Work begins on Wisbech Market Place signalling the start of good things for the town
Wisbech is the 'luckiest' it's been in years according to the town's mayor Andrew Lynn.
Andrew was speaking hours after the diggers moved on to the Market Place to begin work on a major renovation project aimed at breathing new life into the town centre.
He said: "Five and half years ago when I first joined the council one of the first meetings I attended saw us agree to renovate the Market Place. But that was as far as it seemed to go.
"I got fed up with waiting for something to happen so approached the council leader to ask if I could be put in charge of the project with the aim of driving it forward. I was determined to get it done."
Numerous meetings later, overcoming objections from all sides including Cambridgeshire's highways department, the conservation officers at Fenland District council and shopkeepers fearful the scheme, which includes pedestrianisation would kill trade, and Andrew finally had a project that was ready to go.
"There was compromise, there was always going to be and that included agreeing that we would not build any structures on the Market Place, which scuppered plans for a covered area, but I would rather compromise than lose the project altogether," he said.
The project, which is costing circa £470,000, will not only improve the appearance of the Market Place but will also introduce new and improved facilities; to enhance its use as both a trading area and community space.
The rationale behind the scheme is to deliver something in this key area of Wisbech, which should add to the vitality and vibrancy of the town – providing social, environmental and economic benefits for those who live, work, visit or are looking to invest in the town.
Andrew said: "For far too long people have had a negative view of Wisbech. The people who live here have got so used to the way things are, and believe nothing good can happen that they are very negative about their town.
"I was born in Wisbech, this is my home and I want good things for it. The Market Place project is just the start of things to come. Hopefully making it free from traffic will make it an attractive place for people to come and visit. At the moment there is no care from people driving around the Market Place.
"I was very concerned that something bad would happen, and I pointed out to the shopkeepers that if a child or elderly person was knocked over and seriously hurt or killed then that would kill the Market Place, much more than pedestrianisation ever would. It has been a hard slog to get where we are and it is great that work has finally started.
"People can start to see good things are happening in Wisbech, and we as the town council, have a lot more plans in the pipeline ready for when more funding comes available. They include putting the land between the police station and the Boathouse to good use, knocking down the Queen Mary Centre and completely replacing it with something fit for use, we also have plans for investment in the Isle College and renovation of the Castle.
"We want to encourage tourism and make people want to come to Wisbech, and having a welcoming Market Place, free of traffic is the first step in that aim.
"I truly believe Wisbech is the luckiest it has been in years, it has a town council with councillors that truly care and are working hard behind the scenes to make things happen, and as a result people are about to see a lot of good things happening, and that will hopefully give people back the pride in their town."