Wisbech: A great place by 2020

Professor Jeremy Sanders, from University of Cambridge, Fenland Council leader Alan Melton and Cambs County Council leader Nick Clarke at the Wisbech 2020 Vision launch.
Professor Jeremy Sanders, from University of Cambridge, Fenland Council leader Alan Melton and Cambs County Council leader Nick Clarke at the Wisbech 2020 Vision launch.

A great place to work, live and visit - that’s the vision for Wisbech 2020 unveiled at a special launch yesterday morning at the town’s Boathouse.

Mayor Viv MacRae officially launched the policy document, which was later signed by everyone at the gathering, before County Council leader Nick Clarke and Fenland Council Leader Alan Melton both spoke of their determination and commitment to achieving a raft of actions, which they believe will encourage the development and growth of Wisbech.

The targets or actions were put under three headings: A great place to work, a great place to live and a great place to visit and were deemed achievable either in the short-term (by 2014) or in the long-term (by 2020 and beyond).

Both men were quick to point out many of the actions were relatively small, but argued these together would make up a big vision that will make Wisbech a better more prosperous place by 2020.

Actions included looking at the skills requirements of local businesses and ensuring education and courses offered meet those needs.

The feasibility of establishing a Business Improvement District (BID), which Mr Melton said had worked well in other towns and could be beneficial to Wisbech. Funding a Town Centre Manager (either full or part time) would also be looked at with the aim of coordinating the marketing and promotion of the town.

Mr Clarke claimed there was already an increased positivity in the town, with people believing the vision was a chance to make a difference.

But he warned ambitious projects like the dualling of the A47 or a new rail link were long term aspirations, that the county council together with Fenland council would continue to fight for, but pointed out they were not going to happen overnight.

Mr Melton promised action on the currently empty Nene Waterfront Development site, stating he has made it clear to officers that something must happen on the site before the council’s current term of office ends in just over two years’ time.

He said the district would be talking to a variety of partners to come up with a scheme to utilise the site, including the possibility of a new primary school being built there.

Mr Melton has also pledged action on the numerous derelict buildings dotted around the town centre after agreeing with WIN (Wisbech Infra-structure Now) campaigners’ suggestions to work with neighbouring West Norfolk Borough Council to see how they deal with the issue.

WIN leading campaigners Virginia and Mike Bucknor and others have been in talks with borough council officers and have secured their agreement to work with Fenland Council to help their officers deal more effectively with the problem.

Mr Melton said he welcomed the move and said the aim was to appoint an officer to work with the borough council.

But he said: “It is not an easy problem, we are very open about that.”

He concluded: “The Vision is now a public document so the people of Wisbech can hold us responsible for its delivery.”

And Mr Clarke said: “The Vision is a plan for this town to move forward and I am hoping and expecting the whole town to get behind this Vision so this town can be the very best town it can be.”

Local MP Stephen Barclay, who was due to attend the launch was absent after his wife gave birth to a baby boy weighing 8lbs 3ozs on Monday night.