The long-awaited Embankment master plan has finally been revealed to the public. Is it “a unique opportunity to create a new city on the banks of a river…” or a priest’s egg, partly good and partly bad?
The master plan includes exciting developments in the area with an attractive Embankment Park and upgraded Riverside, a new “cultural hub” around the Key Theater and attractive plans for an open park-style college campus. However, the Masterplan contains an elephant in the room, an option for an arena, a new home for POSH.
Inevitably, media attention has focused on this element of the plan, which in the master plan is called the flexibility to include an arena “if it arises”.
The master plan rightly accepts at the outset that an arena cannot be sited near the southeast corner of the embankment because the significant loss of green space and the blocking of significant views of the cathedral and the impact negative on the heritage framework of the cathedral which is totally unacceptable and attracts national opposition. The Masterplan option pushes the Arena north, away from the river, and this location clearly has very significant issues.
The Arena option takes up a significant portion of the college campus land as well as an additional large area of green space south of the athletics track. The Civic Society is reluctant to agree to the removal of the athletics track, but can see that this could be seen as a compromise to allow for the longer term goal of having a Peterborough University open to all at all times. Moving the athletics club to a new home in the city before the existing track is removed would be essential and entail substantial expense.
The proposed arena would be uncomfortably close to campus buildings and would totally alter the setting of the University grounds. The University buildings would be overtaken by the height and footprint of the Arena (approximately 140 x 160 m and 23.5 m high), 10 m higher than the current University buildings. Large crowds of up to 20,000 people would overwhelm the university area and seriously compromise the functioning of the campus. The master plan images showing previous sites for such a close relationship between university buildings and a sports stadium are misleading as all sites have a significantly greater separation between stadium and university buildings and a very different setting than the dock.
Pedestrian/bicycle access to the arena would be separate from the university, but the main Embankment area car park is expected to be in a new transport hub and multi-storey car park in Wellington Street to the north and the natural lane to the Arena would pass through the University campus. Even if pedestrians could be diverted around campus, it would be impractical and likely dangerous to try to gather large crowds into the narrow circulation space around the Arena shown on the Masterplan option.
The arena would also block high quality views of the cathedral and the huge mass of the arena would be a major hindrance to the cathedral frame and remaining views of the cathedral from the quay. In the master plan document itself, it is acknowledged that “the design, massing and scale of the arena has the potential to rival the cathedral in these views”.
A new arena for Peterborough would be a great asset and is supported by the Civic Society, but not at the cost of damaging the fledgling university, seriously degrading the outstanding historic views and setting of the cathedral and concreting in large areas of the he riverside green space will become increasingly important, particularly with the expansion of downtown and University housing. We understand why some prefer a location on the wharf, but the extremely negative impact on the City cannot be ignored and an alternative solution must be found.
Peterborough Civic Society