08:07 Thursday 28th November 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[P]AUL STAINTON: Peterborough could soon have a city centre to be completely proud of. That’s the view of the chairman of the Civic Society, Peter Lee, after the City Council unveiled a radical redevelopment of one of the city’s most iconic roads, Bourges Boulevard. They’re planning to turn it into a pedestrian and cycle friendly route, which will also allow access both ways for car users in and out of the station. The work will cost £4.5 million, and it’s part of the continued improvements to the centre of Peterborough. Our reporter Johnny D has been telling us all about the plans this morning.
JOHN DEVINE: I’m here on Bourges Boulevard, which is currently like any other dual carriageway you’d find in any city up and down the country. But plans have been unveiled to turn this area into a pedestrian and cycle friendly tree lined boulevard. Thirty London plane trees, each 15 metres tall, will be planted along a widened central reservation. Two 10 metres wide pedestrian crossings will be put in between the Crescent Bridge roundabout and the Bright Street roundabout to improve access to the city centre for pedestrians and cyclists. The schemes will support the redevelopment of the station quarter, and the recently announced plans for North Westgate. £4.5 million of roadworks will also enable traffic from the station to turn right out of Station Road for the first time in history Paul, with traffic lights introduced at the junction. At the moment, if you want to head back into the city, motorists have to turn left onto the dual carriageway, go all the way up to the next roundabout and then come back.
PAUL STAINTON: The plans have also been warmly welcomed by Peter Lee, who’s chairman of the Peterborough Civic Society. He said Peterborough was closing the gap on Cambridge when it comes to having the most attractive city.
PETER LEE: Those people who say, oh I don’t go into Peterborough any more, it’s about time they did. Go into Peterborough and have a look round. Have a look in Bridge Street. Have a look in St John’s Square, Cathedral Square, Cowgate. It’s coming along a treat, and I think that’s great. If I’ve got one concern, it would be that Cambridge’s land values are so high that they can afford to be pretty fussy about new developments, and demand the highest standards of design. Peterborough has always been worried about its ability to command good design.
PAUL STAINTON: Well is the gap really narrowing, architecturally, between Peterborough and Cambridge? Well David Jones is the author of Hideous Cambridge, A City Multilated. He says a spate of overdevelopment and thoughtless architecture has ruined Cambridge.
DAVID JONES: There’s a lot that’s happened in the last six years which can’t be undone now. And if you go up Worts Causeway, for those who know Cambridge well, and up to the start of the Roman Road, there’s a field gate there. Look back down over the city and see what damage has been done to the skyline, most of that within the last decade. It’s appalling.
PAUL STAINTON: Well Marco Cereste of course is the Leader of Peterborough City Council. He’s with us this morning. Marco, morning.
MARCO CERESTE: Hello Paul. How are you?
PAUL STAINTON: I’m very good thank you. Ambitious plans for Bourges Boulevard. I had a look at them yesterday. And we’re going to get a tree-lined boulevard, we’re going to get a narrower dual carriageway, and all sorts of improvements to what is essentially a concrete monstrosity built in the ’70s.
MARCO CERESTE: Well I couldn’t agree with you more, and it’s about time. It was about time it was sorted, and with Waitrose now moving into the station quarter, we can afford to do it. And that’s .. And not only just do it, but do it really really well. So ..
PAUL STAINTON: Is that where the money’s coming from? Some of the Waitrose ..
MARCO CERESTE: Well yes, I mean long term it will cost the city virtually nothing. So that’s the important thing, is that we don’t .. that we limit what we spend but do it really really well. So .. And we’re good at doing that in Peterborough. So Peterborough is doing fantastically well. The station quarter will now be well on its way. As you know Queensgate’s got new owners, and they’re very keen to work with the Council to make sure they deliver a world class shopping centre. We’ve got North Westgate now plus some really realistic devliverable plans to deliver North Westgate. The whole city is really on the .. really moving. Moving really really well, and fast. And we now .. we’ll start creating even more jobs this year. I think the future looks good for Peterborough.
PAUL STAINTON: Now the plans I saw include trees down the centre of Bourges Boulevard.
MARCO CERESTE: Yes.
PAUL STAINTON: Various sets of traffic lights. You’re going to be able to turn right out of the station towards the Crescent roundabout. My worry, and some of the listeners this morning, is you’re going to create a bit of gridlock, especially on that Crescent roundabout, which is a nightmare at the best of times.
MARCO CERESTE: Yes. Clearly what needs to be done is the next phase. We need to put traffic lights on the roundabout, so that it’s signalled. And that way you’ll get .. you’ll sort out all the problems on that, on the roundabout, on that roundabout. So. And also there will be a slip lane that will take you off Boulevard directly into the railway station. So there will be no need for backing up on the Boulevard as there is now. So that will help a lot.
PAUL STAINTON: But it will slow traffic down, won’t it? The traffic lights will slow them down. What guarantees have you got that you’re not going to create a bit of gridlock.
MARCO CERESTE: It’s going to take a minute. We .. our engineer is telling us that it will take you an extra minute, probably less, to get through the whole system, and that’s only at very high peak times. Don’t forget of course the thing that I think everybody has missed is that you can now turn right, or you will be able to turn right on the Boulevard, which you’ve never been able to do. So all of those thousands and thousands and thousands of cars that come out of the car parks along the railway that used to have to turn left and go to the roundabout and then come back right again won’t need to make those movements. So I think yes, you’re absolutely right. There may be a slight issue about the roundabout on to Crescent Bridge. We will signal that, and that will be resolved. But the benefit is so great, when we finally join the city together again. You’ll be able to actually walk across the road from the railway station into Queensgate, or from the railway station into Westgate. And of course it will look nice and be attractive. It will be warm and inviting. There’ll be a nice area with public art and trees. It’s just got to be done.
PAUL STAINTON: Won’t there be more traffic though, going to Waitrose?
MARCO CERESTE: Well it’s bound to be a little bit more traffic. Of course. Yes. But, you know, it’s not a bad thing to slow the traffic down on Bourges Boulevard. And don’t forget the traffic that goes into Waitrose will come off the Bright Street roundabout. The entrance is not on that part of Bourges Boulevard. It’s on the roundabout further down. So it’s bound to have an impact, but not a serious impact. We’ve looked at it very very carefully. We’ve modelled all the traffic flows. Our engineers and experts tell us it’s not an issue.
PAUL STAINTON: You know there’ll be people listening to this this morning saying, what are you doing, spending money on this. Spend it on bus services, women’s centres, children’s centres, the homeless, Peterborough Streets, care homes. What are you doing?
MARCO CERESTE: Well completely right, and they’re absolutely right. If we were spending a lot of money that we weren’t getting a return on, then they’d have a very very very very good point. But of course we’re getting more than half of it paid for by Government. The rest of it will be paid for by the income that the Council gets from the new Waitrose development and the new jobs that it creates. It’s basically cost neutral. We have to be very careful about that sort of thing. I’m sure every city has. We are very careful about that sort of thing in Peterborough. But you see don’t forget that this will then enable the other developments from which we as a council will receive even more rates and more income. And that will not only be cost neutral, it will actually make money for the city. And if you don’t do it, those developments won’t go ahead.
PAUL STAINTON: And just finally, obviously we’ve had problems with delivery in Cathedral Square, when it was being built. Will there be relevant clauses in relevant contracts this time around?
MARCO CERESTE: Paul, I wasn’t Leader when Cathedral Square ..
PAUL STAINTON: I know. I know. I’m asking the question whether we’ve sorted the contracts out properly.
MARCO CERESTE: Well, you answer the question, did Bridge Street get delivered on time. (LAUGHS)
PAUL STAINTON: Did it? Did it?
MARCO CERESTE: Absolutely right. Yes. (LAUGHS AGAIN) And it only got done the once. (STILL LAUGHING)
PAUL STAINTON: Moving on.
MARCO CERESTE: Yes, moving on. Yes.
PAUL STAINTON: Very quickly, what is the timescale on this? When’s it going to start, and when’s it going to be finished?
MARCO CERESTE: We absolutely need to have it completed by October 2014.
PAUL STAINTON: OK. So everything done by then. And Waitrose open by next Christmas, yes?
MARCO CERESTE: Correct. Absolutely. I’m really looking forward to it. Very very excited about that, because hopefully you’ll be inviting me on to make a few more announcements over the next few months, which will be just as exciting. So, we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Peterborough’s on the move, and it’s the place to live, and come and visit.
PAUL STAINTON: Ah. So we’ve got some big shops coming have we?
MARCO CERESTE: We’ve got some big announcements to make, hopefully, in the next two or three months. You know what it’s like. And Peterborough is doing really really well. And I’m sure it’s part .. you know, all these public realm works, all the investment that’s being put into the city is the reason the city is holding its own in these really really difficult times,
PAUL STAINTON: He’s Marco Cereste. He’s Leader of Peterborough City Council.