Exciting plans to bring a derelict eyesore back to life by transforming it into a new and inspiring area of public realm have been submitted.
Architects working alongside the National Lottery-funded Wisbech High Street Project team have submitted a planning application to turn 24 High Street, Wisbech – known as The Gap – into a thriving community space in the heart of the town.
The proposal seeks to create an “exceptional piece of public art” with a contemporary, multifunctional space capable of hosting a range of community events, exhibitions and activities and a rope art installation to reflect Wisbech’s nautical past.
Dallas-Pierce-Quintero’s (D-P-Q) design also includes a viewing platform, 12.5 metres above ground level, to offer visitors a unique opportunity to appreciate views across the historic town and beyond.
“Our aspiration is to reimagine this site and bring it back to life, so that it celebrates the place of Wisbech and captures the views of its surroundings,” says a design and access statement. “The challenge is to create a space which is uplifting and changes people’s perceptions of what is currently an eyesore.”
It also says the concept aims to fulfil the community’s wish for an ambitious project, with a “wow factor” that will draw people to travel to Wisbech and raise the profile of the town.
Plans to transform the derelict former Cook’s Butchers site at No 24 are the biggest, and most exciting part of the Wisbech High Street Project, which is being delivered by Fenland District Council with a £1.9 million grant award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The general management of the site will be the responsibility of ‘Mind the Gap’, a group made up of representatives from Fenland District Council, Wisbech Town Council, The Wisbech Society, Ferry Project and Street Pride. The group has been working closely with the project team to influence design and to help devise a management and maintenance strategy for the running of the site.
Due to existing funding constraints and the need to regenerate other High Street buildings with the HLF grant, the proposed design is temporary to take advantage of the opportunity and bring the site back into use in the short-term.
It does include a permanent metal structure, however, to accommodate any future building if and when more funding becomes available.
Supporting the plans, Edward James, Historic Places Advisor for Historic England, said:
“Given the present constraints, the temporary nature of the proposal and in lieu of a viable opportunity to permanently redevelop the site at this time, the proposed structure would be an interesting and playful addition to the streetscape in Wisbech’s town centre and conservation area.
“The site has been sadly neglected and presently detracts from the appearance of the High Street. This scheme would bring the site back into use that would engage the local community, provide a social and cultural space, and would contribute to the High Street’s distinctiveness.”
Councillor David Oliver, Fenland’s Cabinet member for heritage, said: “The Heritage Lottery funding has enabled us to put this exciting and ambitious plan forward to bring an eyesore on our Wisbech High Street back into public use.
“Community engagement told us that people wanted The Gap to have a ‘wow factor’ that could improve the streetscene and raise the profile of the town, and these plans will help us deliver that.”