More Time for Centre Works

Andrew Edwards is asked to explain why work on St Johns Square is falling further behind. The LibDem Leader Darren Fower raised the issue, and local retailers have joined him to complain bitterly at the way Council have responded to the evidence that the interminable refurbishments have effectively destroyed their businesses.
Broadcast at 08:10 on Wednesday September 15th 2010 in the Paul Stainton Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

PS: As we revealed this morning, works on St John’s Square are another month behind schedule. We were told last month that St John’s Square would be finished by mid-September, today, the fifteenth of September, with only minor works being carried on ’till mid-November. Earlier in the show we spoke to the Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Peterborough City Council, Darren Fower. Not very surprised by the news our Darren.(TAPE)
DF: The thing has become a joke now. It’s the sort of topic that’s discussed over a pint on a Friday night in pubs in Peterborough. As you mentioned, we’ve got local businesses who are at the very least talking about relocating, because they’ve been impacted financially. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of pounds being spent on unwanted fountains. We used to have public toilets in Cathedral Square, but they couldn’t be bothered to spend money on that.(LIVE)
PS: Well a number of local businesses in the Cumbergate and Cathedral Square have complained of a loss of earnings since the work started. David Beever manages Sunday’s Restaurant. He says he received a letter from Peterborough City Council, and a very small refund from the Rating Authority. (TAPE)
DB: A very strange letter from Andrew Edwards, to explain that I just didn’t see the long term and short term benefit. The Ratings Authority have done something. Obviously that’s completely outside the remit of the Council. And that’s perhaps been what five … we have had a rate rebate that’s perhaps five per cent of the actual impact that it’s cost the business. (LIVE)
PS: He went on to say that the impact started the day the fences went up, and the impact went away the day the fences came down. Andrew Edwards is the Head of Peterborough Delivery Partnership. Morning Andrew.
AE: Good morning Paul.
PS: We’re a joke, according to Darren Fower. We’re a topic of hilarity in the pub because we can’t deliver Cathedral Square on time. It keeps going back and back and back. Why now?
AE: Right. We’ve had a number of issues that have come up. And I appreciate that a lot of your listeners will be saying here he goes again. But the problem we face now is as we’re coming towards the end of the project, a lot of stuff .. of issues will start impacting on others. So right at the end of the project .. sorry, right at the start of the project you are usually able to absorb those in. Now, as we’re coming to the end, the delay in one area will impact directly on work in another. Now the specific issues that we’ve had over the last couple of weeks, one revolves around the weather, and as I think you are aware, there was about a day and a half’s rain, heavy rainfall …
PS: A day and a half Andrew?
AE: Yes but the problem you have Paul is that there may be a day and a half’s rainfall, but then we need certain things to start to dry out. You can’t work when the ground’s too wet, because of the mortar joints and whatever. And then if I’m honest some other areas which we hoped to complete within certain time frames, we just haven’t been able to do it within those time frames.
PS: Right. So we were too optimistic really, were we? Or we didn’t plan properly.
AE: Well we planned properly. I think possibly we were too optimistic in certain areas. But now as you will see when you walk past, there is a lot more manpower on the site to address the various areas …
PS: Why couldn’t we do that earlier though Andrew? Why couldn’t we just throw men at it earlier? You know, we’d have had this done by now.
AE: Well we ..
PS: We are a laughing stock aren’t we? A bit of a joke really.
AE: No I would disagree. I think that people are starting to see the benefits of Cathedral Square, and whereas some of the people on the radio earlier were saying that businesses are looking to move out of the city centre, that’s quite the opposite. One of the things we have seen in Peterborough is that actually we have suffered less in the recession than other areas. So from that point of view Peterborough is still seen as a … and will be seen certainly into the future as a place to come to do your business.
PS: But David Beever, who manages Sunday’s, he’s kept a detailed chart of his business talkings. And when the fences went up his business went way down. And it went back up the day after the fences came down. And he’s got a small refund from the Rating Authority. It’s just not fair, is it? He’s lucky he’s still there.
AE: Well, you know, as Mt Beever said, he has actually written in to the Council, and we’ve responded. I would dispute some of the statements he’s making, but I would suggest that’s a debate between myself and Mr Beever, and not necessarily over the radio.
PS: Yes. Certainly. Can you guarantee now that this is going to be finished in October, and it’s not going to affect Christmas trade?
AE: Right. I can guarantee that it’s not going to affect Christmas trade. But, you know, it would be foolhardy of me to guarantee that we’re going to be finishing this in mid-October.
PS: (SIGH) Really? You can’t guarantee it’s going to be finished next month?
AE: I can’t guarantee no. There could be issues that come up during this period that we haven’t foreseen, that could push it on. Paul, you and I both know that for me to say I can guarantee things here, when not everything is in the control of either us or the contractor, would be foolhardy.
PS: What’s left to do?
AE: Right. We’ve got the paving around St John’s Square. There’s work over the transformer that needs to be completed. And there’s some additional what I would describe as ancillary works.
PS: So you can’t guarantee then that you’re not still going to be doing it at Christmas and affecting the Christmas trade.
AE: Oh no. I can guarantee looking at the work that we’ve got coming up I can guarantee it won’t affect Christmas trade.
PS: Andrew thank you for coming on this morning. Andrew Edwards, Head of Delivery at the Peterborough Delivery Partnership, who says it could be another month before the St John’s Square works are finished in Cathedral Square, but he still can’t guarantee it.

Broadcast at 08:10 on Wednesday September 15th 2010 in the Paul Stainton Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.