08:16 Monday 18th February 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
(MUSIC: ANY OLD IRON)
PAUL STAINTON: If you live in the North of the county you might have to start learning Cockney. Bridge Street, wreck your feet says David Bailey. Grin and bear, Cathedral; Square says Catherine. It’s always closed – it’s the bish bash bosh, the Whittlesea Wash. You get the idea, a bit of Cockney. Well Peterborough’s MP has slammed plans that would allow a London borough to build houses in Peterborough. The City Council is in talks with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The idea is that it might help young Londoners get on the housing ladder. Marco Cereste joins us now. Morning.
MARCO CERESTE: Hello Paul.. How are you?
PAUL STAINTON: I’m .. I’m fine.
MARCO CERESTE: Good.
PAUL STAINTON: That’s quite a bit of criticism from your own Conservative MP as regards not only your chat with London and Kensington but also the way you run things. How do you respond to that?
MARCO CERESTE: Well .. you know .. we all know what his opinion of people who live in social housing is. And .. erm ..
PAUL STAINTON: Well what do you mean by that?
MARCO CERESTE:It’s a matter of public .. you know as well as I do, it’s a matter of public record. I suggest you read some of the things he said about people who live in social housing. Fortunately I run the city for the benefit of this city and that’s my job, you know, and to turn round and say that we shouldn’t talk to a borough in London who wants to come and invest millions of pounds in our city and not only just build housing, and housing is just a part of what they want to do, is to bring culture, to bring the opera, to bring employment and investment into our city which will create lots of jobs, would be madness. You’d all shoot me if I said well I’m not going to talk to you. Now, when we’ve had the discussions, if there’s something worth having in it for Peterborough, for the benefit of Peterborough, we’ll go ahead with it. If there isn’t, we won’t.
PAUL STAINTON: So what are we talking about?
MARCO CERESTE: Well you want me to talk about it, don’t you?
PAUL STAINTON: What are we talking about here? Are we talking about bringing youngsters from London who’ve got jobs to Peterborough, to come and live here and spend their money? Or are we talking about a form of social cleansing from London and Kensington?
MARCO CERESTE: No. We’ve certainly not been talking about any form of social cleansing. Let’s .. let’s start .. let’s .. let’s get something completely straight for a start. If the Royal Borough of Kensington wanted to come to Peterborough and buy an extent .. an extent of land that had been allocated to social housing, and build social housing, they could do so and there is nothing that you or I or anyone else could do about it. Now, what we’re doing is we’re having a conversation to see if there’s a partnership that could be formed to do all sorts of things with the Royal Borough of Kensington, which includes them building housing in Peterborough, part of which would belong to Peterborough and be used by people of Peterborough, and part of it they would use for young upwardly mobile families who want to have a go, who are in employment, but are prepared to live in Peterborough, and are ambitious and want to make something of their lives.
PAUL STAINTON: So they’re going to come and build some affordable housing for people, the nine and a half thousand people who are on the waiting list in Peterborough, possibly.
MARCO CERESTE: Well if we did any sort of a deal at all, and I keep saying to everybody, we are talking to them, right? Nothing has been agreed, and you know, we are in exploratory talks to see whether there is anything that we can do together. Now if they were to build .. if they wanted our .. our agreement to building social housing in Peterborough, then part of that deal would be to provide also social housing for Peterborough families.
PAUL STAINTON: Is this just desperation? Are you just looking for anywhere for people to come and build houses? because you’re so far behind on your house building plan, aren’t you?
MARCO CERESTE: Well .. you know .. you and I .. you know .. you and I Paul know that’s nonsense. You know how well we’re doing in Peterborough compared to everybody else.
PAUL STAINTON: Well you’re supposed to be building 1,500 every year. You’re not.
MARCO CERESTE: No. Come on. Come on Paul. You look at the last .. last figures — last week from the management journal, we are in the top ten cities in the whole country for employment, for investment, for house building.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you hitting your targets for house building?
MARCO CERESTE: Well of course we’re not. (LAUGHS) You tell me who is hitting their targets for house building. Our targets aren’t being hit, and whilst the recession is like this they won’t be. But we’re doing very well. We’re nearly hitting 1,000 houses a year. Last year was nearly 1,000. This year it’s probably going to be more. And .. you know .. we we we’re doing extremely well in the really really difficult economic climate that we’re living in. But it’s not just about house building Paul. You and I both know that if we could get the construction industry going in Peterborough, the impact overall for everybody in the city would be phenomenal. And so we’re doing all sorts of things. We’re talking to the Royal Borough of Kensington, but we’re also creating our own pot to create city centre living. We’re talking to various over.. offshore investors who want to come and invest big time in our city, to create employment and jobs and to redevelop the South Bank. The city is really beginning to move forward, and doing really really well. Just go and have a look at what’s happening in the city centre.
PAUL STAINTON: No, I see it every day.
MARCO CERESTE: It’s alive, it’s vibrant, it’s working. For people to say we don’t care about Peterborough, this administration doesn’t care about Peterborough, is the biggest load of nonsense you ever heard, you could ever possibly have heard.
PAUL STAINTON: But there will be people ..
MARCO CERESTE: Your own eyes will tell you the truth.
PAUL STAINTON: There will be people worried at the prospect of a new development that will be primarily for the benefit of people from somewhere else, and the impact that thousands of people coming from London might have on our already creaking schools and hospitals and infrastructure.
MARCO CERESTE: I couldn’t agree with you more. I agree with you entirely. So what makes you think that you know I would agree to something like that that wasn’t in the interests of Peterborough.
PAUL STAINTON: So why bother then?
MARCO CERESTE: Well it .. well, because there may be something there like we could have a cultural exchanges, we might have five or six hundred jobs, we could get the several million pounds investment in the construction industry. That’s why. Because don’t forget if you’re building 500 houses or whatever you’re going to build, over a period of years, it employs a number of people. It’s the investment in our city. Let me give you a .. let me give me a .. let me give you a figure that you will understand. You know that this year we should with a bit of luck if the budget is approved we’ll be in balance for 2013/4. In 2015/16 .. sorry 2014/15, we’re looking at a £7 million deficit. Now, if we were to build 3,500 houses, which are needed for the people of the city, which would create employment, would revitalise the construction industry, we could wipe out that deficit.
PAUL STAINTON: Well.
MARCO CERESTE: You know, so .. you know, when you start putting it into that kind of context, you cannot say to me don’t talk to somebody who wants to come and invest in the city. That would be mad .. that would be madness.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. I’m just worried what we’ll give back in this cultural exchange. What do we offer Chelsea?
MARCO CERESTE: I agree. Well, you know, but but but but Chelsea .. this is exactly .. if you think about it, if you think about it, I know and you know there are some flats owned by the Royal Borough of Chelsea which they’ve got people in there, social housing, worth three million quid. So if we’re going to do a deal with with with the Royal Borough of Chelsea for them to move their more upwardly mobile families to Peterborough .. and don’t forget this was done by Charlie Swift about 30 years ago, and they .. most of Westwood was people from London, are you saying that they were a .. you know, that we shouldn’t have them in the city? That they should all go away?
PAUL STAINTON: When will we hear more about this? These potential talks.
MARCO CERESTE: If something comes up. (LAUGHS) This whole point was and we’re talking to them, if something comes up clearly we would talk to everybody, we’ll go out to consultation, and we’ll see what you know what the people of Peterborough wants to do. But nothing may come of it. Because if we can’t do the right deal, we’re not going to come forward and propose it to anybody. So .. why .. why would we?
PAUL STAINTON: Marco, thank you for that.