Our businesses are Peterborough Positive

Peterborough Positive

It’s been a tough few years for the UK, with very few bright spots for the average consumer and business owner alike. But against these odds Peterborough is pulling ahead, with growth, redevelopment, investment and – above all – passionate, grassroots enthusiasm driving real and positive change...

Peterborough PositiveIntegral to Peterborough’s growing confidence and evolution has been the introduction of a BID – that’s Business Improvement District – run for businesses but with wider community benefits very much in mind. Leading this BID – called ‘Peterborough Positive’ – is a small but dedicated team who work hand-in-hand with businesses to introduce initiatives such as new and exciting events for the public, improved street safety, community networks, and direct access to advice and problem solving.

“I studied Tourism Management at university and have worked in marketing, so when the opportunity came up to get involved in a potential Peterborough BID, I jumped at the chance,” explains Kelly Linay, a member of the Board of Directors for Peterborough Positive, a volunteer role she manages alongside her job as Major Projects Stakeholder Engagement Lead for Anglian Water. “At that time it wasn’t even an established company, just a concept – Peterborough was simply interested in submitting a BID. We began promoting it among businesses with the goal of conducting a ballot, but then the pandemic hit. Everything came to a standstill, including our efforts.

Peterborough Positive“As we started to recover from the pandemic, we actively resumed our efforts to go to ballot. It’s a subject that has always intrigued me, and I’m genuinely passionate about improving places. Perception is a peculiar thing – Peterborough is regularly criticised in the media, which is often unfair. Admittedly, the city has its flaws, but it’s also a thriving and growing place with immense potential for the future.”

A key point here is the idea of ‘a ballot’. While a BID extracts extra money from local businesses that meet the rateable value threshold to pay for its services, this isn’t implemented without consultation and a vote. Peterborough Positive is therefore very much a ‘for and by’ initiative, carried out in partnership with the city centre, rather than imposed top-down.

“When we conducted the ballot, we asked businesses what they wanted to see improved about the city centre,” says Kelly. “Some core themes that emerged were marketing, safety, community and events. While these are just words on a page, they ultimately mean bringing footfall into the city centre and making it a pleasant place for people to visit and work. The goal is to encourage visitors to spend money and time in the city centre, whether they come for shopping during the day or stay into the evening to visit restaurants and bars. Ultimately, we want them to have a positive experience.”

Peterborough PositiveAlmost immediately, the formation of Peterborough Positive in consultation with business owners began to pay dividends: a key request was a reassuring and above all proactive police presence.

“One significant issue that came up repeatedly was safety,” continues Kelly. “People were disturbed by the presence of rough sleepers, beggars and street drinkers, so one of the things we’ve been able to do is fund a policeman named Jay, who patrols the streets. I know some people might argue this should have already been in place, and yes, in theory, it should have –
but although there are already police officers in the city, their jurisdiction covers a much larger area than the city centre. Jay is our city centre policeman, and he focuses specifically on our
BID boundary. He goes around all the businesses and they are familiar with him – they have his name and number, so they can contact him if needed.

“Jay can also assist with expediting certain processes. If a business has been a victim of a crime, he can help them follow up and navigate the system, and his regular presence on the streets has made a significant difference. He only started in September last year but already he is someone people can reach out to. Of course, the council also plays a role, but we are aware that they have limited resources, just like all councils. They simply don’t have the budget, and that’s where the BID comes in.”

A place to spend time in
So, a significant area of concern – which has often been perceived as ‘left hanging’ in the wake of dwindling resources for councils across the country – has been dealt with effectively and efficiently by Peterborough Positive.

Peterborough PositiveBut the team are determined that the BID won’t simply be reduced to a ‘sweeping up’ exercise after the tsunami of austerity, the pandemic, war in mainland Europe and cripplingly high inflation, and its ambitions run much further than the bare minimum. Part of Peterborough Positive’s aim is to ensure that the city looks and feels like a place people want to spend
time in, whether they live here or are just visiting. This includes cleanliness, beauty and pride in public spaces, and a welcoming atmosphere.

“We’ve collaborated with a local supplier who provides us with plants, which we place around the city to make it look lovely, since we no longer receive support from the council for that,” says Kelly. “In addition, we have the community payback scheme, who go around tidying up the city, painting over graffiti and cleaning things up. Another recent development is the mural on Cowgate. I love it! When you enter Peterborough, that wall is a stand-out feature – it’s another valuable asset and something we’ve helped create. There’s an emotional side to all of this work. When you generate positive feelings among people, it lays the foundation for success.”

And once people are able to find, or even rekindle, their emotional connection to where they live and those they share it with – magic really can start to happen.

“One of the main things I want to achieve with this,” says Kelly, “is helping businesses feel that if they work together and come together as a community, they can make a difference. The first five years for any enterprise in the UK is about laying the foundations for the future, so that’s what we are doing – we’re very much laying those foundations, those building blocks that we would really like to have in place, then it’s about them being able to take it to the next stage and keep growing, because obviously you have to walk before you can run! “The first year was very much about getting established, getting an office, getting a team. We started with a group of volunteers who had created a BID but then we needed a team to deliver. Only two-and-a-half years in to the project, and we’ve actually achieved a great deal already, but a lot of it is making sure there’s a continuous dialogue to ensure we’re getting it right, and to see if it’s time to make changes or if there are other things they would like us to do instead – because who knew that we’d be living in a post- pandemic world when we started this!”

The broad remit of our BID, therefore, is clear: It doesn’t replace local authority or police services, but has to provide additional resource and activities to benefit the area. The BID is also there to offer support in a turbulent economy, and restore pride and hope in both business owners and their customers.

But how does this translate to work on the ground, in the city centre itself and to the day-to-day running of things? Pep Cipriano is a face familiar to many: Peterborough born and bred – and having worn a number of professional and public-facing hats across his career to date, including Head of Communications for the POSH and regular columnist for various local media – he now heads up the BID team as Chief Operating Officer (COO). This has made him the ideal person to be, in essence, ‘the face’ of Peterborough Positive, dropping into businesses, reaching out with calls, newsletters and emails, and representing the voice of levy-paying businesses.

“The number of people who sent me a link saying, ‘You must apply for this job!’” laughs Pep. “To be honest, I didn’t need any kind of invitation – when I saw the job description I knew I really wanted to go for it. It’s been an absolute blast so far – lots and lots to do, it’s a big project with a business plan to deliver, and every day is different. It has its challenges, obviously, but there are lots of benefits in terms of when you have an idea or a plan, and you see it actually come to fruition – that’s a really powerful and satisfying feeling.”

BIDs work in five-year terms. With this relatively short time-frame in mind (certainly in city planning terms), Pep and his small team (a marketing manager, a city centre ambassador and a dedicated city centre police officer) have hit the ground running with objectives set out in the business plan.

Peterborough Positive“Initially, my role was to introduce us to businesses, which we quickly did through a newsletter and email,” explains Pep. “Then, I spent several weeks meeting businesses and helping them understand that I was here to deliver the plan for the next five years. As a business-led and business-funded organisation, we are still in the early stages, and we have just over two years left to continue delivering our business plan in this term. How have I found people’s response? Absolutely amazing, 100% positive and supportive of the BID! That’s what motivates me when the team and I interact with businesses and deliver projects – I feel appreciated and most importantly, I feel that we are making a difference. We see ourselves as the friendly arm around businesses, here to support, listen, and facilitate their needs and issues in order to make their day-to-day easier and more profitable.”

Fun and games
Events and initiatives have come thick and fast, always focused on encouraging people to come into the city centre from the suburbs or further afield, to ‘make a day of it’, enjoy themselves, tell their friends – and hopefully spend a bit of money in the process.

“It’s about establishing events that have never happened before in our city centre, or have not been possible for whatever reason,” continues Pep. “In our first year we put on a theatre performance for children over the Easter weekend, in Cathedral Square. Several hundred people attended, and a number of businesses experienced an increase in sales, which was fantastic news. Additionally, it attracted people who don’t typically come into the city centre during Easter weekend.

“We received feedback from people who travelled into Peterborough from several miles away, as the event was an extra reason for them to visit. Shortly after that, we hosted a ‘Peterborough’s Strongest’ competition, which was the first of its kind in our city centre, and we’ll be bringing that back this year in August. It was quite an undertaking to create and build a physical but non-permanent structure for weightlifters, but it was really well-received, and many people were amazed that an event like that could be held in the city centre. We’re really grateful to the local authority for working with us on these events, ensuring the necessary permissions and safety measures were in place.

“We also organised a Halloween trail, in collaboration with the Museum, which involved six different businesses – and more than 350 children and adults took part. We organised a big-screen event at the back of St. John’s Church and Cathedral Square, showing the Wimbledon finals, and looking ahead we have recently launched some yoga events that take place on Saturdays, once a month, between April and September on the Cathedral green. The response to that has already been overwhelming, with April, May and June sessions selling out within days. We’re also planning a family trail based around the European Championships in June – similar to the Halloween trail but of course, centred around football; we’ll be bringing back the ‘Peterborough Strongest’ event with a brand new element – athletes pulling a vehicle along Long Causeway! The Halloween trail will be back in October, and we are hosting a big-screen family film in August, which will tie in with the Cathedral’s summer exhibition.”

Peterborough PositiveThe strength and breadth of the offers created by the BID team are clear to see. But there’s another aspect to Peterborough Positive that adds fuel to the growth and regenerative engine that might not quite be so obvious: the appeal to businesses choosing new or relocation sites for manufacturing bases and offices, whether from the UK or abroad.

“Any person or business looking to invest in a city or town would arguably choose a place that has an established BID,” says Pep. “Essentially, it means there is an additional round of investment being put into that city or town. BIDs have been delivering for more than 20 years, and while ours is very new, it still adds functionality for those who want to invest in Peterborough and who want to know what’s going on. We’re establishing that Peterborough is a good place to work, visit, and spend money. Having a BID definitely attracts additional businesses, due to all those extra benefits people are aware it can provide.”

Build it and they’ll come, as the saying goes. With Peterborough’s Business Improvement District already achieving so much – in such a short space of time – in establishing successful relationships, real-world change and a safer, cleaner city centre, this looks to be just the start of a long and successful development…



  • The BID levy is owed to Peterborough Positive and is payable by all liable businesses within the BID area that have a rateable value (RV) of £15,000 and above.
  • The BID delivers a range of initiatives that are put together in consultation with businesses within the BID levy area.
  • The BID’s initiatives are provided independently and do not replace any council services.
  • The levy results in anticipated funds of over £2 million, invested in the city centre over a five-year term.


Peterborough PositiveWhat do businesses think of the BID?
Laser Clinics, Queensgate – Sara Sands, Manager

Sara Sands runs a cosmetics and beauty business in Queensgate, specialising in laser procedures such as hair removal, skin tightening and capillary reduction. We spoke with her about her experience with the Peterborough BID

How did you feel about the idea of a BID when it was first introduced?
It had all happened before we arrived, but it was pretty new. This is my first time working in retail and also my first time working in this country in 20 years, so I didn’t really know much about it, but as soon as I started receiving the Peterborough Positive newsletters, I got involved. I became a big supporter of it and signed up for everything, attended all the events. I just really loved the idea of an organisation whose goal was to bring positivity and raise awareness for Peterborough and its community. So, for me, it was fantastic.

What kind of information did you find the most valuable?
It spans a whole range. First of all, there was specific information for small businesses, such as business clinics and information on free government training for employees. Additionally, there’s this idea of making Peterborough visually appealing and involving the community – we’ve just seen the new mural and it restores faith. As a business, you want the city centre to thrive. From a business point of view, it’s great if there’s someone working to make the city more visually appealing and organise activities that can bring people here to energise Peterborough, and from a personal point of view, I really like the idea of community and the strength that comes from it. Having the opportunity to get together and talk about concerns or noticing a downturn in business and discussing how it’s affecting you, having that solidarity is really important. I also wear another hat as a yoga teacher and I’m working with Peterborough Positive on that, running sessions once a month at the Cathedral. My whole ethos, personally and professionally, is that you’re always stronger as part of a team.

How have you found the Peterborough Positive team in terms of responsiveness?
Oh, unbelievable. I mean, I don’t even really need to reach out because every time Pep’s wandering by, he’ll come in and we’ll sit down and have a good chat. Without someone energising the city centre it would just be driven by individual business interests, but now instead of competing against each other, everyone is competing within the same space to survive together. I appreciate someone trying to improve its image visually and change the mindset about what Peterborough is and what it can offer – if we don’t believe in it, who else will?


Peterborough PositiveMetro Bank, Long Causeway – Steven Stafford, Area Director

Steven Stafford oversees operations at the Peterborough branch of Metro Bank. We spoke with him about his experience with the Peterborough BID.

You were actually one of the founders of the Peterborough BID. Tell us a bit about that.
I was aware of BIDs happening in different towns and cities across the country, and I noticed that Peterborough didn’t have one – so I started asking questions. Mark Broadhead, a former commercial director for Queensgate, told me that they had looked into it in the past but nothing had come of it, but this time he was really eager to make it happen. So I joined forces with him and a few others to begin the process of selling the idea of a BID in the city. I was really passionate about trying to make a positive impact in the city, to work with our neighbours and attract people to come here.

So, improved cohesion and communication between businesses has been a key thing for you?
I think communication has certainly been an issue in the past. You know, you turn up in Peterborough on a Saturday morning to open the store and there’s a really amazing food market going on in Cathedral Square – but you knew nothing about it! And if we knew about it, we might have been able to participate or do something to help promote it, because it obviously attracts more customers. When we spoke to our businesses about what they would like from the BID, one key thing was communication. You know, we all want to be informed and have the opportunity to get involved if we want to.

The BID team is doing a good job with the foundation work of increased police presence, cleaner and tidier streets, and a more attractive offer in the city centre. What would you like to see implemented – if the BID gets another five-year term?
I’m really hoping we can help Peterborough residents fall in love with our city again. I think a lot of visitors come to Peterborough and they love our city, but some people who live here have lost that love. On a Saturday afternoon, they prefer to hop on a train and go to Stamford or other places instead of spending time in here. Many also believe that the city isn’t safe, so if we can make the city feel safe and attractive, people would come back and fall in love with it again. It would be great.


Peterborough PositiveWhat do businesses think of the BID?
Heavenly Desserts, Cowgate – Imran Ali, Manager

To many, Heavenly Desserts needs no introduction – a hugely popular dessert restaurant with puddings, sweets and drinks from all over the world. We spoke with manager, Imran, about his experience with the Peterborough BID

When you heard about the proposal for a BID, did you immediately think, ‘Yes, I’m in!’
This is not my only business – I’ve got four others, and all are already in areas where BIDs operate. I already know what a BID can bring to a city centre – in many ways it comes down to footfall; it’s the one consistent thing that successful BIDs do, whether through events, safer streets, cleaner buildings, or rejuvenating disused or unoccupied properties. Making sure all the floor and wall junctions around the city are clean, with no graffiti, and all that kind of stuff – that makes the public feel more welcome and like they want to be there. There have been so many improvements over the last year or so, and it means that we are proud to be in the city, and that it’s well looked after.

Which of the BID’s benefits have really stood out for you?
The number one thing for us has been Jay coming on board, the police officer. Unfortunately, over the last couple of years, we’ve been hit with a lot of people who think they can come in, have food, and then just leave without paying. So having someone like Jay, who has introduced himself to the team, makes a difference. Every time he walks past, he says hello, and this makes the staff feel safe because it’s not easy for them to confront a guest who refuses to pay or causes trouble – especially during late-night opening hours when the staff can potentially become more vulnerable.

The other thing that the BID team has raised awareness of is the DISC scheme ( We didn’t even know there was one in Peterborough, but they made us aware of it so we registered, and that’s also reassuring for the staff to know that if someone comes in and causes trouble or behaves badly, there is a way to deal with it. It’s a scheme with a website that all the central businesses have access to, so if someone comes in, for example, steals something or causes damage or trouble, we can upload the images and alert other businesses to look out for that person.

So, you think when the ballot comes along for the next five-year cycle, you’ll vote to maintain the BID?
Oh, yeah, one hundred per cent. It’s just a no-brainer because what the team have achieved in the short time they’ve been in place, is phenomenal.

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