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Cabinet Minister's visit a big boost for Wisbech

The joint efforts to regenerate Wisbech and its surrounding area have received a big boost from the visit of a senior Government minister. In particular, it has given fresh impetus to the campaign for the re-opening of the Wisbech-Cambridge rail link.

Greg Clark Wisbech visit

Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, spent more than three hours in the town on Wednesday (March 30).

The visit included a meeting with about 50 councillors, council officers, local MP Stephen Barclay and other leading members of the community as well as a walkabout through the town. He also visited Thomas Clarkson Academy.

The focus was on the proposal to create a "garden town" that could bring an extra 8-10,000 homes, an enterprise park, new schools and a retirement village.

Mr Clark described Wisbech as "a place that has a great history but also a great future".

He said: "What was really impressive today, not just walking about the town but seeing people here from all of the different councils in the area, including over the border in Norfolk, businesses, members of the community, the head teacher of one of the local schools - everyone joining forces to really drive home the prospects for Wisbech. I was really keen to come and I'm very enthused by what I've seen."

He said he was "very supportive" of the proposal to restore the Wisbech-Cambridge rail link. He couldn't give a guarantee that it would go ahead, saying "we're not at that stage yet". But he said: "It's obvious what a transformational effect that would have here in Wisbech. It would also be good for Cambridge and the rest of Cambridgeshire as well,

"We're doing the feasibility studies but the fact that it's a mothballed line rather than a new one makes it more straightforward than in other parts of the country where people are pressing for brand new lines, so I hope that will be an advantage.

"Obviously we need to see the report but there's nothing like being here and seeing it with your own eyes to bring it home what a big improvement this would be.

"I think it's a big advantage that you've got the local MP, the local councils, the local community coming together, so now that I've seen it - the town and the prospects - with my own eyes, I'm in a good place to have these discussions with my colleagues in government, including the Transport Department.

Stephen Barclay MP said: "To have a senior Cabinet minister coming here and  looking at the Wisbech to Cambridge rail re-opening signals how seriously this is being taken in Whitehall. It's just a further positive step."

Fenland District Council leader Councillor John Clark said:: "It was a very positive visit. The Secretary of State was extremely generous with his time and obviously very keen to meet everyone and hear what we all had to say.

"We're grateful to have had the opportunity to send our message directly to the heart of government and that can only be helpful in keeping up the momentum we are now generating.

"He was clearly impressed by the enthusiasm shown by everyone for the Garden Town concept and told us that for some time he had thought that Wisbech was one of the places in the country that had the greatest potential.

"We're certainly confident that we got our message across. Now we're looking to build on the success of today's visit and work closely with the Government and all our other key partners to take this vision forward."

Article added April 1, 2016