Evidence of a ‘town centre struggling’ used by Fenland Council in £11m bid to transform historic March
- Credit: Archant
The Government is to be asked for £11.3m by Fenland District Council to transform the centre of March.
The money will be used for a “dramatic intervention to transform Broad Street”, improving the riverside, redeveloping the marketplace, modernising shops and regenerating Acre Road.
“March town centre does not function in a way that promotes resilience, diversification and economic growth,” says the council.
“This is because there are significant severance and dislocation issues, combined with a hostile investment market.
“Property values are well below regional and national levels, and development appraisals show a consistent viability gap for residential, retail and other uses”.
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Evidence to be submitted to the Government says that the River Nene and Broad Street “are major barriers in the town centre and provide a textbook example of local severance”.
There are derelict, unused and underused buildings throughout the town centre including properties surrounding the Market Place.
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And the Acre Road area has a particular problem with the number of empty and derelict units.
Across town Vacancy rates are increasing, and the town centre continues to lose important retail anchors, says the council.
“There is no 24-hour economy in March, the hospitality and leisure offers are poor, and the available first floor space on Broad Street and beyond has failed to attract residents or businesses.
“All of this is evidence of a town centre struggling with a deteriorating investment climate and large viability gaps”.
Cllr Chris Seaton, the council’s portfolio holder for social mobility and heritage, said: “We are in a great position to submit a strong bid for March thanks to the council’s recent work on the Growing Fenland project and the emerging March Area Transport Strategy.
“Through this work residents have said priorities for the town should include reducing congestion, improving the town centre and making more of the river, and we have used these priorities to shape our final bid”.
He said: “We’re incredibly proud of these plans, which I believe create a compelling and exciting bid to secure significant funding for the town.”
Cllr Seaton added: “I’d like to pay tribute to the project team, including Council officers, our partners and consultants Hatch Regeneris, who have worked exceptionally hard to put this bid together, and getting it across the line despite the challenges that the COVID-19 crisis has brought.”
Fenland District Council was told in July last year that it had been shortlisted for the final phase of its application to the £1 billion national pot, having been ranked among the UK’s best initial bids by the Government.
The project team, together with councillors, has spent the past nine months developing the full business case in consultation with stakeholders, residents and partners including Cambridgeshire County Council, March Town Council, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and the Middle Level Commissioners.
The deadline for submissions to the Future High Streets Fund is June 5, with bidding authorities expected to hear more from the Government in late summer.
March was successful in its Expression of Interest (EoI) for the Future High Streets Fund, being one of 50 town centres nationally to be initially shortlisted.
Councils were only permitted to submit one application per district/county and March was considered to have the best chance of success in this process.
Using £150k received from central government as part of the Future High Street Fund process, a consortium of consultants was appointed, led by Hatch Regeneris
External expertise was required to produce the full business case required by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
The council says that any drawings or images within the submission are draft and not finalised. Designs will be subject to change once funding is secured and the project moves into the delivery phase.