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Multi-million pound bid to develop Garden Town plan

Ambitious plans to regenerate Wisbech with 10,000-12,000 homes over the next 40 years could move forward next week, if a £6.4 million funding bid is approved.

Wisbech South Brink

Fenland District Council will be asking the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) to approve the bid at its meeting on Wednesday, June 28, in order to progress the Wisbech Garden Town project to its next stage of development.

A report before the meeting said the Wisbech Garden Town concept was born last year out of the Wisbech 2020 Vision programme when associated partners recognised that high levels of deprivation in the area could only be reversed through growth of housing and the economy.

Initial work has already proven it has the potential to attract inward investment, improve transport links and positively impact the social wellbeing of the town by improving education attainment and health and raising its profile through branding.

There is strong support from all tiers of local government and North East Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay, but funding is now needed to examine whether the project is viable.

If approved, the CPCA investment would fund numerous feasibility studies over the next two years to see if key barriers to the delivery of the project, such as flood risk, transport issues and land acquisition, can be addressed and overcome. Other activity will look at opportunities to improve education attainment, health and the general environment.

Included in the bid is £3.2 million to carry out the next stage of the Wisbech Rail study. The report says the reopening of the rail link is seen as a "fundamental part of bringing about significant change to the area" by improving connectivity and unlocking many wider economic benefits.

In addition to asking the CPCA to support the funding bid, Fenland District Council will recommend that the Garden Town activity integrates with the Wisbech 2020 Vision programme to ensure "a holistic approach to the economic, social and environmental aspirations for the town".

Council Leader, Councillor John Clark, said: "All key partners, both public and private, are proud to be able to support this emerging proposal on behalf of the community of Wisbech and have come together with an unprecedented unity of purpose behind the Wisbech Garden Town proposal.

"There is a once in a lifetime window of opportunity now available to transform the future of Wisbech and its community. We are recommending that partners should recognise this opportunity and give their support to ensure its success."

CPCA Mayor James Palmer added: "The prosperity and profile of Wisbech will play a big role in the success of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and the Combined Authority wants to support the local community in achieving its vision for the future. The approval of this bid will be a huge step forward in bringing this project to fruition."

Councillor Charles Roberts, the CPCA's Portfolio Holder for Infrastructure, said: "It is important that we undertake feasibility studies to understand the most effective methods for attracting inward investment, improving transport links, boosting education attainment and drawing tourists to the region. This project will improve people's lives in Wisbech so it is vital we get it right."

Key stakeholders and the community will be engaged to help inform and shape the proposals throughout these exciting and ambitious plans for Wisbech.

Article added: June 22, 2017