FENLAND MP Steve Barclay has unveiled his five-point plan of action to help put Wisbech back on its feet.
Released in the wake of bad press, his vision involves redeveloping the historic waterfront and port, including moving the proposed new cinema.
However, the company behind the cinema has rejected this move, saying it is “absolutely committed” to Cromwell Retail Park and under contract.
Wisbech has been the focus of much media attention – from the controversial BBC television programme ‘The Day The Immigrants Left’ in 2010 to the murder of Wisbech teenager Alisa Dmitrijeva.
But Mr Barclay believes the town has a lot of positive points and has a rich history.
One part of his programme for Wisbech is to move the proposed cinema from the Cromwell Road Retail Park – along with its £2 million Tesco funding – to the redeveloped Nene Waterfront and put some life back into the night-time economy of the town.
“Locating the cinema centrally will help the shops in the town centre,” Mr Barclay said. “The cinema will also act as the anchor tenant on the waterfront, attracting restaurants and complementing existing plans for a hotel on this site.”
While attempts have been made to bring people back to Wisbech, such as the town council looking into restoring a rail link, nothing is likely to happen in the next few years.
Mr Barclay said the town needs to capitalise on the port and waterfront, which is unique in Cambridgeshire, and look at other successful schemes around the country for inspiration.
He wants to create a “science park” at the port, linking with the College of West Anglia to provide bespoke technology courses, such as computer coding, to help attract new science and IT businesses. The superfast broadband and an offshore wind turbine scheme would help to do this.
The Wisbech Castle and vaults are another prong to Mr Barclay’s attack. He has visions of the historic site taking on a new life in the same vein as the London Dungeons to draw in tourists, while still keeping the site educational to comply with a covenant.
Mr Barclay would also like to set up a showcase arts event and is due to meet with Arts Council England shortly.
He said: “It is an idea other parts of the country have used to attract visitors and challenge the perceptions of outsiders. Why should it be just cities who have such artistic opportunities and not the Fens?”
The focus is not just on the new, though. Mr Barclay is keen to work with what Wisbech already has, namely the town’s architecture. A number of buildings have been empty for many years and he will be pressing for enforcement action where possible.
He said a stronger stance is also needed on illegal houses of multiple occupancy and the selling of alcohol without a licence.
Mr Barclay said: “Wisbech has a wonderful history, built on its location as a port, its attractive architecture and its resourceful people. These proposals have all been successfully carried out elsewhere, so there is no reason why they cannot be adopted in the Fens.”
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