose so. Although I don’t know how far the ownership patterns are impediments. But if in fact Hawksworth, a reputable developer, are keen and have the resources, or say they have the resources, well then the City Council ought to work with them, rather than to inhibit them.
PAUL STAINTON: Marco Cereste, who leads this fair city, has been very keen to get going with developing the South Bank David. That’s relied on a lot of public sector money. But it seems the City Centre relies on private sector cash, doesn’t it?
DAVID SHAW:Yes it does. The South Bank needs public sector money. The rest of the railway station will need more public sector money, which as we know is hard to come by. But North Westgate can be delivered by the private sector, with the City Council giving the planning permission, helping with the CPO powers. It doesn’t cost them very much money. It’s just some time and resources.
PAUL STAINTON: Wyndham, you were responsible for a lot of the building work that went on all those years ago. What would you like to see where North Westgaet is?
WYNDHAM THOMAS: Well, the proposals that have been put forward by Hawksworth are about the best available I think at the moment. And you’ve got to be practicable about it, instead of being idealistic and conjuring up some vision of a Nirvana, or something like that on that site. You’ve got to do what is practicable at the present time. And that’s the best offer available.
PAUL STAINTON: And can we get on with it, that’s the question? Can we get it all completed in this climate? Can we bring the city and the Station Quarter together? David, you said yesterday, in three or four years. After going to that meeting last night, are you confident they’re interested?
DAVID SHAW: I really don’t know . I had, I hope, a really good debate with them. They did seem to listen. I just really hope that we can move this on. I know Marco wants a priority for the South Bank and the Railway Station Quarter. But the private sector can take forward North Westgate, and I think we can really move it forward. We’ve got to meet the next economic cycle, so that it opens in three or four years time. Not seven or eight years time. That’s the important point.
PAUL STAINTON: Hopefully, by then, things will have already picked up, won’t they?
DAVID SHAW: Absolutely. And we’ll have a really exciting city centre.
PAUL STAINTON: David, thank you very much.
DAVID SHAW: Thank you.
PAUL STAINTON: David Shaw, town planner for Hawksworth, the developers keen to get started on getting North Westgate going, as well as the ING development on the Station Quarter. And of course, then you’ve got the Brotherhood Retail Park. And if we don’t get North Westgate going, will people just end up going to the Brotherhood Retail Park? The town centre then misses out. Thank you to Wyndham Thomas as well of course.