‘Investing in our market towns to support ambitions’ says Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor
Things finally seem to be moving in the right direction for Fenland – here Cambridgeshire Mayor James Palmer writes about his views of the area’s future and what progress has been made so far in achieving his hopes for our district. . .
Our market towns play an important and sometimes under appreciated part of both the character and economy of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
As Mayor, I believe all of our market towns have the potential to continue to grow and prosper well into the future.
Wisbech is a town for which there are big aspirations for growth in terms of its economy, jobs and housing, including through the proposed Wisbech Garden Town.
The district council’s blueprint for the future development of the area, the Local Plan, includes provision for 3,550 new homes in Wisbech and 30 hectares of new employment land to deliver around 2,500 new jobs to 2031.
Wisbech Garden Town would deliver an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 homes over 25 years from 2020.
This must, of course, complement the existing wealth of character in Wisbech, including examples of historic architecture, its waterfront and the North and South Brink. But before we can boost the local economy, jobs and housing, we need to first invest in infrastructure.
The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority has just agreed to two such investments in Wisbech. As you may have read in the Citizen, we have allocated £10.5 million to upgrade the town’s roads. This package of improvements includes a new signalised staggered junction at Cromwell Road and New Bridge Lane, a new roundabout at the junction of A1101 Elm High Road and Weasenham Lane and a new roundabout at the junction of the A47 and Broadend Road.
We expect these improvements to be delivered in phases, with all works complete by March 2021.
Secondly, the Combined Authority is investing £1.3 million for a detailed study into how best to restore the long hoped-for rail link between Wisbech and March, including looking at how to deliver a two trains per hour service, and where best to build a new Wisbech rail station. Alternatives to traditional ‘heavy rail’ will also be explored as part of the study.
I firmly believe putting a regular rail service back in Wisbech would be transformative for the town, and this nine-month study will give us the all-important business case and design we need to progress.
We are also working to fully dual all of the A47 from east of Peterborough to east of Wisbech. We want to do this in one single scheme, rather than through piecemeal upgrades at certain bottlenecks, as is the conventional approach. In October we allocated £1 million in funding to bring the study work so far to the standard required by Highways England and work continues.
We are additionally investing in Masterplans for Growth for our market towns, including March, Chatteris and Whittlesey, in order to identify what investments and support can be given to improve their vitality and meet ambitions for growth. We have recently allocated £50,000 to carry out similar work in Wisbech, which will support what local leaders have already achieved through the town’s 2020 Vision scheme.
We have also, with Fenland Council and other partners, put in a bid to the Government’s Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government for Wisbech Garden Town to be included in its Garden Communities programme. We will hear in the new year if this has been successful, and if so, would see the Government supporting its delivery. The Combined Authority has already allocated £6.5 million of funding to help deliver the garden town and the work continues.