Peterborough – Accessible and Affordable

08:08 Monday 18th June 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: This city has been described as one of the best destinations to live outside of London. For years now people from the Big Smoke have been coming here of course. Many remember the Peterborough Effect, and those great adverts from the Peterborough Development Corporation and Roy Kinnear dressed as a Roman centurion. Well now it seems that more people can be set to make the trip from London to settle here. Earlier Catherine Penman from Carter Jonas explained why our fair city was such a good place for Londoners to come to. (TAPE)
CATHERINE PENMAN: I think Peterborough is an extremely convenient commuter location. Short journey times, the second shortest of all of the various towns and cities that we included in our survey. And also, most importantly I think, house prices are relatively affordable, compared to most other commuter towns around the UK. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: We also spoke to Tina Bramhill, from the 40 Years On project in Peterborough, and she told us what the city was like before the Peterborough Development Corporation campaign in the ’70s. (TAPE)
TINA BRAMHILL: It was really considered a small market town, even though we were a city. It expanded massively. It went from around 80,000 to nearly 140,000 people. But they did expand other things alongside that. They brought in sports facilities, more schools. They had to do everything alongside that to support everybody coming in. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well how would we cope, if more people came to live in our fair city at the moment, if we had some sort of influx? Rowen Squibb is from Growborough, an independent group trying to attract private business to Peterborough, and Steve Bowyer is the Head of Economic Development of course at Opportunity Peterborough. Morning gents. Rowen, first of all, can we cope? Have we got the facilities? Have we got the houses? Have we got the infrastructure?
ROWEN SQUIBB: Well growth is coming our way anyway. We have 25,000 new homes planned by 2026.
PAUL STAINTON: Not many built though.
ROWEN SQUIBB: Well, obviously the last couple of years has seen a slower rate of growth, but that’s obviously changing. We’re going to see consent go through on some of these large-scale projects coming together. So the housing is going to be there. We’re obviously pleased about being flagged up. We also have to be aware of the fact that it’s not just the housing, we also need the incomes and the jobs to come to ensure that the city is prosperous.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. And the problem is for people living here already is of course if more people come here, house prices go up, and then it makes things very difficult for some people, doesn’t it?
ROWEN SQUIBB: Well house prices locally are a little bit out of kilter in a way. They are definitely very low. Even if you go down to Huntingdon or you travel just a little bit further south, even ten, fifteen minutes, prices in Peterborough are offering extremely good value really, simply for modern housing stock. There’s an awful lot of modern housing stock that’s been built over the last ten, fifteen years anyway. I think it’s a good thing to be a fast-growing modern city. It’s just a case of obviously trying to make sure it’s balanced. You have good train services. You have good schools. It’s all been acknowledged. But we also need to make sure that some of the things that have been flagged up in the London papers, do we have a cafe culture that’s strong enough, I think that probably needs to be addressed. There’s some architectural decisions. As you know, we think the market should be removed and potentially put on the vacant Hammerson site. Some of these decisions should be made, particularly at the moment when people are maybe looking at moving top the city.
PAUL STAINTON: Steve Bowyer, as I mentioned, from Opportunity Peterborough, is here as well. Are people really going to come here? They could go to Cambridge instead, couldn’t they? Beautiful green grass, shopping centres, architecture and cafe culture. It’s all there in Cambridge. What are they going to come here for?
STEVE BOWYER: Good morning Paul. Well it’s great, isn’t it? The article itself says that Peterborough comes out better than Oxford and Cambridge. So that’s quite a nice little strap-line for us to use. And to be honest it is a good bit of marketing for the city. The city has got a great quality of life. It’s got fantastic opportunities, both for jobs and houses. And I think this article actually has some errors. Rowen has just highlighted a couple. Cafe culture, we have a cafe culture now developing in the city. And actually it has got a great quality of life. People who come to the city now say wow, what a great city. This is what we get all the time, from new investors. We’ve seen the Caluccio’s the Nando’s the Patisserie Valerie. Whenever we’ve shown those people around, they come and they say, wow, what a great city. So we’ve got a lot to offer. We just need to keep on building that up and getting the message out, so that more people come to the city.
PAUL STAINTON: Is this sort of thing useful for you, to sell the city?
STEVE BOWYER: To be honest it is. This was a piece of work done by Carter Jonas. We saw it in the London Evening Standard as an article. Obviously some additional pieces were put in that. It is good, because it shows that Peterborough is on the map. It is convenient for people to commute to. But as Rowen says, actually it is about getting the jobs and the housing. But we’ve got a good mix of both in the city. And that’s what we need to sell and promote.
PAUL STAINTON: We need to get building, don’t we? We need to get some houses. We need to get some more hospitals. We need to get some more infrastructure in place, don’t we?
STEVE BOWYER: We’ve got good infrastructure already in place. There are proposals to keep building up. We’ve seen the investment going on in our schools. This article highlights what good schools we’ve got in the city. That’s fantastic.
PAUL STAINTON: But they’re under pressure, aren’t they?
STEVE BOWYER: They’re under pressure, but the investment is coming. We’re seeing that from the Council, which is really positive. We’re getting investment in our road systems. We’ve just recently won some money from the Growing Places fund to help our infrastructure there as well. We will keep pushing those applications in. We will keep money coming in to the city. And that investment will follow. And I think the great thing about this article is that actually it does highlight those positive things. It does show that actually Peterborough is a good place to live, and it has got all those benefits.
PAUL STAINTON: I see the benefits now for the people from London. They’re going to sell their big houses, they’re going to come here and buy a smaller house, or a similar sized house for less money, put the money in the bank or whatever. Spend it in Peterborough. That’s the benefit to them. What’s the benefit to us?
STEVE BOWYER: You’ve mentioned about house building, and has it slowed down recently. It has, and that’s market-driven. Similarly, growth in house building will be market-driven as well. So if there are interests and demand from purchasers to actually acquire housing, then that then gives substance to the marketing economy, if you like, to actually take off, and the housing economy.
PAUL STAINTON: So that will in turn create an economy of its own.
STEVE BOWYER: Precisely. It creates demand and it creates the value for property developers to come forward and actually bring the housing on site.
PAUL STAINTON: We’d better get cracking then, hadn’t we, if all these Londoners are coming, get ship shape and sorted out.
STEVE BOWYER: Well we need to do it for our own community. Absolutely.
PAUL STAINTON: A bit of good news anyway. That’s what we want on a Monday morning. Steve Bowyer, Head of Economic Development of course at Opportunity Peterborough, Rowen Squibb from Growborough as well. A bit of good news on a Monday morning, that Peterborough is the place to be. That’s where you’re living this morning.