Councillors’ chapel battle

Mount Pleasant Chapel, Wisbech.
Mount Pleasant Chapel, Wisbech.

Independent councillors Virginia and Michael Bucknor are fighting to transform an under-used chapel into a drop-in community centre.

The chapel in Mount Pleasant cemetery, Wisbech, has only been used four times in the last two years and with increasing numbers of young people in Waterlees, the husband and wife duo want to turn the building into something useful.

But after spending the last year in talks with Fenland District Council, which owns the chapel, and Cambridgeshire County Council, momentum on the project seems to have ground to a halt and the couple have been left hanging over whether anything will go ahead with the site.

Mrs Bucknor said: “We don’t know where we are. We have spent a year on this. We were asked to keep it confidential and we have. But nothing has happened.”

“This seems to be a delaying thing,” Mr Bucknor added. “Everything has been pushed back.

“Orchards School is going to be taking on 50 per cent more pupils in the next three years, there will be more children in Waterlees. We need to start preparing now.”

At a recent meeting of Fenland council, Mrs Bucknor challenged leader Alan Melton about the state of play with the project but was left less than happy with his response. Mr Melton said the council had been hit with massive budget cuts and there are already two drop-in centres in the ward.

“We are currently conducting a review of current and future provision,” he said. “We have a duty to provide community facilities that are sustainable and give value for money to the taxpayer.”

Mr and Mrs Bucknor are champions for Waterlees and want to make sure that other councillors do not forget that Waterlees needs more help than other areas.

Mrs Bucknor told the council: “That Waterlees as a whole is in the top 10 per cent of deprived wards, with children in the top six per cent, is a Fenland scandal. It is rapidly becoming a national scandal as it’s showing that children and young people in this deprived ward are even more deprived.”

She added that more funding was available for Waterlees projects due to its deprived status and “resources should always follow need”.