Melton calls for 21st century solution to 20th century throwback

FENLAND Council Leader Alan Melton today challenged the people and councillors of Wisbech “to start a proper debate and find a 21st century solution to a 20th century throwback”.

Cllr Melton was responding to a decision by the overview and scrutiny committee to

‘call in’ Cabinet approval of the decision to opt for a postponement of the Horsefair taxi rank transfer and for pedestrianisation of the market place.

That meeting is being held on Friday in the Oasis Centre, Wisbech, from 10am where councillors will re-examine both decisions.

Cllr Melton said representatives of Wisbech need to get together, and be prepared to leave their agendas and prejudices’ at the door and start an informed debate on the future re-development of the town centre.

“Quite frankly, the parking issue is a side show when looking at all of the possible solutions needed,” he said.

“Wisbech is represented by a number of highly articulate and intelligent people, who need to look at the long term viability of the town centre.

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“As an ‘outsider’ some may ask ‘Why are you bothered’? True I come from Chatteris, but sometimes it takes an outsider to see the wood from the trees and as leader of Fenland Council I have a duty to get the best out of every community.

“Perhaps it is time to consider a wholesale re-development. Take a look at Huntingdon, a complete re-development of public buildings has just taken place, the courthouse, county offices and district offices have all been re-built, using modern architecture and materials.

“Contrast that with Wisbech, the most prominent public building is the police station/ court house. It is now looking drab and dated, perhaps this could go and be re-built somewhere else as part of a new scheme of public asset relocation.

“The county council have already indicated their willingness to invest several millions of pounds on new accommodation. The existing site could be incorporated as part of the Nene Quay re-development.”

He also questioned why so many parking spaces were provided near the town centre.

“What a waste of resource,” he said. “Surely parking needs to rationalise? Provision should be made for long term parkers on the edge of the town, perhaps as part of the new developments and expansion of the commercial park, with daily workers having access to a shuttle bus.

“A new ‘class A’ food store could be built close to, or in the town centre, with planning permission being withheld on any new proposed stores outside of the town centre. New parking and facilities such as new toilets and recreation areas ought to be considered.

“The market place needs a complete re-think, parking or not, that is not the main issue. We need to attract a proper market with really good traders offering a wide range of goods.

“Should we roof in part of the market?

“The whole concept needs to be re-visited the existing layout needs to be re-thought, why not some kind of feature, water or statue?

“Not until accessibility and overall ambience is improved will the viability of the town centre improve and be sustained. Well known chains of shops or leisure providers will not invest until we show a commitment to investment and improvement.

“The market place should be a place of shopping and recreation, a pleasant and pleasurable place to be, somewhere for people to congregate and enjoy shopping and conversation, where children can run free and the less abled can move through with ease and safety.

“At the moment you run the risk of getting run over, children have to be restrained and meanwhile the burger van continues to do a roaring trade from vans and 4x4’s a vying for limited space.

“Quite frankly, we are falling into the trap of those who wanted to keep Wisbech in the 1960’s, because Wisbech town centre is now becoming so 1980s.”

Cllr Melton added: “The people of Wisbech deserve better.

“So let’s start a proper debate and find a 21st century solution to a 20th century throwback. The scrutiny committee meeting being held on Friday could be the start of this debate.”

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