People of Fenland will be 'pleasantly surprised' by the focus it will have from new Labour mayor Dr Nik Johnson
A better connected transport system, more employment opportunities, more affordable homes, and improvements to healthcare are all on the cards for Fenland says newly elected Cambridgeshire Mayor Dr Nik Johnson.
The paediatric doctor who has stepped into the role as leader of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority following the recent local elections plans to make Fenland a priority and says residents will be “pleasantly surprised” by just how much focus there will be on the district.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Citizen this week Mayor Dr Johnson said he is fully aware of just how much “levelling up” is needed in Fenland and said he had moved further away from the NHS and into politics because he realised it was the only way to make a proper difference.
His aim is to create a “northern powerhouse” in the county which takes in Fenland and he hopes to encourage local councillors, who in Fenland are largely Conservative to work collaboratively with him for the good of the district.
And his three main watch words for his new authority are: Compassion, co-operation and community. He hopes with that mantra he will be able to achieve a lot for Cambridgeshire and its residents.
Mayor Dr Johnson said his first meeting with a Cambridgeshire MP was with Steve Barclay who represents North East Cambridgeshire and he hoped they could work across the political divide to help bring the necessary improvements Fenland needs not only to the transport system but also to provide affordable homes, raise educational aspirations and bring more skilled employment to the area.
Although one of his first decisions since taking office was to abandon former mayor James Palmer’s flagship £100,000 homes, Mayor Dr Johnson said he was determined to provide affordable homes in a more sustainable way.
He said: “I was not convinced about the £100,000 homes initiative and reading between the lines nor was Central Government. I want to look at working with land trusts to build social housing that is sustainable particularly in Fenland where there are issues with profit margins for developers."
Water management is another area Mayor Dr Johnson is keen to see work carried out and he acknowledged it is a problem not only in Cambridgeshire but across the region. And he said he would be looking at the Future Fens Project to help address climate change, which he was said was of particular importance in Fenland which is largely below sea level.
Better public transport especially bus services is another big one for Mayor Dr Johnson, who is keen to see better connectivity county-wide, but again he acknowledged Fenland suffers from poor service both on the buses and on the trains.
He wants to work with bus companies to develop fully franchised services that offer affordable transport providing discounts for younger people and those on benefits.
He said: "It is largely those with the least money who are reliant on public transport, so it is important that we look at making sure it is affordable, and provides a service that is practical for its users so they can get to and from work or education at the times they need."
Mayor Dr Johnson added: "It is early days for my administration, but I am already impressed by the team we have here at the Combined Authority and the enthusiasm they have shown so far.
"We have a lot things in the pipeline and will be making announcements over the coming weeks and months, so it is a question of watch this space."