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Tetchy MP Paul Bristow’s ‘no one voted for you’ attack

Mr Bristow has released an open letter to the new city council leader Mohammed Farooq

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Peterborough MP Paul Bristow has released a copy of an extraordinary email sent to Peterborough City Council leader Mohammed Farooq accusing him of “being sketchy” on details of major projects in the pipeline.

Principal among these is the £48m for the station quarter but Mr Bristow says the Government has granted Peterborough “hundreds of millions” and “as I was intensely involved in securing the cash” he was anxious to be kept up to speed.

“I am concerned that the new future we have planned for the station quarter and the Great Northern could be under threat,” he wrote.

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He also told Cllr Farooq: “No one voted for you as a Peterborough First councillor and in fact the Conservatives won the 2023 elections in Peterborough and made three gains.”

However, the claim by Mr Bristow that the £48m awarded by the Government for re-developing a new station quarter “potentially involving the Great Northern Hotel” is at odds with the reality of the offer to Peterborough that is on the table.

Referring to the Great Northern hotel Mr Bristow said most people in Peterborough were “horrified” by its use for “male migrants who had crossed the Channel on small boats”.

Referring to the Great Northern hotel Mr Bristow said most people in Peterborough were “horrified” by its use for “male migrants who had crossed the Channel on small boats”.

As was made clear by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) in June of 2022 when they submitted the bid to the Government the levelling up money was intended “for transport-only projects that will uplift local areas, support town centre and high street regeneration, and make the most of cultural and heritage assets”.

Under the Government’s levelling-up rules, CAPCA was allowed to submit only one transport project for funding and the winning bid was for Peterborough.

Peterborough City Council, who worked with CAPCA on the bid, also made it clear when the successful bid was announced that “the funding is ring-fenced and can only be spent on the station quarter regeneration.

“It will now be released by the Government to allow the Peterborough Station Enhancements and Connectivity project to move forward”.

The council did, however, expect that “additional match funding to bring the total funds up to around £65million to come from Peterborough City Council and other partners, enabling future private investment in commercial and residential development as a further phase of the station quarter programme”.

And in 2023, with Mr Bristow heading a vitriolic campaign to stop the Great Northern Hotel being used to house asylum seekers, it was clearly not an appropriate moment to discuss with the hotel owners their own proposals once the hotel loses – as it will this month – reliance on a Home Office contract to fill their rooms.

Mr Bristow has begun his New Year with the release of the open letter to the new city council leader Mohammed Farooq, asking if he will “guarantee that the Great Northern hotel will feature in any regeneration plan? Will you commit to a timeline straight away for this project?”.

 

Had he, of course, read a statement from Peterborough City Council in January 2023 – when the successful bid was announced, – he would have known that an outline business case and planning application will be submitted for the Peterborough Station Enhancements and Connectivity project this year.

MP Paul Bristow: “The Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper MP came to #Peterborough and - with our Council Leader - I just had to show him the station and our plans for the £48 million Levelling Up money we secured.”

MP Paul Bristow tweeted: “The Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper MP came to Peterborough and – with our Council Leader – I just had to show him the station and our plans for the £48 million Levelling Up money we secured.”

All change: Both Paul Bristow and  (now) former city council leader Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald did a ‘re shoot’ of the video which included this new photo, removing the word Conservatives

Construction work on the first phase could take place between 2024 and 2026, with wider development of the station quarter continuing up to 2028.

Government rules say that Levelling Up funding “would need to be spent by 31 March 2025, and exceptionally, into 2025-26 for larger schemes” of which the full Peterborough Station Quarter scheme would be one.

CAPCA will act as a grant funding body to delivery partners

The project involves creating a new western entrance to the station with a car park – to create a double-sided station – with a new wider footbridge over the train lines.

“This will alleviate pressure on city centre roads, making it easier and safer to travel around the city by bicycle,” said a CAPCA spokesperson.

“Green areas with biodiversity, community spaces and better connections to the city centre will make it safer and more attractive for bikes and pedestrians.

“The enhancement of Peterborough train station will improve rail passenger journeys and encourage more rail travel; it will support Peterborough in attracting more knowledge-intensive and high-level employers through its transport links.”

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Stephen Hind, head of business development at Network Rail, said: “This brilliant investment will allow us to deliver a revamped and revitalised entrance to Peterborough. The major transformation would unlock opportunities for the city to thrive economically, as well as recognising the need for a cleaner, greener transport network in the future.”

Visuals of the re vamped Great Northern Hotel shown to city council

Visuals of the re vamped Great Northern Hotel shown to city council in a 2015 (and later 2020) planning application

Visuals of the re vamped Great Northern Hotel shown to city council

All of which has been welcomed by Mr Bristow, but with a General Election looming and still smarting from Conservatives losing control of the city council in November, conciliatory overtures to the new regime – and especially to Cllr Farooq – remain few and far between.

His letter of January 2 tells Cllr Farooq that “no one voted for you” as a Peterborough First councillor and in fact the Conservatives won the 2023 elections in Peterborough and made three gains.

He also reminds Cllr Farooq that when they first met after he became leader “I explained that I felt the way you had become leader – and how Labour councillors installed was fundamentally undemocratic

“Nevertheless, I pledged to work with you for the good of Peterborough”.

Referring back to a meeting both held after Cllr Farooq was elected, Mr Bristow said he had challenged him “on a number of infrastructure projects where central government had granted Peterborough hundreds of millions to deliver.

“It was only a few days into your leadership and while you have been a councillor for a number of years, I could forgive you being sketchy on the details.

“However, as I was intensely involved in securing the cash, I am becoming increasingly concerned that I have not heard from you on these projects. This is Peterborough’s money, and we cannot afford to miss the opportunity”.

Referring to the Great Northern Hotel he said most people in Peterborough were “horrified” by its use for “male migrants who had crossed the Channel on small boats.

Great Northern Hotel asylum seekers arrive. MP for Peterborough Paul Bristow outside the hotel

“I launched a campaign against it. Peterborough said no, and in October the Government cancelled the contract.

“In the coming weeks, this process will be complete, and we can look forward to a new future for the hotel and the station quarter project.

“The then Conservative council supported my campaign completely. They shared the concerns of local people and support services”.

Mr Bristow added: “Support however was not universal. Labour in Peterborough said those opposing the Great Northern as a hostel were using ‘divisive rhetoric’. The Lib Dem leader called it ‘xenophobic’, and the Green leader even accused opponents of inciting ‘racial hatred’.

“It is obvious they are opposed to standing down the hotel as a hostel for migrants. Moreover, when we met you couldn’t even guarantee that you wanted the Great Northern Hotel to be included in the regeneration scheme.

“Relying on these councillors for political support could put the whole project under threat”.

Included in the letter was a plea to Cllr Farooq to “write a joint letter with me asking Labour nationally to rule out supporting the Great Northern Hotel being used as a migrant hostel ever again?

“Anything other than an immediate tough response aligning yourself with Peterborough’s campaign on this will set alarm bells ringing.

Asylum seekers arrived at the 3-star Great Northern Hotel, Peterborough, to be greeted – online and on TV – by a barrage of criticism from MP Paul Bristow.

Asylum seekers arrived at the 3-star Great Northern Hotel, Peterborough, to be greeted – online and on TV – by a barrage of criticism from MP Paul Bristow. PHOTO: Terry Harris

“My message is clear. We have the money – but we can’t waste this opportunity. Obfuscation and reliance on Labour councillors who do not share this vision cannot be allowed to risk all of this”.

The Great Northern is yet to reveal their re-development plans, although in 2015 they did receive permission for extending the hotel by 48 rooms, adding on office buildings, shops, restaurants and six apartments.

Meeting the conditions they submitted, in 2020, the hotel won approval for reserved matters on the application to meet a March 13 deadline.

However, the hotel noted in its correspondence with the council that “the development hereby permitted shall be begun either before the expiration of five years from the date of this permission or before the expiration of two years from the date of approval of the last of the reserved matters to be approved, whichever is the later”.

 

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