WALK 2: BISHOPS ROAD TO PARNWELL
Industrial estates (sometimes called Industrial Parks) are zoned and planned in cities and they are generally found at the edges of cities for practical reasons. The Industrial Park that runs from Bishops Road to Parnwell in Fengate is teeming with small, large and independent businesses. Everything from meat to a new car can be bought. In amongst the industry, the odd bungalow or Edwardian house remains sulking and besieged by traffic noise and fumes. The residents that I spoke to here reflect nostalgically on the past, when Peterborough was smaller and a market town. Life it seems may have been simpler before the city developed into a new town at the end of the sixties. One of the biggest impacts on Peterborough was the construction of the parkways. As well as easing traffic congestion, they created a culture of driving and a soundtrack of traffic noise that is inescapable around the outer edges of the city.
Edward Storey, writing just before the development of the parkways in 1971 in his book Portrait of the Fen Country suggested negatively ‘A lot of people do not want expansion. They do not want to see their city grow to a population of nearly 200,000 people within the next twenty years. Many are afraid. Afraid that any character the place has will be lost with the coming of the demolition men, that the city of the future will be an antiseptic ghost town where life is replaced by a new kind of orderly existence’
It took longer than Storey expected, but in 2015 Peterborough’s population is indeed near 200,000. City’s have to adapt and change all the time, but it is interesting to see the influence that town planning can have on the social and psychological experiences of people who live in the city.
The Parkways were constructed under guidelines from the Peterborough Development Corporation and were mostly built from the early 1970’s to the late 1980’s to connect the new townships. Fengate also houses Perkins Engines and Frank Perkin the founder has a parkway here named after him. Personally, I feel one of the worst tributes must be to have a parkway named after you. Perkins however built engines and his parkway has access to the Perkins site – helping with one of Peterborough’s prime concerns – distribution.
Frank Perkins died a year before the Peterborough Development Corporation was established in 1968. Its purpose was to develop Peterborough into a New Town and provide ‘homes, work, facilities and services’ the basics that any good town planner should provide. But what of our other social and cultural needs? Don’t worry they handled that too and built new theatres and arts centres. One of the concerns and anxieties about New Town developments was the focus on the practicalities of housing or re-housing. Many low-income families were encouraged to move from London to new developments in Peterborough. As a social experiment no one could really know the impact that these changes like those in other cities would have. Despite its ideals, perhaps all a corporation can hope to provide are the basics of homes, work, facilities and services rather than foster the community spirit, culture and stimulation that gives a city its charm and allows it identity to develop and be celebrated.