After a decade of progress, Greater
Peterborough is facing the future with renewed optimism in its potential for
strong economic growth, local business leaders have been told.
A range of indicators - including
residential and commercial construction schemes, multi-million pound development
plans and new employment opportunities - provide a solid basis for strong
growth, said Gloria Milne when she presented the Greater Peterborough Investment
Agency’s annual review of achievements at the AMP offices at Peterborough
Her confident predictions for the
future were supported by an up-beat message from Peterborough City Council chief
executive Paul Martin who promised further improvements in the delivery of local
authority services in support of his goal to make Peterborough “the place to
be in the Eastern Region.”
Their confident outlook was
reflected by Peterborough Jobcentre manager Nick Kew who believes that proposals
to develop the former Alconbury air base into a rail-freight terminal will
become an essential element in Greater Peterborough’s growth and could even
lead to the construction of “the fifth London airport.”
The positive theme was also
reflected in comments from Professor Sir David Williams, chairman of the
Peterborough Higher Education Project Company, which was instrumental in the
creation of a Loughborough University ‘satellite’ learning centre in the
Sir David, Professor of Law at
Emmanuel College, Cambridge, said the expansion of university studies in
Peterborough represented “huge advantages” for the city in such areas as
enhancing work skills, improving the inter-action between academics and business
leaders and generating a sense of civic pride.
He said that the huge transport and
property infrastructure problems created by the growth of high technology
companies in Cambridge could be avoided in Peterborough.
In her presentation Gloria Milne
described how levels of unemployment in Peterborough had fallen from 10.7 per
cent in January 1993 to just 2.7 per cent today. Although the manufacturing
sector had been hit by large job losses, 12,000 new jobs had been created in the
Whereas in the early 1990s
Peterborough had one million square feet of vacant office space and 2.3 million
square feet of vacant industrial buildings, today investors were demonstrating
their confidence in the local economy by funding speculative developments.
In addition to construction at the
Hampton township, major commercial developments were planned in North Westgate,
on the south bank of the River Nene and around the railway station.
She said GPIA was currently handling
340 expansion and relocation enquiries, of which 31 were “very positive”.
During the year 55 enquiries had been converted into relocations, creating 250
jobs initially and representing the potential for 1,000 jobs over five years.
With 40 per cent of enquiries coming
from within the Greater Peterborough area, the GPIA team had initiated an “investor
development” programme to support local businesses. A new advertising campaign
- funded by English Partnerships - would promote Peterborough to national
However, both Mrs Milne and Paul
Martin acknowledged that there remained “enormous challenges” and “obstacles”
to be overcome in order to attain their objectives for the area’s prosperity.
Improvements were needed in educational standards, in the number of children in
care and in the level of youth offending, said Mr Martin.
Mr Martin - in a presentation
entitled ‘Accountable to you’ - acknowledged the importance of businesses as
the ‘wealth creators’ that funded council services, provided employment and
had a major impact on the area’s quality of life.
He announced plans to streamline the
council’s customer service facilities with a programme called Peterborough
Direct. It would include internet access, a central facility to handle caller
enquiries for all departments and the introduction of a customer call centre
with a single telephone number.
He aimed to raise efficiency by
reducing senior managers’ overheads and by improving the level of council tax
and rent collection.
He wanted Peterborough to become a
confident, vibrant and growing city with a high-quality environment, a fully
integrated transport system, a confident business community that had the ability
to recruit and retain quality staff where there were fluid, relaxed and open
relationships between local government and private sector businesses.