A bold, long-term vision to regenerate Wisbech is succeeding in raising the town’s profile – and attracting millions of pounds of investment.
The Wisbech 2020 Vision is moving rapidly towards re-shaping the town, but key partners helping to deliver the project say there is still lots of work to be done.
That was the verdict of the third Vision Summit held at Wisbech boathouse on Friday, when more than 60 councillors, business leaders and community representatives examined the project’s progress so far.
Paul Medd, chief executive of Fenland Council, said much has been achieved since the Vision to revitalise Wisbech and the surrounding area was first conceived three years ago.
He told delegates on Friday: “We are three years down the line and have five years still to go, but that time will go in the blink of an eye.
“It is imperative we focus on the here and now and deliver things that will make a difference to people’s lives today.
“I genuinely believe Wisbech 2020 has been incredibly successful, and that’s not hot air, that is based on the facts we have in front of us.”
Key achievements on the project’s 29-point action plan were outlined at the event by the Vision’s three core group members, County Council leader Steve Count, Fenland Council leader John Clark and MP Steve Barclay.
• Campaign launched to drive transport improvements, including the Wisbech to Cambridge rail link.
• £1m of funding received for feasibility work on improving transport in and around Wisbech, and a further £10.5m earmarked for improvements between 2016 – 2021, subject to feasibility studies.
• £300m investment for A47, including improvements to the Guyhirn roundabout.
• Successful first-round bid for £2m of Heritage Lottery funding to improve the High Street.
• Work on dilapidated buildings, including repairs on Constantine House to bring it back into use.
• Large part of the Nene Waterfront site sold to local developer to create 70 homes.
• Operation Pheasant’s success in tackling migrant exploitation, rogue landlords and problems with houses with multiple occupancy.
• Time Credits volunteering scheme established.
• £6m investment for the College of West Anglia with new facilities due to open in September.
• New Tesco superstore in Cromwell Road, along with cinema and restaurants, and much more.
In his address, Cllr Count said he was “very proud” of what has been achieved.
He added: “What is inspirational is the breadth of the change and involvement that this initiative has brought.
“We are seeing the public, academic, volunteers and private sectors working together. There has and will be millions of pounds of investment and we have seen Government listen to the need for major transport improvements such as rail and the A47.”
Cllr Clark said: “We have made some great strides in improving the town in all sorts of ways and people are seeing those benefits. We know there will always be more to do, which is why we are here today – to see how best we can take this vision forward.”
In his summit address, Mr Barclay spoke of areas that still needed attention.
The MP for North East Cambridgeshire said literacy skills were way below the national average, with many pupils starting school aged four with the reading ability of a two-year-old.
He said Wisbech Reads, a new campaign aimed at tackling literacy levels, was hoping to have an impact when it launches in the summer.
He also said there was scope to increase services at the town’s North Cambs Hospital, and end-of-life care needed improving, too.
“Another key next step is to achieve the roll-out off the Wisbech to Cambridge rail link so we can access the additional £10.5 million allocated by the Government on top of the initial £1 million,” he said.
Other issues going forward include improving the A47, continuing work on dilapidated buildings, improving the retail offer, improving congestion through the Wisbech Access Strategy, as well as health and well-being.