The trio who promise to ‘turn up the wattage on Wisbech’ with ambitious 2020 vision

POLITICAL leaders vowed to “turn up the wattage on Wisbech” this morning as ambitious plans to regenerate the town accelerate.

Councillor Nick Clarke, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, Councillor Alan Melton, Leader of Fenland District Council, and NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay came together to hail the progress made in the “Wisbech 2020 Vision”.

Mr Barclay said: “The light tends to shine very brightly on Cambridge but it’s not good for the rest of the county if things are too imbalanced.

“We want to turn up the wattage on Wisbech.”

The vision for Wisbech’s regeneration was announced when the county council’s cabinet visited the town in March.

Since then, work has started to develop a “plan of action” with a series of workshops being held to discuss issues such as transport, social cohesion, leisure, economy and Wisbech’s reputation.

Cllr Clarke said: “I brought my cabinet here back in March. That was not a PR stunt. That was about coming and engaging with the people and the town itself to understand what the issues are and how we can make a difference.

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“It attracted lots of interest and a lot of energy suddenly appeared in Wisbech that’s been lacking for a little while.

“Wisbech has had its difficulties for a number of years and you can’t just buy yourselves out of trouble these days. You can’t just build new railways and roads because previous regimes have spent all the money.”

Councillors also toasted early breakthroughs in the regeneration project.

Fenland District Council’s Cabinet agreed to spend �28,000 sprucing up the area around The Boathouse last Thursday.

The “quick win” initiative will involved resurfacing roads, removing weeds and repainting hoardings.

Cllr Melton said: “You’ve only got to look out the window of this very prestigious building to see the problems with the approach to it. We have decided to do something about it.

“Over the next month or two you will see a significant difference with what’s happening on that site.”

Councillors plan to host a “public consultation excerise” in Wisbech’s town centre in September before holding a “Vision Summit” in October.

A plan of action will then be drawn up ready to be launched in January.

‘Support from outside the Fens’

COUNCILLORS announced that the project had gained widespread support from outside the Fens.

Academics from the University of Cambridge have agreed to begin a study of the town’s “future economic role”.

Funding has been secured for a new horticultural skills centre at the Delamore plant and the National Trust is working with the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum Trust on a new heritage project.

Representatives from The National Institute of Agricultural Botany have also agreed to visit Wisbech for a “trade day”.

‘Vision began before Portas bid’

COUNCIL Leader Nick Clarke admitted he was disappointed that Wisbech did not secure cash from the Mary Portas fund.

But Cllr Clarke insisted the Wisbech 2020 Vision was already under way before the bid to become a Portas Pilot Town.

He said: “Clearly we were disappointed that we didn’t get any of the Mary Portas money but we had started this vision before that was on the table.”

Cllr Clarke said “wise handling” of county council cash would mean more funding could be available to improve pathways.

He added: “Some people will say we’re doing this for PR. We’re not. This is about output.”

‘Three tiers of government’

THE regeneration project demonstrates three tiers of government working well together, according to MP Steve Barclay.

Mr Barclay said: “I think there are lots of very good people in Wisbech who individually have come forward with initiatives from time to time.

“But perhaps they have done so in isolation and then have run into the treacle as a result. We are trying to build momentum with all three tiers of government working together.

“I think all three of us (Cllr Clarke, Cllr Melton and Mr Barclay) are very much practically-minded politicians. The questions we have asked are, on the ground, what will have changed?”

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