Cost is too high for Fenland Council to compulsory purchase former Phoenix Hotel in Wisbech

MP Steve Barclay wants Fenland Council to compulsorily purchase the Phoenix Hotel but the authority says it will cost too much money.

It seems unlikely the fire-ravaged Phoenix Hotel in Wisbech will be given a new lease of life any time soon after Fenland District Council this week ruled out buying the building.

The former hotel on North Brink has been left in a derelict state since it was destroyed in an arson attack in 2010 with just its historic Georgian facade standing.

Local MP Steve Barclay writing in his online blog recently has called for Fenland District Council to act over the building and is urging the authority to consider a Compulsory Purchase Order so the Phoenix, which was a Chinese restaurant at the time of the blaze, can be brought back into use.

He acknowledges that Fenland Council has made “considerable effort” to trace the owner including using international search agencies - but without success.

Mr Barclay, says: “It would seem there are two options moving forward; the first is to do nothing in the hope that the owner will reappear at some point, which is unlikely, and thereby the council will have no choice but to make safe and preserve the front façade.

The second option is for the council to undertake a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO), given that in reality the owner is untraceable. I appreciate that FDC may be reluctant to make a CPO however the Town and Country Planning Act does provide councils with a very wide power to acquire land and buildings to facilitate their improvement, development or redevelopment provided that this will bring social, environmental or economic benefits. It does not matter that the improvement, development or redevelopment is to be carried out by a third party, such as a purchaser from the council. This power will can be used where a vacant site is CPO’d so that development can be undertaken by a third party.”

He concludes: “The least popular option is to do nothing and continue to wait for the owner to return.”

However, a spokesman for Fenland said: “The council is aware that CPO is an option and whilst it would be prepared to consider entering into an agreement with a developer, the greatest barrier to initiating a CPO remains the development deficit, which indicates that the repair costs are significantly greater than the market value of the completed property.

“Whilst we have pro-actively engaged with a number of interested parties and developers, the council has been unable to identify a funding stream that would fund the deficit gap and until that is closed the redevelopment of the former Phoenix Hotel & Restaurant remains unlikely. The council will continue to remain alert to potential funding opportunities which may unlock development, but of course our focus remains public safety and prudent management and application of public funds.”

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