Wisbech Enterprise Area to be formed and planning rules to be relaxed, Melton tells breakfast

A WISBECH Enterprise Area will be created to kick-start investment and tackle perceptions that the town is Cambridgeshire’s “poor relation”, it was announced today.

Councillor Alan Melton, leader of Fenland District Council, also said planning rules would be relaxed to improve buildings and continue investing in the town’s infrastructure.

The pledge was made at a business breakfast at the Boathouse Business Centre in Wisbech hosted by Archant, parent company of the Cambs Times/Wisbech Standard. The breakfrast was held before the historic meeting of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Cabinet at the Boathouse - it was the first time it met outside of Cambridge.

Cllr Melton told guests: “It gives me no satisfaction that in Cambridgeshire, Wisbech is perceived as the poor relation. I want to see Wisbech in the same league as March, Ely, Huntingdon and St Ives.

“Within the Cambridge and Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership, we will propose a Wisbech Enterprise Area.

“We will seek to mobilise investment, relax the planning rules and use the tools of the new General Power of Competence within the Localism Act, to achieve our aims.”

Cllr Melton said the big question always asked is why employers recruit from abroad to fill vacancies over the last five years.

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He said: “Is it a lack of basic skills? Are basic literacy and numeracy levels too low? Has the benefit culture taken hold, removing the incentive to work?

“If this is the case, central government has a role to play in changing the work environment and to make work more attractive than idleness.

“To tackle this and other significant underlying problems there needs to be a new partnership including government, local government, the private sector and the educational/skills establishment.”

Redevelopment plans for Wisbech - described by Cllr Melton as “significant” - will also be announced soon, building upon the �4.3million of capital expenditure already committed from the council’s budget for 2012-2015.

Cllr Melton said: “As asset values rise and funding becomes available we will build upon this sum, which represents 24 per cent of the total forecast expenditure for Fenland during that period.”

Also among Cllr Melton’s plans is a review of current and future plans for the town’s main shopping area.

“We need to ask some very searching questions,” he said. “Nothing should be ruled in or out including contraction, rebuilding and moving the centre of shopping.

“Realism must prevail in today’s changing retail environment and expectations.”