Our heritage at risk - conservation areas of Chatteris, March and Whittlesey placed on risk register

PUBLISHED: 09:52 23 October 2015 | UPDATED: 09:52 23 October 2015

March buildings from a 2008 appraisal of conservation area by Fenland Council

March buildings from a 2008 appraisal of conservation area by Fenland Council

Archant

Conservation areas of Chatteris, March and Whittlesey have- for the first time - been placed on Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register.

John Ette, heritage at risk principal advisor for Historic England in the East, said the three towns – plus part of Wisbech- had been identified “as very much sites which have got a declining trend in terms of their overall condition.”

“Tackling those issues, he said, poses quite a challenge and a challenge across the region, not just in Fenland”.

The Heritage at Risk Register 2015 reveals that in the East of England four of the 40 conservation areas at risk from neglect, decay or inappropriate change are in Fenland.

Councillor David Oliver, portfolio holder for community safety and heritage, told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire: “ I think if you look at March, Chatteris and Whittlesey, we do have general degradation in the street scene, high streets and that, particularly around the alterations to shops and signage.

“So this is actually having a community impact on that particular area.

“We’re hoping that working with our conservation officers, working with those that are involved with those premises, that we can actually help them bring them back to former glory by offering some renaissance grants and things like that.”

He added: “Part of Fenland’s economy is tourism.

“And obviously people want to see areas which look nice, rather than going down a street and seeing a lot of boarded up buildings and things like that, which we don’t have, but if we don’t get on top of it we could end up having.”

Fenland Council describes a conservation area as having “special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.”

A council spokesman agreed that issues with the conservation areas were “a longstanding problem that we know detracts from our efforts to attract more businesses and tourists to the district.

“The prime responsibility for looking after these buildings clearly rests with the owners themselves.

“However, we are also doing all we can to tackle it through our Streets Ahead project, including the Renaissance grants scheme, which has been running for four years.

“This year alone, we have given out more than £90,000 in grants for repairs and improvements to buildings and shop fronts.”

He said Historic England had helped to develop a £2 million bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to improve Wisbech High Street.

“In Chatteris we have taken the initiative in commissioning work, including paying for a full survey of one of the worst affected buildings.

“Other work being undertaken by our conservation team includes drafting new guidance on shop signage and windows.”

Historic England says “looking after conservation areas is a responsibility shared by those of us who live, work or does business in them as well as those of us whose job it is to manage them or make decisions about their future”.

HISTORIC ENGLAND ASSESSMENT

Chatteris

Condition? Very bad

Trend? Very bad

March

Condition? Poor

Trend? Deteriorating

Whittlesey

Condition? Poor

Trend? Deteriorating

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