Plans go in to move historic Fenland landmark
An historic town landmark could soon be on the move following a planning application by Fenland District Council to relocate it.
The Grade II listed Coronation Fountain has stood pride of place at the top of Broad Street in March since it was installed to commemorate Edward VII taking the throne in 1901.
However, with multi-million pound plans to revamp March town centre in the pipeline moving the Fountain to a more 'publicly accessible' site is now necessary.
The application seeks to move the monument just a short distance from the centre at the top of Broad Street to the left of the road (close to Mallets jewellers) where people will be able to access and appreciate it more easily, rather than is currently the case it being dominated by the traffic flowing through the town.
A planning design and access statement submitted in support of the application, drawn up by ELG Planning, explains: "The elements for which planning consent is sought are part of a larger package of highway and public realm works intended to regenerate the town centre of March. These works include the intended demolition of an existing public toilet and shelter at the south of Broad Street.
"The Broad Street project is the result of several years of public consultation as part of the Growing Fenland work, as well as in response to the future needs of the High Street and March as the town continues to grow."
A separate application regarding the demolition of the toilets and shelter, which were built in 1925, has also been submitted.
It goes on to explain the wider project has several key aims:
• To reduce standing traffic
• To increase pedestrian space and open space for visitors to the town
• To increase public transport future capacity
• To reduce pollution
• To revitalise the public realm of the town
• To bring back into focus key historic points of interest
The 'headline' improvements include the removal of the traffic lights at the top of Broad Street where the Fountain currently stands with the installation of a mini-roundabout.
The Northbound roadway will be removed to create pedestrian space, and it is here that the Fountain will be relocated.
The Southbound roadway (the One Stop shop side) will be converted into two-way traffic.
The centre parking spaces will also go.
There will be the creation of several new zebra crossings throughout the street, and there will be more planters, bike racks and greenery.
The bus stops will als be relocated and there will be replacement throughout the area.
The statement points out: "For clarity, a number of the works indicated including the pedestrian street works and highway works and permitted development under the highway act and therefore do not require the benefit of planning permission to be under taken by the council."
It goes on to say the vitality of March has not only been affected by national trends in the way people use town centres, but that there are also local factors.
These include the fact Broad street is difficult to cross and experiences significant congestion which the statement says discourages visitors and shoppers.
The statement says: "Similarly, the River Nene waterfront is somewhat obscured from the public, being difficult to access and appreciate. The River Nene and Broad Street are major barriers in the town centre and provide local severance.
"There are also a number of derelict, unused and underused buildings throughout the town centre. This includes properties surrounding the Market Place with its beautiful Town Hall, units along Broad Street and in the Acre Road area.
"Town centre vacancy rates are increasing, and the town centre continues to lose retail anchors. There is no 24-hour economy in March, the hospitality and leisure offers are poor, and the available first floor space on Broad Street and beyond has failed to attract residents or businesses.
"All of this is evidence of a town centre struggling with a deteriorating investment climate and large viability gaps."
And it adds: "To address these challenges transformational projects are proposed including interventions to transform Broad Street, opening up the riverside areas to improve visibility and access and redevelopment of the historic Market Place."
It concludes: "It is considered that the proposed works to relocate the Fountain as part of a more extensive programme of highway and pedestrian works in the centre of March are acceptable and will assist in regenerating the centre of March.
"The proposals are considered to accord with the aims of regenerating the town centre, whilst enhancing the setting of neighbouring heritage assets. Creating new areas of inclusive public realm that will provide improved sense of place."