0 Peterborough United criticises stadium proposal

Peterborough United has offered a lukewarm reaction to the City Council's proposed masterplan for a development that could include a new stadium for the English Championship football club, stating that the plans are "not good" for Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) or the city.

Image: Peterborough City Council

The Embankment Masterplan was published last week following a public consultation conducted in 2021. The Masterplan - which was completed by independent consultants Stantec and Barton and Willmore - sets out a vision and framework for the future of the Embarkment part of the city that includes a new City Riverside Park, ARU Peterborough campus and Cultural Quarter built around the Key Theatre.

Should a 19,000-seat stadium be brought forward, the Masterplan also shows how this might be accommodated. The location proposed for the mooted 'Peterborough Arena' is on top of a current athletics track, placing it right next to the ARU Peterborough campus.

United and ARU agreed a Memorandum of Understanding last year, but are uneasy at the prospects of co-existing in such close proximity. Responding to the Council's announcement, Peterborough United co-owner, Stewart Thompson, told the Peterborough Telegraph: "Our reaction to it is tepid.

"We see there as being four options on the Embankment. The first is 50m from the riverside, creating a river walk, with pubs, restaurants and green space behind it. The second is taking up about 50% of the current running track area.

"Our preferred option is somewhere between option one and two; creating positive green space in front of the river and nudging comfortably up against the university so we can do things with campus housing and student union facilities without impeding either party.

"The third is the one provided in the masterplan and the fourth is right up on Bishop's Road but everyone realises that is a really bad idea unless we want to let the neighbourhood be dammed every time a major entertainment act is in town.

"We are comfortable with the move away from the riverside, we respect the cathedral views and the need for green space at the front of the Embankment. We have always thought of the Embankment as sacred ground and will be treating it as such if we move there with a sympathetic design for the venue, however, moving it right into sharing space with the university is not good for the university or the city.

"We just don't see having 5,000 away supporters walking through our new university campus as a good fit for anybody. It will put some pressure on our partnership with the university. We will enter into discussions."

In February, United said it was consulting with fans over the potential issue of a bond scheme to help finance redevelopment work for its Weston Homes Stadium and ongoing plans for a new home. In August, the club submitted planning documents for a new stadium to the local council despite opposition from some locals over the development's proposed riverside location.

The plans include details of a 19,000-capacity stadium, situated in the Embankment area of the city, with the possibility of expanding the facility to 24,000 in the future. A multi-use venue has been envisaged by the club's owners, with the venue set up to host a variety of events.

However, the project has since stalled with United said to be wary of committing further funds in the event it isn't included in the council's wider Masterplan. Thompson said the club is committed to moving to the Embankment over other potential sites, and could even work in harmony with a relocated athletics club.

He added: "We know in discussing with the consulting group that support for an arena on the Embankment was overwhelming. We will go forward now and start getting our planning and permit options ready and want to go forward working with the city and the university to find an ideal place for everybody, but we don't think the one they have chosen is the right one.

"The requirement around an athletics track within any plans is exciting and aligns with the greater opportunities identified by the club and the university. We would commit to some of the costs to help move the track because we think it should stay in the neighbourhood; maybe we can use it and one of the things that is super exciting is what we are planning to do with the university.

"If they are going into the sports and rehab industry, we would love to see all three of us closely aligned. The track with an indoor fitness facility, that we could provide, would be a real winner for everybody."

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