Breakthrough as council agrees first 73 homes on ‘mothballed’ waterfront site at Wisbech

The Nene Waterfront in Wisbech.

The Nene Waterfront in Wisbech. - Credit: Archant

FIVE years after Taylor Wimpey abruptly terminated their partnership with Fenland Council to build 300 homes by the River Nene in Wisbech, a local builder has bought part of the site for 73 homes.

The homes – key to the successful completion of a £52m regeneration project first put forward in 2003 – will be built on the site of a former gas works acquired by compulsory purchase in 2006.

Councillor Chris Seaton, deputy leader of Fenland Council and portfolio holder responsible for the economy, said: “The whole Nene Waterfront Regeneration Area project is vital for the future of Wisbech.

“An enormous amount has already been achieved and completing it has obviously been delayed by the impact of the economic crash in 2008.

“Now it is vitally important that the final key element of the project– the residential and mixed-use development of the vacant sites - is delivered.”

Cllr Seaton said: “This scheme not only goes some way to achieving that but we believe it will also encourage others to come forward with proposals for the other two sites.

“It is sure to boost confidence in the area as a whole and help take forward our ambitious Wisbech 2020 Vision.”

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The regeneration project was funded by the now defunct East of England Development Agency with other money put up by a European Development Fund administered by Go East and the council.

A confidential briefing was given to Cabinet members on Thursday detailing the “negotiated disposal” of one of three sites to GB Construction Partnership Ltd, a local building from Wisbech St Mary.

The council says most of the projects associated with the Nene scheme have been completed including a yacht harbour and boatyard with heavy boat lift, the Boathouse business centre, the Foyer centre (run by a charity for the homeless) and “key infrastructure improvements and importantly the decontamination of the former industrial land.

“It remains vitally important that the final key element of the project– the residential and mixed-use development of the vacant sites - is delivered.”

The spokesman said the offer by GB Construction Partnership Ltd for a part of the land “represents the first serious interest since the withdrawal of Taylor Wimpey following the economic crisis in 2008.”

Among the 70 homes planned for the Nene will be 24 affordable houses provided for social housing and to be handed over to Circle Anglia.

The council are using a ‘build lease’ – a form of public and private partnership- to dispose of the land which they feel will give them a greater level of control over the delivery and quality of the scheme,

The spokesman said: “This scheme will boost the local area and build confidence among developers regarding the development of the other sites. The council is continuing to work hard to attract further interest.”

The council feels the scheme will make a “significant contribution” to meeting the need for more affordable housing in Fenland. Circle Anglia has a target of 500 affordable homes by April 2016 as part of their stock transfer agreement when they took over Fenland’s council housing in 2007

The housing association has been awarded what the council describes as a “substantial grant” from the Homes & Communities Agency to fund projects across Fenland.

Planning for the 70 homes is under way and once a formal application is approved work could start as early as next spring.

Neil Ogden, managing director of GB Construction Partnership Ltd, said: “We are delighted with Fenland District Council’s decision to accept our offer to purchase the site at Nene Waterfront.

“Through this development we are committed to providing employment to local people and contractors. We will be delivering a high quality residential development.”

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