The following articles were previously submitted to Peterborough Telegraph, please click on the relevant image to read them.
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Other interesting articles previously submitted to Nene Living can be found on our Nene Living articles page.

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Our new column

Major decision, minimum consultation

Blue Plaques and changing vistas

Your neighbourhood and modern heritage

Peterborough University and
our greetings cards

Street clutter, Lido, World War One plaque

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Bridge St cycling ban Cathedral guide book

Risk of a cop out?

North Westgate Development

Time to reflect

Seeking the best for Peterborough

Looking after your neighbourhood

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Our new column

This article was first published in the 18 January 2018 edition of Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood. Click on image to enlarge.

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Peterborough Civic Society is delighted to contribute a regular column to the Peterborough Telegraph. It appears to us that those people and organisations already submitting articles do so with one overriding aim - to improve our city for the benefit of residents (current and future) and visitors.

Peterborough Civic Society works to improve the quality of life and to foster pride of place in Peterborough. We seek to safeguard the city's heritage and encourage good design, balanced growth and sustainable development for the future. In short we wish to celebrate and promote Peterborough past, present and future. We have sometimes been criticised for appearing to be pedantic and nit-picky about what the City Council is planning or supporting. This is not the case - we merely wish to see the best for the city, best designs, best building quality, best long-term planning for the city. We realise that this is not easy for a local authority strapped for cash but we are more than happy to contribute positively to consultations and plans prior to final decisions being made.

A common misconception about the Society is that we wish to retain the past no matter what. This is not the case. Much of old Peterborough, quaint though it might have been, was not fit for purpose. You only have to look at old photographs of some of the city streets to see what poor condition some of them were in. We want to see a modern, outward-looking, clean and tidy Peterborough - that's why we continue to campaign and lobby about the scourge of fly-tipping, parking on grass verges, maintenance of footpaths, cycleways and so much more. Indeed we have recently been successful in obtaining an enquiry into the future of Guildhall Walk and our Blue Plaques initiative has been welcomed both at a local and national level.

image missing please notify webmaster As well as thinking about the quality of life for Peterborough residents we are also very keen to view our city from the perspective of visitors. Of course the Cathedral remains the key visitor attraction (and we must all do what we can to support the Peterborough Celebrates 900 campaign) but we must look at everything - cultural, educational, social, sporting - that might contribute towards a Peterborough long weekend staycation.

So what is currently occupying our collective minds? Well plenty! The Fletton Quays development (minus its missing bridge) is growing rapidly, North Westgate isn't - yet! Peterborough University is just around the corner and 2018 could be the year when the public art in Peterborough really grabs our attention. Incidentally great credit must go to Cllr Peter Hiller and staff at the Council for having the vision to commission the brilliant Voice of the City Henry Penn art work in Lower Bridge Street - a high quality addition to the city's streetscape. Let's hope more is in the offing.

Although I have written this initial article subsequent articles may be written by others in the Society, either individually or collectively. After all there is a great deal to be written about Peterborough, past, present and future, and readers' views are always welcomed! Just come to one of our meetings or give your opinion by writing a letter or email to this newspaper. You to can be part of our drive for pride in Peterborough. Together we must seek the best for our fine city.

Editor - Toby's contact details can be found on our contact us page.

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Do look out for the bell symbol the Council have used on their street / footpath furniture in the vicinity of the Voice of the City art work, and similarly applied a swan symbol to their furniture alongside the river. Great credit must be given to our Council for this delightful touch.

On its first series of plaques the Society put up a plaque (well before the current artwork) to commenorate Henry Penn which still exists, and on the page that displays this plaque you will find a link to the Henry Penn Peterborough Bellfounder website.

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Major decision, minimum consultation, some congestion

This article was first published in the 15 February 2018 edition of Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Kem Mehmed.

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Two roadwork schemes have made sparks fly in recent months. The changes to the station car park access on Bourges Boulevard, to create an all-ways junction complete with traffic lights and pedestrian/cyclist phases, has been underway since early this month. The other scheme that hit the headlines last year concerned the proposed removal of foot/cycle bridges at Rhubarb Bridge junction on Lincoln Road. This scheme was about to start when public outcry halted the contract, which had been awarded by the City Council, at the eleventh hour. A councillor-led working group is currently considering alternatives to demolition.

Where do these schemes come from, how were they chosen and who funded them? It seems they both appeared in the Local Transport Plan 4 approved and published by the Peterborough City Council in 2016. Consultation on this massive report was extensive but references to both schemes amount to a listing in a table and one or two sentences in the text. On page 92, under a heading of city centre schemes, it is listed as 'an all movement signalled junction Bourges Boulevard and Viersen Platz (Asda) junction'. Note that this is not the location of the work currently underway. There is no mention of access to the rail station car park! The funding for the scheme comes via the Local Enterprise Partnership as part of the major spending budget for all the improvements being made to the city centre roads and public realm infrastructure.

image missing please notify webmaster As for Rhubarb Bridge, the table on page 94 contains a line about 'A47/J18 Improvements' and then mentions, 'the scheme will see the removal of the pedestrian and cycle bridge over J18' and 'to be replaced with at-grade pedestrian/cycle crossings.'

Both these proposals seemed to most of us to have 'come out of the blue'. The Civic Society looks carefully at planning applications but these schemes, being works to the public highway, are not subject to planning approval. We will continue to scrutinise the plans and programmes of all public bodies which have an impact on the urban and countryside environment in the city. Without increased transparency in consultations on such schemes we may all continue to be taken by surprise.

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Blue Plaques and changing vistas

This article was first published in the 15 March 2018 edition of Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee members Toby Wood and Kem Mehmed.

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Regular readers will be aware that last year the Civic Society erected twenty new blue plaques in a variety of city centre locations. These were augmented by a booklet, which is available from the Visitor Centre in Bridge Street or via our own website. These blue plaques are either new or replace older existing plaques which suffered from being not quite as striking as the new blue ones. We are looking to extend this successful scheme and want ideas from Peterborians as to what, who or where should be commemorated in the next series of plaques. The intention is to erect some new plaques in 2019/20. This may seem like a long time ahead but time soon flies! So we have devised a plaques protocol and proposal form which is available on our website. If anyone has suggestions about what should be the subject of the next group of plaques (preferably close to the city centre) then please get in touch. All suggestions will be considered.

Incidentally, if any local voluntary group would like a talk on the blue plaques, just get in touch with Toby Wood or any committee member via our website.

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Thousands of people pass along the A1, on the very edge of Peterborough, every day. At the Peterborough Services turn-off to the city there is a piece of open land on the right side of the motorway which is soon to be built on. Plans for a very large building have been put forward which could transform the image of the city.

The site is part of Gateway Peterborough at Alwalton Hill. Roxhill Developments Ltd wish to double the permitted height of buildings on land close to the A1(M) to 40 metres. This site presents a unique opportunity to create an iconic landmark building, which will announce to the visitor that they have arrived at a special place. It will be the first impression travellers get of Peterborough and first impressions do count.

The planning application is, in effect only in outline, but the Civic Society feels that such a prominent site deserves to be treated to full and detailed designs. The application contains illustrations of the impact of a 40m high building from many viewpoints around the site. Photographs included in the planning application amply demonstrate how prominent it will be. So far there is nothing in this application that inspires any feeling that we will be getting a building of any great architectural quality. We strongly feel the applicants should be required to show how such an enormous building can make a truly positive contribution to the appearance and image of the city at this most significant -gateway- before any planning permission is granted. image missing please notify webmaster

Editor - the applicant has since withdrawn their application.

A recent temporary addition to the city centre skyline is the giant yellow tower crane that surveys the city centre from a great height, looking rather like a giant heron or - er - crane. The crane is visual proof that the Fletton Quays developments is growing rapidly. A rather splendid view of the Cathedral could once be had from the top row of the family stand at the ABAX stadium. Unfortunately this view is now partially obscured as the then and now photograph shows. Anyway, now that Posh has a new manager and Canadian co-owners, the football played will be so exciting no-one will have time to look at such a view. Here's hoping!

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Lookout for your neighbourhood and modern heritage

This article was first published in the 19 April 2018 edition of Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee members Toby Wood and Kem Mehmed.

The Civic Society keeps a close eye on any new developments and we do this by scrutinising and commenting on planning applications. We also look to work with the City Council whose job is being made increasingly difficult by diminishing funds and ever-increasing pressure on services. But what some people don't realise is that we are also concerned about those sometimes small yet very real annoyances which determine the quality of life in our city and its neighbourhoods. I'm afraid the list of frustrations is quite long - fly-tipping, overgrown cycleway and grass verges, illegal parking, empty shop units, maintenance of roads and footpaths and so on! We are certain that readers could easily add to the list!

There are many local councillors who do much good and have concern in trying to de-litter, remove graffiti, wish to smarten and look after their neighbourhoods, so come the time when councillors come up for relection in your ward, it is imperative these councillor who follow this approach get elected or re-elected. Local elections are usually notorious for having low turnouts (often under 35%) so it is up to us voters to elect people who can not only promise improvements but also demonstrate the skills and ability to deliver them, but only if you use your vote!

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Peterborough is in danger of losing an architectural gem, one of the area's most sophisticated buildings of the late 20th century, should a proposed food store and residential development get the go-ahead. The British Sugar Corporation's European headquarters office and research centre on Oundle Road is to make way for a 20,000 square foot supermarket and seventy-four houses currently submitted for planning approval with the City Council.

The existing building dates from 1971 and was originally part of the site of the sugar beet factory which ceased production in 1991. We all miss the sight of the single tall chimney with its plume of steam and pungent aroma. There is nothing left of the factory apart from some settling beds at the foot of the slope down to the River Nene. Peterborough celebrates its history and cherishes evidence of life from the Bronze Age to its New Town status. However this care for the past does not seem to stretch to a regard for working buildings such as factories, warehouses and offices. Apart from a few steam railway era sheds and the odd mill or two there is not much evidence of what Peterborough people did with their working lives through the centuries. Not a single brick kiln or chimney remains standing in the city limits.

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The BSC office was designed by Arup Associates, world leaders in urban design and winner of many architectural awards, one of which was achieved for this building. It is of minimalist modern character composed of a smoked glass and bronze steel frame cube with a two-storey range of brick clad offices completing the Oundle Road frontage. It makes a memorable and unique focal point on the entrance to a popular and attractive residential enclave.

The Civic Society is seeking the advice and support of the Twentieth Century Society in resisting the demolition of this landmark and will be objecting to the granting of planning permission for the food store. This will be added to objections of local residents and City Councillors on grounds of traffic generation and detrimental impact on other stores in the west of the city.

Editor - for the latest situation on this building - see later article Lifeline for a local landmark for more details

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Plans for a University for Peterborough and launch of our new greetings cards

This article was first published in the 17 May 2018 edition of Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee members Kem Mehmed and Toby Wood.

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Plans for a University of Peterborough received a giant boost at the end of March when the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Board decided to allocate £9.74m for the project, a big jump from the £2.5m it had promised last year. The new cash will be for a phased development to provide buildings for teaching and other facilities for 2,000 full time students at a single site on the Embankment. No student or staff residential accommodation is included in this phase.

The Combined Authority had considered three options on site selection. These were; an interim building for 1,000 students at Regional College; a site for 1,000 students on the Embankment and; a building for 2,000 students as the first phase of single campus for 12,500 students on the Embankment.

The recent report, produced by surveyors Gleeds, contains exhaustive cost comparisons and also contains a sketch plan of the full campus. It shows a site using land currently occupied by the Regional Pool, the running track and the existing car parks.

The report covers costs of providing and maintaining the facilities but no figures are included for the replacement of the swimming pool, running track or public car-park. Not all of these are lost in phase one but are a consequence of the sketch plan for the complete campus. The cost of the pool and athletics facilities could amount around £5 million and should be a major concern and the facilities displaced by the scheme must be re-provided before development gets underway. Incidentally no mention of a foot/cycle bridge to link with Fletton Quays is in the report. The cost of about £1.5 would have to be found from other budgets.

There is very little information about the timing of the project apart from a brief reference to an ambition to 'increase UCP student capacity by September 2019'. If this target relates to a building on the Embankment site it is utterly unrealistic. There has been no public consultation on the location of a University Campus. The Civic Society strongly supports the proposal to establish a university but it needs to have wide support amongst the general public.

To encourage meaningful public debate there needs to be good old-fashioned 'Master Planning' with an assessment of the character of the whole of the Embankment site including all the existing assets to be retained and enhanced to produce a Development Master Plan to guide development of the campus buildings. Our vision would encompass a complex of inter-linked buildings for teaching, social, recreational and residential activities in a landscaped parkland setting, primarily for the university but open to all.

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In 2012 the Society, along with Peterborough Photographic Society, produced the book 'Peterborough and its villages in detail' which included hundreds of photographs of architectural details and received excellent reviews. It is still available via the Society website at a specially reduced price, or good bookshops but at its full RRP price of £18.00. We have taken images from the book and created six greetings cards which are available from the Cathedral shop. The subjects of the cards are windows; doors; chimneys; steeples, towers and turrets; weathervanes and carvings of Peterborough. We will also be selling the cards at the Heritage Festival in June, and at our open meetings.

These cards have been specially produced in order to raise funds for the Cathedral and will make ideal gifts or stocking fillers for the Christmas gift with a difference. Click on any of the card images to see full detail, how to order and how to seem them full size - all profits from them will go to Peterborough Cathedral.

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Editor - I have exercised my privilege to also include to left and right the creative work of our every resourceful Toby (who also designed the cards), click on the images to see them full size.

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Street clutter, Lido re-opening, World War One commemoration plaque

This article was first published in the 21 June 2018 edition of Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

You know what it's like - every now and again you make a promise to yourself. Sort out the stuff in the back bedroom. You're sick of living in a tip and you know you'll feel so much better when it's sorted. Clutter - we all hate it.

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And so it should be with city centre. So much time and effort has been expended recently trying to make a Peterborough neat, tidy and attractive. The list of improvements is impressive - Cowgate, the John Clare poetry area in Long Causeway, the Voice of the City art work in lower Bridge Street commemorating Henry Penn, the improvements in Cathedral Square and especially around St John's Square. I could go on. It is noticeable that, in most of these revitalised areas, care has being taken to ensure that there is no extraneous clutter. Sadly this is not the case for other parts of the city centre. Bridge Street itself is full of unrelated bits and pieces. I was there the other day and my eyes were bombarded with advertising banners and various signs, and that's not counting the 'pop-up' religious organisations, businesses and charities all vying for my attention.

Then we had the threat of ten 'trojan' phone boxes (or yet more advertising spaces), which quite rightly have been condemned by the leader of the council, Cllr John Holdich who was quoted as being "appalled" by the plan. Thankfully the plan has been rejected - for now. We are continuing to improve our city centre so should strongly resist daft suggestions such as this. We've got 'Build the Bridge'. Now let's have 'Cut the Clutter'!

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Recently I had the pleasure of attending the official opening of this year's summer season at the Lido, one of the best preserved examples in the country. Now, whether or not you are a swimmer, one thing is certain - the Lido is one of Peterborough's magnificent buildings. Built in 1936, it has withstood the ravages of time, Hitler and Peggy Wright (remember her?) sternly cajoling young children such as myself to swim ... or else. (There will be people reading this column recalling Peggy with a smile, grimace or perhaps both.) One thing that really struck me was the Lido's superb condition. Not only is the water bright and sparkling but also the building itself is clean and well-kept. The paintwork was fresh and the new red, yellow and blue locker doors pristinely colourful.

The Lido has a poet in residence, Keely Mills, who last year commission the poems for the place. Parts of these now adorn the Lido walls and splendid they are too.

Please pay a visit, if only for the superb view that can be obtained from the upper tier of the south face of the Cathedral. We in the Civic Society are prepared to criticise if necessary but, in this case, Vivacity in particular deserves praise for a job well done. Viva Lido!

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Editor - look out for our Lido blue plaque and also look for these delightful emblems applied to the Council low level railings that surround the Lido flower borders frontage area, a lovely touch that should be praised.

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The eagle-eyed amongst you will have seen yet another blue plaque has been installed - this time in Long Causeway adjacent to Boots opticians. This plaque commemorates a World War One recruiting office and was arranged, funded and installed by the City Council in consultation with the Society, as they wished to retain uniformity of design which we greatly appreciated. Another one for the collection and click image to see full size.

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Click image on left to see all of our plaques

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Bridge St pedestrian area cycling ban and new Cathedral guide book

This article was first published in the 19 July 2018 edition of Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

This column is dedicated to Mark Booker and his friend who, a few weeks ago, cycled through Peterborough on their way from Southend to Bridlington along the national cycle network. How do I know this? Well Mark wrote to the Peterborough Telegraph and had a letter published on 5th July bemoaning the fact that he and his friend were each fined £80.00 for cycling in Bridge Street pedestrian zone.

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Dear Mr Booker, take it from us - this is an issue that has been dividing opinion in Peterborough for many years. Just mention cycling in Bridge Street pedestrian zone and you'll guarantee a right old rumpus.

We in Peterborough Civic Society want to promote and celebrate our city. We care about preserving the best from the past, want to make the city attractive and welcoming in the present, and are constantly thinking about how the city can be improved in the future.

Mr Booker - let's look on the bright side. You may take a crumb of comfort from the fact that you have helped to create employment for some who work in Peterborough. As a further article in the same paper stated on the same day as your letter was published, 'all of the money gathered goes to enforcement firm Kingdom'. The leader of our Council, John Holdich says, 'we don't make a profit from this - we don't break even.' Yet, later in the column, the Council refused to reveal the figure of 'how much money has been raised through the fines'. All very odd.

Herein lies the problem for Peterborough. On the one hand we want to promote ourselves as welcoming, enlightened and forward-thinking. On the other we come across as small-minded, penny-pinching and indecisive. The Bridge Street cycling ban is rooted in the mists of time when, legend has it, a previous leader of the Council (possibly in Roman times) 'nearly got knocked over'. There are many other controversies and questions that remain unanswered in this city and many of them need urgent attention. Will the North Westgate development actually happen? When will our new university be built, what will it specialise in and where exactly will it be situated? All of these questions, along with many others, continue to exercise the Civic Society.

Mr Booker, you were magnanimous enough to state that 'Peterborough clearly has good things to offer'. The Civic Society would like to offer you and your friend a little something by way of a tiny compensation. Please contact me via email (see our website address) and we will send you two free sets of our new Peterborough in Detail greetings cards as a minor recompense for your bad experience.

Editor - speaking without my Society hat on I have little sympathy for anyone caught breaking the law, particularly regarding this issue. I have been startled by cyclists coming up from the rear and not sounding their bell, and had issues with cyclists literally brushing past me on the footpath (not a combined pedestrian cycleway). I have also witnessed cycles ridden at speed through shoppers on pedestrianised areas and heaven help anyone getting in their way.

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Peterborough Cathedral has just produced a new visitor guide and very handsome it is too. It costs £6.00 and is available from the Cathedral shop and on-line, click on image for details. It's one of those publications that looks and feels good and oozes class. Not surprising really since it is produced by Jigsaw Publications from Norwich, the same folk that produced our very own Peterborough and its Villages in Detail book a few years ago.

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Risk of a cop out?

This article was first published in the 16 August 2018 edition of Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Kem Mehmed.

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Peterborough's redundant police station on Bridge Street is to be demolished and replaced with a budget hotel. Back in the 1980s, when the bus station was relocated to Queensgate and Lower Bridge Street was paved over, an alternative for vehicular traffic was provided by two sections of road named Rivergate. The police station, only about twenty years old at the time, was considered a fixture and this prevented the obvious replacement re-alignment. In the event one two-lane road took north-bound traffic to the left of the police station and the south-bound traffic was routed around the building to leave it on its own on an island site. An underpass for pedestrians and cyclists gave access to the Embankment but was not located where it was most needed at the Town Bridge/Customs House corner where instead a traffic light controlled crossing in two parts was installed. This did not give access to the police station. Visitors to the station had to take their chances with a break in the traffic.

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Today, with a clean sheet, we have the perfect opportunity to make good the compromises of the past and create a transformation in the street scene at this busy gateway to the city centre and the Embankment. The southbound section of Rivergate (road) could be closed and the whole area between the Customs House and the new hotel could be repaved and landscaped providing an attraction on the main route to the quayside and the Key Theatre. An additional bonus is that a valuable development site would be created from the leftover pieces of closed road. With the massive investment of Fletton Quays and the proposed locating of the university on the Embankment there is going to be a significant increase in visitors to the riverside areas, especially when (not if) a new bridge is built to link with the arts centre at Whitworth Mill.

A much simpler, more user-friendly, light controlled crossing could also be provided to make match days easier for Posh supporters and visitors alike.

What needs to be done now is simply to ensure that the proposed hotel is set back about 3 metres from the existing building line to enable an extra lane to be built in the future when funds permit. If the current design of proposed hotel is permitted the chance will be lost for another twenty-five years. Very little money needs to be spent straight away, just enough to draw up a plan to make sure the road layout will work.

The planning application for the hotel goes before the City Council's committee on 4th September. If it is approved the opportunity to make a big improvement to this part of the city centre will be lost for another generation.

The application reference is 18/00894/FUL Editor - the application was approved.

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North Westgate Development

This article was first published in the 20 September 2018 edition of Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Kem Mehmed.

A comprehensive development of the last remaining major site in Peterborough city centre has been submitted by Hawksworth Securities PLC. The plan is to build apartments, offices, a medical centre, large hotel, food hall, supermarket, shops and restaurants; in five blocks of between five and seven storeys on the North Westgate area.

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The Civic Society welcomes this application as an attempt to bring forward the comprehensive development of a long neglected part of the city centre. It accords with Local Plan policies and there is already an extant outline planning permission for a very similar scheme granted in 2015. There are a number of practical issues regarding access, circulation and servicing which are unsatisfactory, but these are hardly worth exploring until the serious doubt about credibility has been removed.

Editor - click image left to see their proposal.

The application does show how it might be possible to carry out a major development of a large part of the North Westgate Area without sterilising the comprehensive development of the whole street block. Hawksworth Securities states that it owns 44% of the total area of the application site but there remain about 30 other individual landowners involved, all of whom would need to be brought into the scheme. It takes only one owner to refuse to sell for there to be no actual development. Private development companies have no recourse to compulsory purchase powers so in most cases the support of the local authority is essential. The City Council will also be needed to legally close or divert public highways.

Statements by Council Leader John Holdich reported in the press do not give the impression that this support will be forthcoming. There is a long history on this site with three parties in a relationship which has evolved to a stand-off. As well as the City Council and Hawksworth there is Invesco, owners of Queensgate and two large parts of the North Westgate Area.

The City Council wishes to pursue its own scheme, although it does not own any of the land and has no scheme drawn up. Invesco, busy with Queensgate upgrade, has no enthusiasm for this site and fell out with Hawksworth over the multi-screen cinema. It's time for heads to be banged together or, more productively, for some humble pie to be eaten.

There now appears to be some consensus on the scale and contents of the scheme leaving differences of approach on who should develop the site. The problem of multiple ownerships on this site tells us that compulsory purchase powers must now be applied to enable a scheme to be implemented. Accordingly we look forward to the City Council reaching a partnering agreement with one developer, Hawksworth, who has shown a long-standing commitment to produce a scheme. We are very disappointed that such a relationship is not yet in place.

Should the City Council wish to go it alone they should get on with it. The general public has seen nothing from them and they have not purchased a single property in the area since they announced their intention to redevelop North Westgate in October 2016.

The Civic Society is concerned that this site has been undeveloped for the past thirty years with several schemes coming forward but not progressing for a variety of reasons. Now is the time for action!

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Time to refelect

This article was first published in the 18 October 2018 edition of Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

What counts as the end of year? Well actually it can be quite variable. For most of us the end of the year is December 31st although if you're in a school then July marks the end of the year while, confusingly, the tax year ends in April.

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Even Peterborough Civic Society has an end of year and it is around now - our annual general meeting is coming up and by then all our members will have received an annual report detailing activities during the past year. Much has happened this year and I am reminded of my Catholic upbringing when I divide the year into three categories - heaven, hell and limbo.

First heaven (or as near to it as we Peterborians are likely to get) - the Cathedral. Despite the severe financial difficulties experienced by our most esteemed building and its guardians, the Cathedral authorities have done a great deal to improve matters for the general public. The new interpretation boards are excellent and the acquisition of the Tim Peake space capsule inspired and the recent Museum of the Moon was indeed awesome. Thousands of new visitors will have seen our most distinguished building and will hopefully return again. The Civic Society heartily commends recent efforts to increase Cathedral footfall.

Vivacity has been instrumental in arranging for the three Antony Gormley Places To Be statues to be re-erected in the city centre and these look imposing on the city centre skyline. They add yet more interest to the area round Cathedral and St John's Squares.

Likewise the Voice of the City - the artwork dedicated to Henry Penn, the esteemed bell founder - is a high quality addition to lower Bridge Street. People often stand, look and read and no doubt learn about a little-known piece of our historical jigsaw.

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The Fletton Quays development is indeed promising. The completed Sand Martin House and surrounding area is impressive, a great example of how the old and the new can sensitively blended. Let's hope the rest of the development, including the restored Whitworth Mill project, is as good. We are reserving judgements on the new hotel and what that is likely to bring to the city.

The Society had a successful series of talks, from September to May, subjects including the Holme Fen Spitfire, Must Farm, the history of St John's Church and the gardens of the National Trust. In addition we organised summer visits to Delapré Abbey, Boston and Buckden Towers. Although we are mainly interested in all things Peterborough, we do like to explore, and learn about, other nearby places e.g. Northamptonshire which surely has some of the best hidden gems in the country.

So, which things in the city are most hellish or perhaps stuck in limbo? Well, the ongoing palaver surrounding the North Westgate development is surely the most frustrating. When oh when will anything meaningful finally get under way? Another perhaps more general concern is the national problem of the high street. Peterborough is not alone in suffering from real problems in filling retail units and solutions appear few and far between. Current concerns include the future of the old Bridge Street police station, the Guildhall Walk access arguments, the Broadway Theatre fiasco and of course the 'Build The Bridge' clamour.

Looking forward to next year what can we expect? Perhaps a citywide sculpture trail or an extension of the blue plaque scheme. Or even.....

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Seeking the best for Peterborough

This article was first published in the 15 November 2018 edition of Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

A couple of weeks ago Peterborough Conservatives announced Paul Bristow as their candidate for the next parliamentary election, whenever that might be. Almost immediately he announced 'a new campaign' #proudofpeterborough.

Peterborough Civic Society already knows what our priorities might be if we were (heaven forbid!) a political party.

The Society's long-standing aims are to campaign to influence the public authorities and other agents of change to:

  • promote good design
  • encourage an imaginative approach to the City's future
  • value and care for the local heritage of buildings and other features
  • promote local knowledge and pride of place

Here are ten headings that encompass what we in the Civic Society consider to be essential for Peterborough's continued growth and which might form a manifesto.

Housing - perhaps the issue that, in the long term, will define the quality of life for Peterborians. Both local and national government needs to create the economic climate for high quality public housing to be built and maintained. Only then will communities be built containing individuals and families who can be proud of where they live.

High quality design and architecture - our built environment should look good and be planned, designed and built by people who care about local needs as opposed to corporate demands.

City centre rejuvenation - a current and very pressing problem. Fletton Quays is certainly on the right track. North Westgate and the city centre now need urgent solutions to improve the quality of life for both Peterborians and visitors.

High quality transport systems - this includes a number of wide-ranging aspirations, whether that be efficient road and rail systems in the four directions into and out of the city and to other parts of the UK; easily navigable routes around the city and simple city centre solutions that make it easy for pedestrians and cyclists to co-exist whilst taking priority over the motor car.

Jobs - Peterborough is rapidly becoming the warehouse-logistics capital of the east and, whilst it is important that these jobs keep the economy going, the city must attract skilled jobs and more highly skilled workers.

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University and higher education - for too long much has been talked about and little appears to have happened. Inspirational leadership is needed to drive this forward successfully, otherwise we may view the whole project as just another hollow aspiration.

Care for the environment - our neighbourhoods are too often blighted by fly-tipping, lack of maintenance and neglect. We need to create a culture of care and civic pride. Only then will we have the confidence and courage to build successful communities.

Celebrating the past - Peterborough has so many things to celebrate and not take for granted, whether that be the Cathedral, Ferry Meadows, its people and heritage. Let's learn from what makes them successful.

Praising the present - we should encourage people to take an interest in all things civic, whether that be what the Council does, the way the city looks, promoting cultural events or praising how people, landscapes and buildings are treated. We should thank those who accentuate the positive and call to account those who are negative and uncivil.

Planning for the future - although the Council is preparing a new local plan we must continue to monitor, support and where necessary challenge if we are serious about making Peterborough a better place to live and work.

So there you have it. Vote Peterborough Civic Society - you know it makes sense! IF you are not a member please join us, the larger our membership the more influence we can bring over matters of concern.

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Looking after your neighbourhood

This article was first published in the 20 December 2018 edition of Peterborough Telegraph. It was written by committee member Toby Wood.

Quality of life matters to people. There are huge national and international problems and dilemmas which hang over us like storm clouds, whether that be Brexit, global warming, migration or poverty. Although in the big scheme of things we might feel individually powerless, there are behaviours that we can adopt to play our part in improving our world - taking more exercise, using the car just a little less, making sure we recycle more - all these are small steps for mankind in our own little worlds.

My grandson recently stopped off in Singapore and was impressed at how clean the city-state is. In particular he noted that the streets were completely free from discarded chewing gum. Gum is banned in Singapore and the penalties for selling it are severe (up to two years imprisonment).

Now there's a thought - making chewing gum (or the careless discarding of it) illegal and punishable by transportation. But hang on a minute - the City Council does have the power to impose on-the-spot fines of £75 for those who drop gum and other litter on the city's streets. Yet still people discard gum, still there is the need for enforcement and still people get caught!

The quality of life for the citizens in Peterborough would improve significantly if we all did things with just a little more care and consideration. Many of our local councillors and their supporters spend their own time patrolling the streets and collecting rubbish and alerting the authorities to fly-tipping. image missing please notify webmaster

And then there is the issue of parking on pavements and grass verges. As the Council themselves state - 'in some areas of the city parking on grass verges or pavements is a persistent problem as it can reduce the verge to an unsightly state and cause damage to pavements. It can also obstruct the highway preventing pedestrians and wheelchair users from accessing roads and footways if there is no other pathway. Verge parking can also cause a hazard to other motorists especially if the vehicle is parked on a bend, narrow road or junction and could prevent emergency vehicles from attending an incident'.

This is a live issue that the Civic Society is taking very seriously. From July 2018 the Council put in place a verge and pavement parking policy whereby a Traffic Regulation Order prohibiting parking on verges and pavements can be activated locally.

As the Council state on their website - 'in areas where there is currently no restriction on parking on the verges or pavement residents can request one for the area they live by contacting the council. Residents may not request one for streets in which they do not live'. So, if you feel that this is an issue for your area, contact the Council directly. Let's tackle this problem head on!

We must be encouraged to change our bad habits. I for one was very sceptical about how the smoking ban (introduced just over ten years ago) was to be enforced. I thought that there would be widespread civil disobedience. I was wrong. Grown men skulked outside into the rain to huddle obediently in makeshift smoking shelters. We all learned to adapt very quickly. And so it should now be with the anti-social behaviours as outlined above.

Persistent anti-social behaviour will result in being taken to Cathedral Square to be placed on the Council's new gibbet. Now there's a thought!

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page last changed 26 October 2020