Young lifeblood wanted in Peterborough

09:28 Monday 10th August 2015
BBC Radio Cambridge

PAUL STAINTON: Let’s bring in Steve Bowyer from Opportunity Peterborough, influential of course in attracting many many of the top restaurants to Peterborough in particular. Steve, it’s a fair point though isn’t it, that these thousands of people that were roaming the streets of Peterborough back in the ’80s, ’70s, ’90s, spending all that money, are we missing out?
STEVE BOWYER: Morning Paul. I don’t think so. I think there’s a really good point there about how city centres have evolved, and that mix and diversity of offer. And I think it is about providing that choice. I think there’s a lot of people been talking about how things are cyclical, and you know we may see nightclubs coming back again. But I think actually things move on, so now we have good music venues, we have good restaurants. Hopefully in Peterborough we’re going to see cinemas soon. The point your last speaker made about university and students is absolutely vital for the city, because that is a young lifeblood.
PAUL STAINTON: How close are we to getting that?

STEVE BOWYER: Don’t forget we’ve got a university centre. So we’ve got almost 1,000 students there. We need to support that and keep that growing and growing, so that actually that brings ..
PAUL STAINTON: Is that where the university’s going to come from, out of that?
STEVE BOWYER: Well you’d hope that that is where it’s going to lead from. Absolutely. I think we’re working very hard with a lot of partners to deliver this. It is a key priority for the city, and it will come forward. It’s not going to happen overnight. Universities, we see all the stuff that’s coming out from central government about universities. So it isn’t an easy thing.
PAUL STAINTON: And you’ve got to get the kudos with it as well, haven’t you? Because you don’t .. you don’t become Cambridge overnight, or Sheffield, or Lincoln. They’ve got a reputation. How do you build that reputation for your university?
STEVE BOWYER: Apart from anything you build it on the quality of what you deliver in the university. So if you talk to a lot of students, and I was talking to some at the weekend, and they were talking about actually living in Cambridge, and they were drawn there because of actually the range, not just of its kudos as a university obviously, but actually they’ve provided the courses they wanted. And I think the most important thing for our university in Peterborough is providing the courses that people want to a quality that they want. And actually yes, you could see that coming from the university centre, Anglia Ruskin and our other partners providing that in the city and growing that. So I don’t think we should beat ourselves up about that. You and I can remember five, six years ago when we had no university presence whatsoever. We just need to support that and keep the traction growing on that.
PAUL STAINTON: When you look at the city centre offering now, is it mainly, particularly in Peterborough, maybe not so much in Cambridge, because we do have the University so that that promotes younger businesses, is it more for the middle-aged people, the city centre? And is the city centre of Peterborough going to change forever?
STEVE BOWYER: Well it’s a good point, isn’t it? I came to Peterborough eight years ago, and a number of business people said to me we would not come into the city centre for a variety of reasons. Now they’re coming into the city centre. What we’ve got to do is build that mix over time. So it is shame to see nightclubs closing, because they are businesses, and they are employers.
PAUL STAINTON: Is that a natural evolution though?
STEVE BOWYER: I think it is. Well it’s a natural evolution with catalytic change. And that’s what we did with Cathedral Square. That’s what attracted the restaurants in. The next step phase of evolution for the city centre is probably seeing the offices converted to residential. So you get people living ..
PAUL STAINTON: So a lot more people are living there.
STEVE BOWYER: Exactly. You get people living. Then I think from a personal perspective, the next big important focus is office space. Good quality office space in the city centre, exploiting the fact that we’ve got the East Coast Mainline forty minutes into London, a great hub for new offices to set up. So then what you’ve got is a good evening economy, as I say seeing the cinemas coming in alongside the restaurants, the good mix of offer. You’ve got people living in the city, and you’ve got people working in the city.
PAUL STAINTON: So it will drive people in.
STEVE BOWYER: And that’s a real 21st century city.
PAUL STAINTON: It will drive people in but just in a different way.
STEVE BOWYER: Yes. Exactly. And it is that diversity and choice that people want. So it’s not about chasing people out, and actually sort of just replacing them with a different set of society, but actually getting that whole mix, living and working and actually playing side by side. And that’s what a 21st century city is. And that’s what we should be striving to be.
PAUL STAINTON: So nightclubs, dancehalls, they’ll just be a thing of the past.
STEVE BOWYER: No, they’ll be a part of that I think. I think it’s all part of the ingredient and the mix, and I think you need all of those. And if you talk to students, you know they want live music as much as they want nightclubs, as much as they might want cheap beer, as much as they want a safe place to eat and drink etcetera, etcetera. So it’s all of those mixes coming together. And I think there’s a bright future for Peterborough.