On May 6 a number of Combined Authority Mayoral elections will take place and, as part of a special series of events, we invited candidates from each one one to explain what their ambitions and visions are in terms of regeneration moving forward? Below are the responses from those standing for Mayor in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CA

Mayor James Palmer (Conservative)

“We have to look at the county as a separate amount of areas. We are not a city. We don’t have the issues that a city has. The issues facing Cambridge and Peterborough are very different and our ambition for Peterborough is very clear.

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“The university has been a catalyst for investment into that city and we are seeing now, on the back of that investment from us and government and from local business, we are seeing other opportunities coming forward, most notably of course Peterborough United moving their football stadium, and alongside that we will be working with the club to make sure there is an arts offer as part of that so we want to create a venue within the football stadium that people have to come into the centre of Peterborough to use.

“We are already working with Peterborough City Council regarding the regeneration of the station quarter and creation of investment into the city itself. The government has put £25m into the city centre, I’ve just invested into both Cambridge and Peterborough to provide outdoor seating facilities in the centre of those cities which is short term regeneration measure and Peterborough really needs it after losing John Lewis but we know that cities are transforming and we know that they always will and it is about making sure that Peterborough, Cambridge and our market towns are at the vanguard of that change.

“We have looked at and have been investing in our market towns. More people live in our market towns than live in our cities in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and we have put a minimum of £1m into every single one of them. A significant amount of that money is Covid response – around half of it – but Covid response is about investing into businesses in the towns to create wealth and to create GVA.

“Each of our market towns has had a masterplan and on the back of that we have been able to deliver extra investments. St Neots, our largest town, has around £3m from the combined authority and that has created a catalyst of investment also from the local district council. In March we put extra money in – around £2m – and the government came forward with £6.5m to invest into that town.

“So we have got a clear strategy from Cambridge in the south, all the way up to Peterborough and Wisbech in the north for investment into each of our cities and each of our market towns and I am very confident we will see business growth and business opportunity on the back of those investments.”

Dr Nik Johnson (Labour)

“We need a razor-sharp focus on the post Covid recovery around public health and the green agenda. There are green jobs out there that I would like to see the local population skilling up for.

“I’ve seen the good and the bad, when developers have come in and some are taking great pride in developing communities and I would name check, particularly working with Urban and Civic at the moment, around the Alconbury development and I have the green spaces that are created.

“It’s like a lung, to use a medical metaphor. People can get out into their local communities and it builds a sense of wellbeing and I think that is something that can be lost in some developments and I want to work with companies. We have to deliver housing and we have to deliver better connectivity and that will come by recognising the challenges that are in Greater Cambridgeshire are different to those in the Fens and it can only be done by working together.

“And I want to reiterate the point… our society came to a halt because of a public health crisis and sadly I don’t think it is going away that quickly. And as we come up with solutions we also need to be clear that it doesn’t happen in the same way again. The virus is going to keep coming and we need to be protected against that. We’d forgotten what these things can do. The society of 1918 and influenza flu epidemic that was very different from the one 100 years on but we have got some benefits now.

“I would really like to see the idea of the home working – and I hear from people as a doctor there are opportunities to work from home – with real focus on 5G connectivity around Cambridgeshire and I would like to see that happen. Take the good from what we have learned over the last 18 months and never forget what we have been through.”

Coun Aidan Van de Weyer (Liberal Democrats)

“Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is such a large and diverse area it is hard to generalise on that. The regeneration opportunities around Cambridge are much more about boosting the economic growth that has already been happening.

“I have been doing a lot of work on North East Cambridge, for example; a huge brownfield site and plans there to do something which is really integrated with the economic growth that is happening and meeting the demand for commercial space. Also we can provide homes which are very close to jobs so meeting up with sustainable transport. Really low-carbon places but doing it at a density and design beyond what’s been achieved and more along the lines of what you would expect in large urban areas like London and Manchester. Similar things could happen at Cambridge Airport as that progresses.

“I think the problems in Peterborough are more about the direction that the economy is going and the quality of the development, the economic interventions and the placemaking – there is a sense that Peterborough has not had the same level of investment into infrastructure and education and training and as a result the lower skilled, lower paid jobs have come to dominate so I think the university that has been created there is a good start for that and a good focus.

“I think Peterborough is a way away from finding its real raison d’etre, its real attraction because rather than just being about providing some training for some of the industries that are there, it needs to be adding more to both the vibrancy of the city itself, but also for being an attractor for businesses and students so they can make sure that they stay there and add to the city. Some of that needs to be about what its specialisms are like environmental organisations in Peterborough that can build on being the best in specific areas.

“In the Fens, certain industries, agritech in particular, need boosting and help with the skills that are required and that does need support from local authorities when it comes to training.”