Waterways boost for the Fens

A WATERWAYS project which will connect March, Chatteris and Whittlesey to a network of cathedral cities has been described as “one of the most important developments in years”.

The River Great Ouse already links Fenland to Huntingdon and St Ives to the south and Peterborough to the north.

But as part of the Fens Waterways Link, two further routes will be established between Chatteris and St Ives to make what organisers call a “seamless loop of opportunity”.

There will also be a further connection between Peterborough and Market Deeping, creating a more direct route to Spalding, Boston and Lincoln.

“The link will represent the most significant partnership development of the inland navigation network of the UK in two centuries,” a spokesman for the project said.

“It will compliment other waterway projects in the region, forging new links between the existing stretches of navigable waterway and creating a seamless loop of opportunity.”

The programme, already described as “the biggest waterway enhancement scheme in Europe”, promises to make the city part of a “network of desirable waterside locations”.

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The Fens Waterway Link website says: “The resulting focal points will often be marina orientated and display features such as boat repair yards, shopping opportunities, restaurants and bars, media centres and accommodation.

It admits that sites will “vary in magnitude and be influenced by their location and proximity to centres of population” but says “increases in the number of boating visitors and those attracted to the waterside” will boost the economy.

“The link will provide a positive contribution to heritage, culture and nature,” a spokesman said.

“The public will benefit from increased access to green open spaces and a wide array of important historic buildings, structures and monuments.

“The diversity of the natural environment will be enhanced by sustaining habitats and supporting rare species helping to meet biodiversity targets.”

The project is part funded by the European Union’s Regional Redevelopment Fund.