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Outdoor seating ‘pods’, free WiFi and new lighting are set to bring café culture to Peterborough.

The idea which aims to start bringing the city centre back to life will start in April thanks to a successful bid for £800,000 in funding.

Four concept Covid-19 safe pods and outdoor seating areas will be opened in Cathedral Square, St John’s Square, Bridge Street and Westgate throughout April and May.

Developed by Peterborough Positive – the city’s new business improvement district – comprising of city centres businesses, Peterborough City Council and Queensgate Shopping Centre, plans for the café culture approach have been developed over the last year and will be going ahead thanks to the successful £800,000 grant application to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

The plan is to create a café culture, offering protection from the elements through pods and seating areas, so that we can eat and dine in all weathers – day and night.

Mark Broadhead, Chair of Peterborough Positive, said: “The café culture initiative has been designed to bring about positive change in Peterborough by attracting more people into the city. It is hoped the project will help retain hospitality and retail jobs and improve business productivity. We are excited to bring this initiative to the city centre and believe it will be welcomed by residents and those working in the city, as well as visitors to Peterborough.” 

As an extra draw, free public access Wifi will be launched across the city centre at the same time, thanks to CambWifi. Indicated by circle stickers on the floor, the secure network will be free to join and use in all CambWifi locations with just an email address needed to log on.

It’s hoped that as the four concept areas are used by visitors and become successful, it will increase the confidence of other businesses in the city centre to pick up the idea and further develop the café culture approach in future.

Councillor Marco Cereste, cabinet member for street scene at Peterborough City Council, said: “With Covid-19 restrictions lifting once again, we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to support businesses and the visitors they serve by increasing the numbers who can eat and drink in our city centre, extending the hours they can serve and the weather they can serve outside in. 

“A café culture approach is perfect for this and I want to give credit to both Peterborough Positive and the businesses involved who have helped to develop this and the Combined Authority who have delivered the funding to make this happen.” 

The four concept areas that will launch this spring/summer, alongside improved lighting, are:

Cathedral Square (opening 12 April) – Outdoor pod outside Bean Around coffee shop, with a covered ceiling and well-ventilated sides made from recycled plastic from the Mediterranean. Suitable for 16 seated and 6 standing customers to use, following Covid-19 safe social distancing requirements.

Bridge Street (opening mid April 2021) – Outdoor pod outside the Lightbox café, with a covered ceiling and well-ventilated sides. The pod will be used to serve coffee and food during the daytime and cocktails and alcoholic drinks, alongside a tapas style menu, in the evening.

St John’s Square (opening mid April 2021) – A new communal area, operated by businesses already established in the city centre (part of the Peterborough Positive business improvement district), will invite city centre visitors to take a seat with friends and family, while enjoying food and beverages from the surrounding cafés, pubs and restaurants. Open throughout the day and into evening this new open facility will be suitable for all age groups to use.

Westgate (opening June 2021) – An outside pod on Westgate outside The Banyan Tree, with a covered ceiling and well-ventilated sides. The pod will be used to serve food and drinks during the daytime and evening.

Mayor James Palmer, the leader of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, said: “This shows how we can build back better from the pandemic – a testament to what can happen when businesses, civil society and local government are underpinned by a clear vision.

“This vision is more than putting Peterborough on the map as a hub for café culture. With a commitment to enhanced connectivity through CambWifi and funding for aesthetic improvements, this puts Peterborough in a robust position for growth and development for the long-term; giving the city a competitive advantage as COVID restrictions ease. It is vitally important that we see a resurgence on our high streets and city centres in the coming months and years, and this project puts that sentiment front and centre.”

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