An ambitious project to regenerate Wisbech High Street can finally be realised after winning a £1.9 million lottery grant.
Fenland District Council received news that its scheme had won the full backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund yesterday (Monday, July 11).
The award has been hailed as a huge boost for the town; securing its heritage and making a difference to both local people and visitors for generations to come.
The project will restore a number of buildings on the High Street, bring new uses back into empty properties and transform the derelict former Cook’s Butchers site at number 24 into an exciting new area for public use.
A council spokesman said the news comes as the reward for two years’ hard work by the project team and community champions that put together the two stages of the bid.
The project won the HLF’s initial support in February last year, gaining £108,000 of development funding. Since then the team has drawn up detailed proposals for the works and held a series of events involving businesses, community groups and the public.
Fenland Council has worked closely with the Wisbech Society, Wisbech Town Council, Cambs County Council and more than 20 stakeholders, with the process being overseen by consultants Ingham Pinnock Associates. Strong support has also come from Historic England.
The funding comes from the HLF’s Townscape Heritage programme.
Councillor David Oliver, the council’s Cabinet member responsible for conservation and leader of Wisbech Town Council, said: “We’re absolutely delighted our bid has been successful. Our plans have obviously been on hold while we awaited the HLF’s decision; now we can press ahead with everything we have been working on over the past two years. This is a project that will make a big difference to the town, both for local people and visitors.”
Council leader, councillor John Clark, added: “This is very good news for Wisbech and indeed for Fenland as a whole. I’d like to pay tribute to everyone in the project team and all those in the community who have worked so hard for so long on this bid.
“Securing this kind of major investment has always been one of the main goals of the Wisbech 2020 Vision and we hope that this vote of confidence from the HLF will inspire others to follow suit. It’s a great example of what can be achieved when everyone is united in their support.”
Robyn Llewellyn, head of HLF East of England, said: “HLF investment goes well beyond the bricks and mortar of a building.
“THI schemes can help boost local economies, not only by improving how they look and feel, but by prompting business and boosting the sense of pride in an area. We’re pleased to support Fenland District Council in celebrating and restoring Wisbech’s historic high street.”
Over the next few months the project team will be:
• Recruiting a dedicated Townscape Heritage Project Officer to manage the project on a day-to-day basis
• Reviewing its original Activity Plan and working with all the local community groups to engage people in a wide range of conservation education, training and leisure activities
• Developing the previous outline designs for the former Cook’s Butchers site, working with a leading architect to formulate a detailed scheme that can then seek the requisite planning permission
• Inviting individual owners and tenants to submit applications to the HLF for the Townscape Heritage funding to repair and restore their properties.
The initial HLF funding was supplemented by contributions from Fenland District Council (£230,000), Cambridgeshire County Council (£200,000), the Wisbech Society (£25,000) and Wisbech Town Council (£25,000).
David Crouch, of the Wisbech Society: said: “The society is delighted that all the work over several years by the society and Wisbech community groups has come to fruition. The securing of Heritage Lottery Fund support is most important for the heritage and future of Wisbech.”
Steve Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire, said: “I was delighted to hear that Fenland Council have been awarded £1.9m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to improve Wisbech High Street, helping protect and regenerate our precious high street.
“I wish to congratulate all those involved in the successful funding bid and look forward to seeing this transformation in Wisbech town centre for future generations to enjoy.
“Alongside other recent improvements to derelict buildings like Constantine House, it sends a strong positive signal of the improvements to our area’s heritage. It also provides a message to owners of derelict buildings still blighting the town, like the Phoenix Hotel, that they need to take notice”.