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Positively Peterborough

Greater Peterborough faces future with renewed optimism


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 Business Park.

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 city.

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 past decade.

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 audiences.

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.

October 2000

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