Wisbech Town Council unveils ambitious plans for the Market Place which will see cars banned at key times
Removing the parking spaces was just one of a number of proposals discussed by town councillors on Monday night that have been drawn up by the Wisbech Market Place Task and Finish Group with help from Peter Humphrey Associates.
The group, made up of councillors as well as representatives from organisations such as Wisbech in Bloom and the Wisbech Society, has been meeting since last autumn to develop a scheme to improve the Market Place as a trading and community space.
The idea, said a report to Monday’s meeting, is to “deliver something, in this key area of Wisbech, which would add to the vitality and vibrancy of the town – providing social, environmental and economic benefits”.
On removing the parking spaces the report says: “There is already an adequate provision of car parking spaces, within existing off-street car parks, close to the Market Place.
“The removal of cars from the central area would improve the aesthetics of the town centre, as well as reducing pollution, noise, congestion and the potential for motorist/pedestrian conflict.”
Cars will be prevented from accessing the Market Place between core hours – possibly 10am-6pm – and decorative gates will be installed to stop vehicles entering the area.
Liam Towler, from Peter Humphrey Associates, explained the aim was to give a more integrated feel and make it a more welcoming space.
The council suspended its standing orders to allow members of the public to comment and ask questions. The majority were in favour of the plans, which would see retention of the current disabled parking. Access would remain through Hill Street and Union Street.
However, Coun Billy Rackley was concerned about access for taxis, saying elderly and disabled people rely on taxis to get into the centre of town and often want dropping off close to the banks and building societies on the Market Place.
Coun Carol Cox feared removing the parking spaces may force more drivers to illegally use the disabled spaces.
But resident Tony Bennett said: “There is too much negativity talking about what problems could arise, we should focus on the problems we have at the moment.”
There are current restrictions to vehicular access, which were put into effect to protect shoppers on market days – Thursdays and Saturdays – but now there is trading activity daily, which is why vehicles will be banned from the Market Place at core times throughout the whole week.
The report says: “Preventing access by motorised vehicles would add to the visual attractiveness of the Market Place.”
Enhancements suggested include features such as a tidal clock – a move welcomed by Wisbech businessman Richard Barnwell, who said he had tried to get one for the Millennium.
“The tidal clock would link to the river which is a very important part of the town’s heritage. I think it is a fantastic idea – it would be something few other towns have,” he said.
Water features in the central area with seating, a playground, installation of a covered area – to make activities less ‘weather-dependent’ – and the siting of planters containing trees are also included.
But there were some concerns over the siting of the playground which would be close to a pub at the end of the Market Place where the phone boxes are currently situated.
Following Monday’s agreement of the draft scheme a public consultation will now be carried out and people can have their say shortly online or by contacting the town council directly by email or letter.
Results of the consultation will be considered before the council makes a final decision.
As for paying for the scheme, the report states: “Wisbech Town Council possesses, or will be able to access, a certain amount of funding for the delivery of the scheme, but it is acknowledged that implementation of the whole package of measures would require additional monies. The council would need to decide how to acquire any additional funding required.”
Coun Sam Hoy said: “We will not be adding to the precept to pay for this. We will be looking at raising the funding through borrowing and possibly grants.”
The scheme would be done in three phases: Banning parking, installation of the gates, the water features, the tidal clock, planters and play equipment would be in phase one.