A golden opportunity
“LDA Design has worked in the heart of Peterborough for 43 years, and we’re passionate about what happens there. We see the big opportunity as the park itself. This shouldn’t just be grass left between buildings – rather it should be a wonderful place where everyone in Peterborough wants to be.”
Peterborough City Council has plans to revitalise the Embankment on the River Nene. Get this right, and it could make the city feel a wonderful place to be and help boost the local economy. But, argues LDA Design, the new masterplan needs to ‘invite in’ the Fens.
Peterborough is fortunate. There are few places in Britain where a landscape as vast and remarkable as the Fens lie within a kilometre of a historic city centre. The problem is, at the moment you just wouldn’t know it. What a bonus the Embankment could be for local people if we can change this relationship.
The Council’s commission of options for improvements is a positive move which recognises the area’s potential, but all four options consulted on lack the bold move: a fabulous park landscape which creates connections between the city centre, the Fens and the river.
The focus in the options so far is on where the buildings are positioned – an exercise in moving giant pieces of furniture to see what works: the stadium here, the University campus there, the indoor pool gone. A new stadium on the Embankment will kill the place, given the amount of land it takes, from hardstanding to access routes, and its inactivity when not in use. A new masterplan should find ways to increase the capacity of PUFC on the existing stadium site.
LDA Design has worked in the heart of Peterborough for 43 years, and we’re passionate about what happens here. We see the big opportunity as the park itself. This shouldn’t just be grass left between buildings – rather it should be a wonderful place where everyone in Peterborough wants to be. It should support leisure and commerce in the city centre and provide a healthy environment for its growing residential community.
The Embankment could provide a large, green and biodiverse wetland park, including events space, iconic play, riverside entertainments, boating on the river and much more. The University students and academics would enjoy an intensely sociable place in an enviable setting.
Crucially, the Embankment should be properly connected to the city centre, with the barrier formed by Bourges Boulevard, Rivergate and Bishops Road breached and narrowed as part of a dramatic new park landscape. We need places for people and nature rather than traffic, with cars slowed, car parks reduced, more attractive routes and crossings for pedestrians and cyclists and lots more trees and green space.
With the climate emergency, we need to adapt and improve buildings, not pull down and start again. Could the Indoor Pool be repurposed, as a new cultural destination with a brilliant rooftop bar?
Reimagining the Embankment is once-in-a-lifetime stuff. No second chances.
Acting on the following opportunities would ensure Peterborough fulfils its potential:
- Create a water and wetland and nature park of scale on the embankment and bring it to the edge of the city centre. The axial body of water forms a direct physical and sight line connecting the river with the Cathedral. Its naturalised banks and terraces allow access and it is criss-crossed by paths and shallow bridges.
- Create a new ‘Great Fen Way’ out from the city into the wilds.
- Make Bishops’ Road more pedestrian and cyclist friendly, improving access to the park.
- Take out the northern part of the Rivergate split around the Premier Inn, allowing Bridge Street to arrive at the Bridge.
- Extend the Key Theatre to take advantage of riverside and park views.
- Keep the running track and develop it into a high-quality University/athletics sports hub for students and residents.
- Extend the important pedestrian routes down from Vineyard Road and South Street to sweep pedestrian and cyclists to the new footbridge to Fletton Quay and to the Great Fen Way.
- Turn Car Haven car park into a walled food garden with outdoor eating and home-grown produce and make a connection through the Town Hall or Arcade to Bridge Street.
- Convert the indoor pool into an arts centre with a lively rooftop bar.
- Enhance Bishops’ Park with a sculpture garden and sculpture play.
- An area for festivals and events.
- Extend the nature park out into Middlemoor, providing a setting for new housing and an entrance into the Great Fen Way.
- Redevelop and increase the capacity of PUFC on the existing stadium site.