More Thought Needed on the Old Hospital Site

Councillors have joined the local MP in questioning the current outline plans for the old Peterborough District Hospital site on Thorpe Road as unimaginative, unsustainable, and not in the best interests of local ratepayers.
Broadcast as timed on Thursday 7th October 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

PAUL STAINTON: On yesterday’s show we celebrated the official handover of the ten thouand keys to the new City Hospital. Now whilst it was praised for being completed on time and on budget, there was criticism of the plans for the old PDH buildings on Thorpe Road. MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson called for the plans to be a lot more ambitious. (TAPE)
SJ: It does raise a number of related issues, including what we’re going to do with the old hospital site at Thorpe Road, the PDH site. Because personally I believe that the City Council’s planning brief for that is not very ambitious, and focuses too much just on quantity of new housing, and a little bit of retail. And I think for such a prestigious thoroughfare coming into the city, I think we could be a lot more innovative in using that site. But obviously that’s a matter for both the Trust and developers and the City Council. (LIVE)
PS: Well the scheme includes three hundred and fifty to five hundred and fifty new homes, and a small scale retail facility. But do local councillors agree with the plans? Liberal Democrat councillor Darren Fower joins me this morning … Do you concur with what Stewart’s saying, in a coalition sort of way?
DF: I wouldn’t go as far as to say coalition, but yes, I can understand the angle he’s taken. The plans that are on offer at the moment do come across as slightly lame.
PS: What are we getting? Is it a sort of mini-Bretton Centre?
DF: Well that’s one of the questions. Exactly that, what are we getting? We’ve got council officers that you’ve spoken to who quote figures of three hundred and fifty to five hundred and fifty houses. That’s a big gap. And people need to know exactly what sort of number we’re talking about. Because obviously there is a need for housing, but the people who already live around that area need to be told what level of density there’s going to be. Because obviously each property could mean an additional car. So you could be talking about anything from five hundred to a thousand additional cars in that area alone. So we need a lot more clarity, and a lot more ambition.
PS: Yes. This is a main route into the city, isn’t it, so it needs to look nice. It needs to look impressive.
DF: It needs to border on the iconic. We need to see a real guarantee that a hundred per cent of the houses built will be greener. I personally would like to see an increase in the percentage of affordable housing, because we’ve got this massive need right now for generations of people who can’t afford to buy property. They need to be helped, and that needs to be addressed by the City Council. But like you said, this is going to be an area that perhaps is going to be an aspect that people will judge our city on. So we need to have a very prestigious area that is providing the facilities and the housing for local people, but also promoting us in a very positive light.
PS: As you said, the city does need housing, particularly in the city centre, doesn’t it? So this is a prime place for it, it’s just .. we need to know how it’s going to be done, and what’s going to be done, I suppose.
DF: Well yes. The issue of us trying to be this Environment Capital etcetera, this is a very good opportunity for the City Council to use this as a prime project. For example, as I just mentioned there, greener housing, but little things like putting trees in. We’ve had this issue, as you well know, at the new hospital, where they destroyed a thousand trees, and then only replaced three hundred. Well here’s a cracking opportunity for these people who did that to reintroduce trees to the area, which will obviously help with air pollution, soil, and just the aesthetic view of the whole place.
PS: Yes. They seem to have an aversion to trees, Peterborough City Council. I did question why there were no trees planted in Cathedral Square, to make it a bit greener. I was looked at aghast.
DF: Yes. It’s one of those things which you’ve mentioned on this show countless times, and hats off to you, and to your listeners who’ve also commented as well. Because trees are nice things. I know that sounds very Liberal Democrat, but they really do provide a fabulous service. And I know there are costs in maintaining them, but I can’t reiterate enough that that’s why we pay our council tax everybody, to get a service from the local authority.
PS: So just to reiterate, what do you want to know about what’s happening with PDH? What would you like to happen to that site?
DF: I think we certainly need to get some clarity on the number of houses that are going to be built. We’d like to get some guarantee that there will be a significant percentage, more so than the twenty five to thirty per cent that they’re quoting, of affordable housing. We want the housing to be greener. We’d also like to see adequate facilities, such as making sure there are sufficient school places. That could include a new school. We want to see play equipment. We want to see more trees. We want to see it as a really ambitious project.
PS: Darren, thank you for that. Darren Fower Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Peterborough City Council.



PS: Labour councillor Mohammed Jamil represents Central Ward. Morning Mohammed.
MJ: Good morning.
PS: Dop you concur with this coalition view?
MJ: Well it’s not so much a coalition view, is it? Because we’ve got the MP asking for something more ambitious, without actually going into detail as to what that means, whereas I sort of agree with Darren. There is a need for housing. There is, I believe, plenty of other land within the city centre area that could be redeveloped, an example of which is the land along Midland Road, where the old bakery and the dairy and the old Esso site was.
PS: Which is derelict at the moment.
MJ: I don’t see anything from Mr Jackson about that. I believe that this has come up, and we need to have a balance of retail and housing. And I think in the next ten years we are going to have a major shoirtage of housing.
PS: Yes. But you must agree that this is a main artery into the city, Thorpe Road. It needs to look pretty.
MJ: Well you can make it look pretty. If you drive in from the A1, and you look at Hampton, it looks pretty. So there is a balance that I believe we can have. People have to live as well. We can’t have a city centre that expands so far out that you’ve got nowhere for people to live. And we will have this shortage, and I do believe that we’ve got to draw that balance, we’ve got to draw the line somwhere.
PS: We don’t need, on Thorpe Road, a mini-Bretton Centre, do we?
MJ: Certainly not. Not when you’re right next to the city centre. It’s close to the city centre. We could have sheltered accomodation where the elderly wouldn’t have to travel too far to get into the city centre. So I believe it’s a matter of drawing that balance, and I believe that it’s an ideal opportunity to get some housing there.
PS: So what do you think of the plans as they stand, Mohammed?
MJ: I sort of agree with them, but at the end of the day the residents and people who have to live along there need to have some form of say. There is a problem I know with West Town School. We’re brimming to the rafters there, and we need to make sure that we put a school there that will accommodate the children who live in and around West Town. At the moment we don’t. Children are having to go out of the area. So I think we’ve got to look at the needs of the local people as well as the needs of the wider city.
PS: And what do local people think? Have they even seen the plans? The Council will say there’s been ..
MJ: The plans and consultations have taken place.
PS: That’s what I’m saying. The Council say there’s been huge consultation. Has anybody been part of that that you know of?
MJ: I know that my group, the local Labour Party within the Ravensthorpe area and Bretton area that connect to it have made representations. And they too have called for a balance. And I think it’s always important to have that balance. But with regard to that particular area I think we missed an opportunity. It would have been an ideal site for a university, or a medical college. But that’s an argument for another day. But we’ve got plans for housing, and I do believe that those plans are correct, and we will need those houses for the residents of Peterborough.
PS: You’re not the first person to say this morning that it should have been a university¬†on that site.
MJ: Well we’ve missed many opportunities. The old Baker Perkins site, this site, the British Sugar site. We seem to be falling behind the rest of the country. I know that we are trying, but I just feel that there are places that we could have utilised, and this one being one of them.
PS: Mohammed, thank you for coming on. I appreciate that. Labour councillor Mohammed Jamil representing Central Ward.