Go-ahead for plans to partly demolish fire-ravaged Cashino building on Wisbech Market Place
Progress has finally been made on the future of a burnt-out building that has been a blot on the landscape of a Fenland town centre for over 18 months.
Fenland District Council’s planning officers have given permission for work to start on 5 Market Place in Wisbech – the former Merkur Cashino premises which were left a derelict shell after a fire on April 22, 2022.
There have been lengthy discussions over the future of the building and how best to proceed with even local MP Steve Barclay stepping in earlier this summer to urge the powers that be to “get on with it”.
But officers have now agreed to a phased approach with the applicants Mr Q Stott and Mr S Dawson of Indylby Investments Ltd and Biscuit Investments Ltd and the permission granted this week was for phase one.
This will see work to demolish the rear of the building, which was the most severely damaged – however the permission does not guarantee work starting any time soon, as the applicants now have three years in which to make a start.
The statutory consultee, Historic England, was partly behind the delay in action because of the building’s listed status and their “serious concerns” about what was originally being proposed.
An officer’s report outlined Historic England’s initial concerns and their call for a conservation-accredited structural engineer to be used to assess the condition of the building.
Historic England said the building was listed at grade II in “recognition of its special architectural and historic interest”. However, they later withdrew their objections to the first phase of partial demolition and rebuilding works, once it was clear there would be a phased approach.
Further permissions will be needed for the next phases.
However, the shop façade, described by Historic England as late 19th century, is to be retained no matter what other work is undertaken.
The officer’s report explained: “Any works to the rear will be unlikely to have a detrimental impact on the character and appearance of the area, with the front façade of the building being the most notable element of its character.”
Councillor Steve Tierney was among those to comment on the application and he supported the planned partial demolition “under certain specific circumstances”.
These included: There is a firm commitment to replace the building with another building whose design is "in keeping" with the neighbouring buildings and that the construction of the new building will happen in a timely fashion and not drag on for years.
Coun Tierney added: “I don't have any heritage concerns and am happy to support any ‘in kind’ building that does not leave an empty gaping hole in the row of shops for years to come.”
Fenland’s own conservation officer also supported the move and pointed out that a staged approach was the best way forward as it was difficult to assess certain areas of the building at present.
They said: “It has been deemed best practice to carry out the staged removal of perished material at three stage intervals, starting from the rear of the building, where the damage appears to be most severe.”
They added: “The proposal for phase one is considered acceptable and necessary to progress working through the building. Localised clearance to the rear would then allow further inspections and assessments by the professional team on the scope of further work.”
Detailed reports would have to be submitted and agreed by Fenland planners before work on phases two and three could commence.
Meanwhile the owners of Fox’s Cards which adjoins the derelict building have been left in limbo and unable to operate because the fire has left a hole in the wall that adjoins their business.