Peterborough and March receive money from Combined Authority
Members of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority Board backed the recommendation by Mayor Dr Nik Johnson that a £350,000 drawdown is given to further develop transformational plans for the Peterborough Railway Station Quarter.
The drawdown, from the Transport Response Fund, is for the development of a Strategic Outline Business Case. Members were also asked to note the programme for developing the SOBC.
Peterborough City Council with partners Network Rail and London North East Rail were seeking the funding for the SOBC to support investment proposals for Peterborough Rail Station and a potential future Levelling Up Fund bid to government from the Combined Authority as the Local Transport Authority.
A feasibility report from April 2020 showed the potential not only to transform the passenger and staff experience of Peterborough station but to showcase how a comprehensive re-development would be transformational for the whole rail station area and the City of Peterborough itself.
Releasing the land holdings of Network Rail and LNER by rationalising the station buildings and introducing two new multi-storey carparks to free up the ground level carparks would make several areas in the station quarter available for exciting and attractive re-development, including greener transport links with joined-up footpaths and cycleways.
Members heard that this is the opportunity by improving passenger facilities and customer experience with a station enhancements project consisting of the following:
- Creation of a new gateway station through the extension of existing assets and new build;
- New and enhanced east station entrance;
- Upgrade and replacement of existing footbridge;
- New west station entrance easing passenger flows at peak commuting times and improving the operational efficiency of the Station as well as reducing congestion into the city from the west over Crescent Bridge;
- Upgraded and extended platform canopies; and
- Improved, safer and more direct walking and cycling connections to the city centre.
The Board approved the recommendation by a majority vote.
Board members also resoundingly agreed to stop any downgrading of the Fenland town of March’s ‘once-in-a-generation’ High Street Project, voting to give a crucial £1.1 million requested by Fenland District Council.
Mayor Dr Nik Johnson proposed from the chair and Members voted unanimously to award the money to help keep March’s development plan on track.
Last year, the Government announced on Boxing Day that it was giving £6.47million in future high-street funding to the March project to transform areas around Broad Street, the Market Place, and riverside as well as reviving the derelict part of Acre Road.
But that government award required match funding from the Combined Authority. The Board decided in January this year to award £900,000 but an agreement in principle by former mayor James Palmer to give a further £1.1m was never ratified before he left office.
Without the £1.1 million approved today by the Combined Authority Board members, the Government would likely have cut its award, weakening the whole project and losing the Acre Road development scheme in its entirety.
However, the Board has unanimously stepped up with the £1.1 million, asked for by Fenland District Council, making an overall Combined Authority contribution of £2 million and ensuring March does not lose out.
Members spoke enthusiastically about supporting March’s development. The schemes were described as ‘absolutely transformative’, ‘lovely’, enjoying ‘widespread support’, and Cllr Lucy Netsingha said it would be ‘bonkers’ not to give March the funding.
To address the decline of March as a market town and community Fenland District propose five transformational projects which amount to a fundamental redesign of how the town centre functions as a retail, entertainment and residential hub:
- A dramatic intervention to transform Broad Street – Creation of a major new public space following the removal of one side of the carriageway in the centre of March.
- Opening the Riverside areas to improve visibility and access – Reconnect March town centre to the River Nene by providing new banked seating down to the water’s edge and improvements to the riverbanks.
- Redeveloping the historic Market Place – Creation of a new market square with improved infrastructure to support the town’s market offer and help to bring more life into the town centre.
- Acre Road & Backlands – This project will enhance a major development site within the town centre with public realm improvements.
- Reactivating vacant units & Flats Over Shops programme – Upgrade and repurpose key vacant units across the town centre with a local grant scheme designed to incentivise to conversion of space over shops to residential use.
These interventions will ensure growth and resilience, and enable the town to surmount its physical and geographic constraints, in response to local challenges and the wider objectives of the Local Industrial Strategy, and the Combined Authority-approved Growing Fenland Market Towns Masterplan for March, including:
- ‘Renew and reshape the town centre’ – the programme includes proposals which will fundamentally change the way in which March functions as a town centre. This includes improvements in Broad Street which will improve pedestrian flow and footfall, changes in use which will support a 24-hour economy and support resilience, and improvements which will open-up underused and derelict areas for commercial development.
- ‘Improve experience’ – the improvements to Broad Street, the Riverside, the Market Place and supporting public realm will ensure that existing custom is retained, while providing a new offer to businesses and the wider community. These improvements will be visual, environmental and experiential.
- ‘Drive growth’ – the changes will tackle the existing financial viability gap and release new opportunities for the private sector to re-invigorate the town centre. The provision of residential space will drive footfall and dwell time, and help March capitalise on its unique historical and riverside assets.
- ‘Structural and significant’ – the interventions will change the way in which the town centre functions. These go beyond both ‘surface level change’ and consist of important changes in form and land use.