LETTER: Future of March must include making more of St Wendreda's and why has so much of our conservation area been allowed to deteriorate?
PUBLISHED: 15:28 14 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:28 14 July 2019
Thank you for placing news about the March High Street bid on your front page. In your article you mention "demolishing derelict buildings in Acre Road and boosting the riverside for tourism".
I would urge anyone interested in the future of the town to look on the web at "Growing Fenland" www.fenland.gov.uk/media/15674/Growing-Fenland---March-Interim-Report
I recommend reading the 18 pages- not as bad as you might think- which outline the vision for March as a destination town, ideas to increase the skills of local people and to improve housing provision in particular for key workers. There are also proposals for dealing with traffic congestion and to encourage the use of electric cars.
The March Society we would highlight certain parts of the report. Talking about the built heritage as an attractive part of the town we find on page 7: "While some of our local treasures are obscured from view, a few highly-visible derelict eyesores - such as the long-vacant indoor market, the old auction house at the top of Broad Street, and the old freezer shop on Station Road - send a negative signal to residents and visitors alike."
Our response would be that much of the conservation area has been allowed to deteriorate and there has been no reassessment since 2008. You mention beautiful historic architecture. The Acre cottages could be so. They were mentioned in the 2008 conservation report. They have been neglected. They have tourist potential and should be renovated and possibly turned into a centre for local crafts or a centre about narrowboats and navigation. We suggest the example of True's Yard in King's Lynn.
As for the old auction house I take it you mean the Electric Palace. This was highlighted by SAVE our heritage in 2016.
I suggest you look at Harwich, Electric Palace website: www.electricpalace.com. This is remarkably similar to the March Electric Palace and has reopened as a cinema. This would encourage the professional and the night economy that the plan seeks. The freezer shop has that uniqueness and heritage that would make March a destination town. The roof and the garden area need to be retained and it could be the tourist hub.
On page 10 among the ambitions for March we find: "The 'star attraction' for March will be platform seating on the riverbank." A picture of a similar scheme in Sheffield is included on page 13. Such a scheme placed by the Ship would ruin the iconic view, the star attraction and the riverbank.
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Finally, "Growing Fenland" urges those who love the town to sing its praises. In my comments to the report I wrote the following. I am sure that your readers can think of others:
I am surprised that no mention is made of St Wendreda's church. Given March's connection with the railway, consideration needs to be given to a railway museum or bookshop, interest centre (see Downham Market Station).
Little is said about the local environment: agriculture, waterways, ornithology, archaeology- Stonea camp and long-distance footpaths- Hereward Way. Boating, cycling are areas for expansion. King's Lynn is having an organic farmers' market so could March.
Readers have until July 26 to make their own comments to "Growing Fenland"
(The March Society)