Westgate Market Hall? - could this happen for Peterborough?

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There has been an impressive amount of support expressed, both to ourselves and public comment made towards our suggestion of a new Market Hall be built inside the current Westgate House building (formerly Beales) to house the Market i.e. the exterior walls retained and inside become a covered market. The announcement of our proposal can be found below, along with other updates of interest since its publication.

Peterborough market needs a new home and the Westgate House site is ideally placed and would ensure the building’s long term future. The location is close to car parks, bus station, railway station, Queensgate Shopping Centre. There are existing residents in the area and more homes to come with the future North Westgate and Northminster developments to the locality. Peterborough has many fine qualities and attractions for drawing in shoppers, visitors and tourists, and excellent road and rail links for those wishing to use the city as a commuter base. The addition of an indoor market in such a favourable location can only add to those features.

At the end of July 2020 we formally requested that the Town Deal Board consider allocating funding from their proposed £25 million budget for our idea of the market hall in Westgate House.

The Westgate Market idea was overwhelmingly liked by the Board but, regrettably, was not given their financial backing. Despite having great support from the Peterborough public, local councillors and the city's MP, the market concept was rejected for funding.

In the near future (probably) the existing market will have to cease trading for a while, to enable its current site to be redeveloped. The big questions are: what sort of market do we want to see? Where should it go? What happens in the short term?

We understand that Peterborough Investment Partnership have selected a developer for the Market/Northminster Car Park site but the chosen scheme has not yet been made public. However we believe it will include in some form, a replacement market.

We have been in discussion with the North Westgate developer, Hawksworth Ltd, who are considering including a ‘continental food hall’ in their massive redevelopment scheme and may look at boosting it by incorporating a general market. This would be a replacement for the existing market location, not a duplication. The City Council would, of course, have to agree to this. None of us should forget that the existing market traders would have to be consulted on any decisions made.

We have drafted a suggestion you can use should you need help in composing your letter or email.

Many of us admire the clock which adorns this building, Peterborians will know its history, but many may know it is a WW1 memorial clock provided by Peterborough & District Co-operative Society to honour their thirty-one fallen employees. Follow the link to read more about it.


Westgate Market Hall - a proposal

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published 11 June 2020
The recent closure of Peterborough’s first ever department store, originally operated by Peterborough Cooperative Society and latterly by Beales, is a huge disappointment to many people. Built well over a hundred years ago it has imposing frontages along Park Road as well as Westgate (see comparative photograph). Adjacent to Queensgate it stands at the heart of Peterborough’s shopping district and deserves to be saved.

The intended redevelopment of the combined sites of the Peterborough Market and Multi-storey Car Park and the closure of the Beales store in Westgate House requires some in depth analysis and imaginative thinking.

The Civic Society feels that here is an opportunity to put the two changes to positive use by promoting an exciting partial but major repurposing of Westgate House, which would have long lasting benefits for the city centre. What we suggest is a relocation of the Market to a new covered market hall within the shell of the existing building on Park Road and Westgate. This notion was first suggested in the letters page on 21 May by Judy Jones, incidentally a member of the Society.

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It should be feasible to retain the existing frontage buildings on both Park Road and Westgate for a relatively shallow depth and remove everything else behind. The complete frontage to Park Road appears to have been built originally as a narrow strip of several separate buildings for the full frontage. The central area behind the retained frontages as far as North Street area could become the basis of the ‘Westgate Market Hall’, a twenty-first century version of the Corn Exchange. Permanent market stalls of traditional size would be set-out around a central open space which would be ideal for ‘out-door’ eating and occasionally for performances. The whole would be covered by a roof allowing in much natural light, constructed in a form and style to bring some excitement to the street scene. It could, of course, look spectacular from within the hall itself.

The retained frontage buildings would be converted to small retail and food/drink units with further units on the North Street side. The first floor would have a balcony running around two sides, access being gained via one or more escalators. The upper level units would provide additional space for the more specialist services such as opticians, solicitors and other small offices, a gym and several residential apartments. Parts of the second floor and loft space could also be converted to apartments. The end result would be a vibrant mixed-use development of a cherished building.

This idea is illustrated (see right) in the accompanying sketch and cross-section drawings, click to enlarge.

If the existing market site is to be redeveloped the Market has to move, in any case, to enable redevelopment to take place. Why not build the new market on a permanent fresh site so that it does not have to move twice? The Westgate House site is ideally located to ensure a sustainable future. It is close to those things which will attract shoppers, and traders and close to the true core of retailing next to a ground level pedestrian access to Queensgate. It is also easily accessible to bus and train stations and large capacity car parks. There would also be space for ground level parking on the site. It is also on a route well known to existing Peterborough shoppers, many of Beale’s (and the Co-op’s) old customers being well used to travelling to the Park Road area.

There are many existing local residents living within walking distance and many more to come when North Westgate is eventually developed, with at least 300 new homes.

Implementing such a scheme, assuming it is financially viable, would require cooperation of a number of agencies; the owners of Westgate House; the City Council and the Market Traders association.

The Civic Society would like to see a feasibility study commissioned as soon as possible to explore this idea involving as wide a range of those individuals and organisations which have a concern for the future of both the Peterborough Market and Westgate House.

Update 18 July 2020, read the positive feedback being received to our suggestion.

Update 6 July 2020, see the Peterborough Telegraph article "Support for Peterborough Market to be moved into Beales as architects prepare plans for Northminster redevelopment"

Update 30 June 2020, Peterborough Matters undertook a straw poll on where they would like to see a market sited, and 52% were in favour of our scheme. Click here for their article.

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Peterborough Civic Society

page last changed 10 November 2020 and reviewed by KM.