The Future of Peterborough

fishes in the water08:06 Wednesday 27th April 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: A bit of a spat has broken out. Not-for-profit organisation Growborough is being criticised for treading on the toes of another organisation, by launching an advertising campaign to attract new businesses to Peterborough. Publicly funded economic development company Opportunity Peterborough, you may have heard them on the show yesterday, launched a similar strategy in London just a few months ago. We talked about it having the name tag on taxis and billboards and everything else. Well Rowen Squibb is from Growborough. Morning Rowen.
ROWEN SQUIBB: Morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: What is going on here? We¬†have Opportunity Peterborough, who up until probably I would say a year ago we were some of their fiercest critics. They didn’t really do the job properly, according to lots and lots of people. Nothing really got delivered. But they appear to be doing the job now. They appear to be doing what they said on the tin.
ROWEN SQUIBB: Yes. Since Neil’s turned up things seem to be a lot more proactive over at OP. But we still feel that there’s no harm in trying to raise awareness of Peterborough. We try and take a supportive .. I think this disagreement somehow comes from the fact that actually we passed over the idea to them, and I think it’s just a cause of concern that we’re stepping on their toes.
PAUL STAINTON: Which idea? The idea of advertising in London?
ROWEN SQUIBB: Well some of the campaign ideas that we were talking about, economic growth. I don’t know if you’ve seen the video that we’ve created. But yes, we just put together an overview of basically the overall economy, where jobs are going to come from.
PAUL STAINTON: But Opportunity Peterborough say because you’re doing this as well, it becomes confusing for businesses, because there are two organisations effectively promoting the city. Why can’t you just work together?
ROWEN SQUIBB: There’s a lot of people in London actually. Their campaign on some taxis, on some billboards, will obviously get the attention of some, but we don’t see any harm in going off in a completely different direction and different areas. We’re just looking at running some videos in the Soho area, and just off the Mall. It doesn’t necessarily seem anything that should affect what they’re doing. It’s just another way of getting the word Peterborough in front of people, when hopefully businesses are looking to set up outside of the M25.
PAUL STAINTON: But can you see why it might be confusing?
ROWEN SQUIBB: Actually, to be honest with you, lip-service makes me want to say, well you know of course, but no not really. I think we people in the community, as many people as possible should get involved in trying to help deliver, find replacements for the 400 jobs lost at Barclays, or the 160 jobs lost at RBS. We need to work together of course, but we need a bit of proactivity. And actually maybe some inspiration. And I think that’s the issue. We’re not a public sector government body. We’re able to move on ideas quite quickly.
PAUL STAINTON: Well it’s interesting you say that, because every time you come on, people want to know who you are. Because they don’t know who you are. Who are Growborough, and what’s behind it?
ROWEN SQUIBB: I think it’s because we are a not-for-profit, and we’re not necessarily a commercial setup. Growborough, our website gives an indication of poeple who for the moment are sponsoring banners on there.
PAUL STAINTON: Who pays for all this though? Where does the money come from?
ROWEN SQUIBB: Well everything is paid for by the individual. So for example, the banners that have just been run, have been paid for by a private company who paid to create the banners. Their name is on the end of the banner, so they get some exposure.
ROWEN SQUIBB: It’s good for them to get the exposure, and they get their name out there, so it’s people who have been working in the community a long time. It only seems to be now that people seem to want to go, well why would you care about your city, or where your children are growing up? And actually, it shouldn’t be a question mark. Lots of towns or cities have people within them ..
PAUL STAINTON: What I’m trying to get to though Rowen, is the reason you’re doing this in the long-term to make some money out of it as well?
ROWEN SQUIBB: Well a prosperous Peterborough is obviously good for people like me that have busineses in Peterborough. Of course. That’s a fact. If the economy doesn’t grow, and there isn’t work in certain sectors, then our businesses don’t have anyone to sell to. Absolutely.
PAUL STAINTON: What I’m trying to get at is, is the reason you can’t work with Opportunity Peterborough because you want to make money from this in the long-term?
ROWEN SQUIBB: No we’ve said .. we’ve had actually some offers of financial support. We’ve had conversations with the Council and such-like, and we’re not looking for that. This isn’t about financial reward. Some of us are quite lucky,. in different areas we work.
PAUL STAINTON: Because you are part of a marketing company as well, aren’t you?
ROWEN SQUIBB: I have a marketing company. I have a hotel that I invest in in Austria, in a town we’ve done some investment in.
PAUL STAINTON: Has that got anything to do with Growborough at all?
ROWEN SQUIBB: No. Absolutely not. No. Absolutely not. Sorry, the company in Austria you mean?
PAUL STAINTON: No, Why Media I think it is, isn’t it?
ROWEN SQUIBB: Well Why Media, or Fluid. Fluid wrote the original marketing strategy that I think OP are working to. So actually Fluid put together a marketing strategy that was given to Councillor Elsey. In effect it’s what Growborough is working to, and what Opportunity Peterborough are working to. So we came up with the concepts, getting the taxis and taking some of the billboards in London. So everyone worked to that same strategy. That’s kind of how we’ve been able to I suppose .. I would argue effectively work as .. why our groups are so big and we’re able to talk to so many businesses through some of the mediums that we set up. That strategy was created in Stuart House strangely enough, alongside The Future is You.
PAUL STAINTON: Wouldn’t it be better though to put your expertise with Opportunity’s new-found expertise in the last year or so, and just create this big super-organisation that sells Peterborough in the best possible way?
ROWEN SQUIBB: I think Government bodies can be quite slow to .. absolutely. We couldn’t .. we haven’t at any given point said anything other than Growborough belongs to Opportunity Peterborough. It’s an open platform. You’ll see that businesses post out. Hereward Pub has put something out yesterday. A new cafe’s opening up in Eye and they’re putting some pieces up. This is an open forum. It belongs to nobody. Do you see what I mean? It’s something for other people to get their message across, to say, we are a business here. We can supply you this product. We have commercial space here. Come and open up your business. It’s an open forum. It does not belong to any body. And that’s why it’s a not-for-profit.
PAUL STAINTON: Opportunity Peterborough, I’ve a long statement from them here. I’m going to paraphrase bits of it, from Neil Darwin, who’s Director of Economic Development at OP. He says, “You are an essentially self-appointed operation. It’s not supported by local agencies. Growborough is not widely known, or indeed understood by local business people. It operates by social media sites such as Facebook, and does not provide face-to-face interaction. In this sense their activities are either unknown, or not supported by wider business. And it’s confusing businesses.”
ROWEN SQUIBB: Well obviously we sat with ING last week. We sat with soime other developers last week. And actually the group numbers speak for themselves. i don’t really think there’s any point of even defending that. The numbers speak for themselves. There is no bigger “Like” group, and we’ve got 1140 people, over 60,000 different pieces of conversation, and that’s there to be seen on-line. And that’s .. This is the problem sometimes with Government agencies. They come out with spin. And reality, they’re online to be read (?).
PAUL STAINTON: But they have delivered, haven’t they, recently? Whatever you think of Cathedral Square and the cost of it, and as you know we’ve been quite critical on this show. But it’s delivered now. We’re getting Nando’s, we’ve got Chimichanga, we’re getting TK Maxx, we’re getting Primark, we’re getting Patisserie Valerie. They’ve delivered, haven’t they?
ROWEN SQUIBB: Well that’s not even 100 jobs. And you’ve lost 500 at Freemans.
PAUL STAINTON: Well it will be 100 jobs with Primark and TK Maxx, won’t it?
ROWEN SQUIBB: To be fair, these businesses have been looking at Peterborough for a long time. The retail units, they’re already in Bedford, they’re already in Northampton.
PAUL STAINTON: But OP are saying, what have you delivered to Peterborough? That’s on their mission statement here.
ROWEN SQUIBB: What we’re trying to deliver, and we’re trying to work closely with them, is a single strategy for creating high-value jobs to replace these jobs that have been lost. We’re trying to help identify the city. I don’t think we can sit there and go, oh, Nando’s. Stewart Jackson was the one that wrote to Nando’s and put the place on the map. They then found the correct retail unit. So I don’t think anyone can do that. All we can do, any given party, and I’d say this to your platform, or any other platform, here is Peterborough. Come and have a look. Maybe we’re cost-effective. Maybe we’ve got good transport. And then it has to go off to the relevant parties. Because if you are a new cinema operator, it’s much more specialist than OP or Growborough. It needs to go off to people that understand the requirements for taking up that type of space, and rebuilding a quality cinema or what have you.
PAUL STAINTON: Is it worth falling out though? Because at the end of the day the offer is still there, even in this statement from Opportunity Peterborough, there’s still an offer there, an open door for you to work with them. It’s from John Bridge, this statement. And he offers that opportunity. Because there’s no need to have a spat, is there?
ROWEN SQUIBB: We are working with them, aren’t we? I think that we are working with them, because we’re trying to raise awareness, and ultimately I’m sure some of those people want to come and look at Peterborough. They put in regeneration company, and Opportunity Peterborough’s the one that’s there. So we are already working with them, and we’ve given them ownership. I also said to Neil Darwin, they can take the main banner within the space, in terms of our communities that we’re talking to. There is no issue. We’re not interested in anything else, other than coming up with a practical solution for some of the problems that we’ve got. And that’s jobs, we need to improve some of these jobs. The retail offering, the ghost town that is North Westgate needs dealing with. It’s been going on way too long. This is all. We’re trying to help support some of these changes that need to happen.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you ever going to work together?
ROWEN SQUIBB: Well like I say, I feel like we are working together.
PAUL STAINTON: In the same organisation, under the same umbrella?
ROWEN SQUIBB: Well like I say, we all have full-time jobs. This is not paid jobs for us. So we don’t have the time to necessarily .. and we have people come ad hoc. So someone may come and do an internship for three months, and then they’re off. So it’s a bit .. we are not a slick organised outfit like Opportunity Peterborough. We are people in the community who stand there in the middle of the city centre at night and go, the night-time economy isn’t what it should be. So how can we go and talk to the right people who will try and encourage a start-up to create a better offering? We’re not a company.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes Rowen, we’ve got to leave it there I’m afraid. But hopefully both of you will going forward get together and do your best for Peterborough, as you’ve both been doing so far. Opportunity Peterborough’s statement goes on to say, “Since May this year, Neil Darwin, Director of Economic Development at OP has met frequently with Grownborough to find a way forward that would seek closer working between the two organisations. Ideally,” says Neil Darwin, “Growborough could play a role in helping OP establish inward investment priorities and targets, and playing a scrutinising role, leaving the delivery to the OP team. Despite warm words, Growborough’s actions have not followed sentiments verbally expressed.” According to Opportunity Peterborough.