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'Overwhelmingly positive' reaction to High Street ideas

Organisers of the Wisbech High Street Project say they are pleased with local people's increasing involvement in the scheme, following the latest consultation event in the town.

Wisbech High St consultation Aug 2015

It showcased five highly imaginative designs for the redevelopment of the Cook's butchers site at number 24, part of a wider regeneration plan for restoring the High Street that has gained initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The designs on display included an observation tower with a viewing gallery and various different ideas for flexible community space.

Ross Ingham, of Ingham Pinnock Associates, the consultants overseeing the project, said that the overwhelming response to the ideas and taking action on this long-blighted site was extremely positive.

"The resounding view from previous consultations and discussions with local groups has been that something bold and exciting should be done with 24 High Street that makes a positive statement about Wisbech's future," he said.

 "Responding to this, the architects were asked to be creative and innovative rather than conservative or traditional.  Much of the other work that the project will deliver will focus on restoring traditional shop fronts and architectural detail but previous consultation has shown that there is a real appetite to be forward looking and do something different with this space.

"The five options on show reflected that. These are very initial ideas and overall the feedback we got was very positive."  

Councillor David Oliver, Fenland District Council's Cabinet member responsible for heritage, said: "The whole day went really well. We had a steady flow of people and the displays provoked a lot of comment, particularly the idea of a tower and viewing platform.

"Although this consultation focused particularly on the Cook's Butchers site, it also gave us the chance to update people on the progress of whole project and get their views on the best way to take it forward.

 "We're very encouraged by the amount of interest that people are showing."

During the consultation people were also able to try their hand at some decorative block paving and stencilling. Guided by members of the technology department at the College of West Anglia (CWA), they helped to produce a new hoarding for the front of Cook's Butchers building, featuring the logos of some of the High Street's historic shops.

Cllr Oliver said the hands-on activities had been particularly useful in terms of engaging families and young people.

Alan Seeley, the CWA's programme manager for technology at the Wisbech campus, said: "It was great to see some of the town's youngsters getting involved with the activities. It will be marvellous if in the coming months we have some of our apprentices working on the town's historic buildings, and helping to get them back to productive use."

The Wisbech High Street Project is being led by Fenland District Council alongside the Wisbech Society, Wisbech Town Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and more than 20 local stakeholders. It is also being supported by English Heritage.

In February Fenland District Council received a "first-round pass" from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a £2 million Townscape Heritage bid for the scheme. The project team is now working on the more detailed plans needed for its second round submission.

Representatives from many local community groups have met almost every month over the past two years to take the project forward.

The HLF funding is to be matched with investment led by Fenland District Council, which is contributing £230,000, along with Cambridgeshire County Council (£200,000), the Wisbech Society (£25,000) and Wisbech Town Council (£25,000).

Background notes: Heritage Lottery Fund-Townscape Heritage bids:

An HLF Townscape Heritage (TH) first-round pass means that money has been set aside by HLF. The applicants can then progress to the second round and send a detailed second-round submission to secure the full award.  This early level of strong financial commitment means that THs can build strong partnerships with the assurance that funding for their scheme is in place provided their final proposals fully meet the programme criteria.

THs encourage partnerships of local organisations to carry out repairs and other works to a number of historic buildings, structures or spaces. Grants are available from £100,000 up to £2 million.