On the day that the fountains are due to be turned on, Radio Cambridgeshire takes a microphone out into Cathedral Square to sample opinions on the works carried out there, and David Arthur of Peterborough City Council speaks to the BBC’s Andy Burrows to forecast a September completion date for the project . Broadcast at 16:05 on Tuesday 1st June 2010 in the Drivetime Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
ANDY: First of all in this hour then, the fountains have been turned on in Cathedral Square in Peterborough, following a massive makeover, which officials hope will bring more shoppers, companies and ultimately investment into the city. Just a few days ago, here at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire we asked shoppers what they thought of the idea.
REPORTER: What do you think of the new Square?
SHOPPER 1: When it’s finished, it will be absolutely brilliant. It’s what Peterborough needed.
SHOPPER 2: Well it will, when it goes on, yes, it will be nice.
SHOPPER 3: On the artist’s impression, it looks as if it was going to be a real attraction, as if there was going to be a central point within it to look at. But there isn’t, and where the fountain water is going come out, it just looks like drain covers.
SHOPPER 4: I can’t see what they spent the money on. I really can’t. I really don’t see that the Square looks any different.
SHOPPER 5: There’s not really a lot to it. Kind of average. Square.
SHOPPER 6: It’s very beautiful, I think.
SHOPPER 7: Quite impressive. It’s taken a long time yes, there’s no doubt about that.
SHOPPER 8: It’s a bit plain.
SHOPPER 9: Yes it’s Ok. I just think it’s been a lot of money wasted.
SHOPPER 10: I think it’s beautiful. I think a few flowers would be nice, big flower-boxes of some kind.
ANDY: That was shoppers in Peterborough just a few days ago. David Arthur is the Project Manager for Peterborough City Council. He joins me now. Good afternoon to you David.
DAVID: Hi Andy. Good afternoon to you.
ANDY: So the fountains got turned on this morning I understand. How did they look to you?
DAVID: Well I thought they looked rather good, and those comments you had were taken obviously before the fountains were switched on, so it would be interesting to get people’s reactions after they have been switched on now, and are up and running.
ANDY: There will be many people who are listening to this who have perhaps been at work all day, and they won’t have seen what you’ve done in Cathedral Square. Just describe the fountains. How high does the water get?
DAVID: Yes, Ok. Firstly they’re installed by a company called Ocmis who’ve put fountains in over the UK and the world. There’s some at Heathrow Terminal 5, Belfast, Glasgow, Beijing, they’ve got quite a portfolio. In Cathedral Square there’s twenty five fountains, and they’re in two triangular bands, fifteen in one, and ten in the other. There’s a walkway, quite a broad walkway between those two triangles. The fountains are set to go to a maximum height of two metres. They could go higher, but two metres has been set as being practical for this location.
ANDY: So the water shoots about six foot in the air ..
DAVID: Yes. And then it comes back down again and the fountain head itself also acts as a drain to take water away. There’s also a slot-drain all the way round each of these triangles, which collects any surplus water, and splashings, and whatever, and that takes it away.
ANDY: So people aren’t swimming in water then as they cross Cathedral Square?
DAVID: No they’re not. And that water is then recycled. That’s quite an important point there, the water .. it’s not using water up. It’s recirculating water, and there’s a plant room which is in the former gents’ toilets in Cathedral Square. That’s been modified quite substantially. And there’s like swimming-pool filtration type equipment in there, which filters and recycles and pumps the water to the fountain heads.
ANDY: Right. I’m interested to know that .. or to hear that you recycle the water then. And so the water can drain off, people aren’t going to be splashing through puddles even on the driest of days?
DAVID: No. Not unless they deliberately go through there. There’s a few kids having a bit of a good time in there this morning I noticed. But that’s up to them. (LAUGHS)
ANDY: (LAUGHS) David can I tell you that’s all I need as a parent. A kid scooting off to go and play in the fountains. Let’s talk about money. How much did this cost, David.
DAVID: Well I haven’t got the .. since I was only brought into the scheme after we project managed the demolition of the Corn Exchange, and I was brought in to help with the project management team at the end of last year. And the fountains have always been an integral part of the scheme, so I haven’t got the breakdown as to what their actual capital cost is.
ANDY: I’m told the whole Square redevelopment is six million pounds, but it is ceremonial I suppose, isn’t it? The fact is the fountains are ceremonial. Overall as far as the project is concerned what is the aim really? Is it to get more shoppers in, more businesses in to Peterborough, just make the whole place more attractive?
DAVID: Yes. The old Cathedral Square was getting very tired. There was lots of broken pavings, I think it looked .. the design brief thought that it looked dated. This is to form an attraction to get people in, to attract shoppers in, create a bit of a cafe culture in the summer. You’ve got various eating outlets, restaurant outlets, cafe outlets around the Square, which hopefully will benefit from this.
ANDY: The fountains are three hundred thousand pounds apparently, on their own, according to the information I’ve just received.
ANDY: So, as far as you’re concerned, what’s the next stage in this particular project? People have got something tangible they can see now. They can see that redevelopment work is going on. What’s the next stage?
DAVID: Well the next stage is to get the rest of it completed obviously. The next big deadline is Church Street, and in a couple of weeks time there’s the cycle event that’s coming through the city, and Church Street is one of the legs of that, and the contractor is working hard to widen the length of paving that’s currently on Church Street, so there’s adequate width along there. And that’s in hand to be ready for the Fifteenth of June. Then it’s completion of the rest of the works, Exchange Street, Church Street, St. John’s Square. There’s also quite a considerable amount of work to do in the grounds of St John’s Church. One of the .. I think’s going to be actually .. stunning bits of the scheme is St John’s Church is going to be floodlit at night-time, and that’s going to be a real attraction, along with the fountains, which are also .. they’ve got LED lights in them as well. So they will be lit up when they’re on. The Cathedral gates are going to be floodlit, and some of the buildings like the HSBC, Starbucks, these buildings are going to have uplighters on them. So the scheme .. that’s work that’s got to be completed.
ANDY: And the businesses around there, understandably they’ve been upset at the work that’s been going on. Because it has made perhaps walking around, just navigating Cathedral Square, which is fairly clear of traffic most of the time isn’t it, apparently it’s pedestrianised but there’s always delivery vans going up and down, and things like that, but it has made navigating Cathedral Square quite difficult, and the businesses have been a little upset. Have you been working with them at all to try and ease their fears at all?
DAVID: Yes. City centre refurbishments are always painful, and maybe more should have been done consultation-wise, I don’t know. Certainly on a day-to-day basis the contractor is in liaison with shop owners, when they’re working outside their premises, to make sure they’ve got proper access into the shops and the likes. And then also the shops .. it’s signposted where the shops are still open. But also it’s got to be safe as well. You’ve got to keep the public from the construction works.
ANDY: Well I think it is .. as much as it’s been frustrating for anyone that lives and works close to the city centre, this is an exciting moment as well, isn’t it, because you can actually see some redevelopment work going on. But there clearly is still a long way to go in this particular project. How much longer is it going to take to do all the other things that you talk about?
DAVID: Well the completion date has been stated as being in September this year. So that’s what we’re all heading towards.
ANDY: Well thank you very much for coming on this afternoon. David Arthur that was. He’s the Project Manager for Peterborough City Council. He’s one of the people who’s been in charge at that project to install the fountains. They’re up and working from today.