North East Cambs MP Steve Barclay launches war of words on Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Trust - asking what has it done for Fenland?

NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay

NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay - Credit: Archant

Local MP Steve Barclay has blasted leaders of the body responsible for promoting economic prosperity and distributing government funding in Fenland.

Mark Reeve, chairman of the Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough LEP

Mark Reeve, chairman of the Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough LEP - Credit: Archant

The North East Cambs MP has demanded to know “what has the Greater Cambridgeshire and Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (Cambs LEP) done for Fenland?”

And he is asking whether the Cambs LEP is worthy of a seat on the new combined authority when it is up and running next year.

Mr Barclay has pointed to the lack of action over the Wisbech Rail project, the lack of support for Fenland’s bid for a multi-million pound agri-tech centre at Chatteris and the seeming indifference towards businesses in the area.

He said: “Cambs LEP keep telling me they fully support Wisbech Rail but despite more than a year ago committing to fund the next stage of the process and having been allocated money from Government to do so no action has been taken.

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“They continue to question the business case as a result of risk adverse data from Network Rail, data which even the Department for Transport has questioned.

“It’s difficult for many residents to see what Cambs LEP has achieved in Fenland since it was set up and it is now time they came off the fence, stop hiding behind vague promises and help to deliver material support which the businesses in Fenland can reasonably expect them to do.”

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Mark Reeve, LEP chairman, said he was “surprised” to hear the MP’s concerns and said: “Addressing Mr Barclay’s concerns about Wisbech Rail, we are not aware that a business case has come forward that would require the LEP to make a formal decision or additional investment.”

However, Mr Barclay accused them of “dragging their heels” and failing to challenge costings produced by Network Rail.

Mr Barclay said neighbouring New Anglia LEP, which primarily focuses on Norfolk, is fully supportive of Wisbech Rail and is doing “so much more” to support Fenland.

“I question whether Cambs LEP should have a seat on the new combined authority when New Anglia LEP are doing so much more to support Fenland. New Anglia is hugely supportive of Wisbech Rail and the Wisbech Garden Town proposal when the Cambs LEP has been sadly negative.”

Mr Reeve said Fenland receives a “significant” amount of LEP funding to address local priorities including working with Fenland and Cambs County Councils regarding improvements to the A47 - a business case is expected in spring 2017.

And he said: “Mr Barclay will also be aware of the significant role the LEP has played in ensuring Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has a devolution deal that is widely regarded as the best in the country.”

Adding the LEP would ensure “key blockages to growth” benefit from funding from this deal.

He said: “In this sense, LEP rightly has a role on the soon to be formed combined authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”

Mr Barclay, added he has never been more optimistic about the likelihood of Wisbech Rail going ahead, following recent meetings with the Secretary of State for Transport and Rail Minister who described it as a “critical project”.

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