Combined Authority agrees vital support for March's transformational high street project

District and town councillors for March are delighted that the town's Future High Streets Fund project can push ahead as planned - thanks to a £1.1million lifeline from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA).

Future High Street Fund

At a recent Combined Authority board meeting, Mayor Dr Nik Johnson proposed, and Members voted unanimously to maintain the money awarded to Fenland District Council by the previous Mayoral administration to keep its 'once-in-a-generation' plans for March on track.

Last year, the Government announced on Boxing Day that it was giving £6.47million in future high streets funding to the March project to transform the areas around Broad Street, the Market Place, and the riverside, as well as reviving the Acre Road area.

The Government award required match funding, so in January this year the CPCA Board agreed to commit £900,000 from the March Growing Fenland Masterplan Project, part of CPCA's Market Towns Programme, to the scheme. However, an agreement in principle by former mayor James Palmer to give a further £1.1million in match-funding was never ratified by the Board before he left office in May.

Without the extra £1.1million, the Government would likely have cut its grant, weakening the whole project, and losing the Acre Road development scheme in its entirety.

However, the Board unanimously voted through the £1.1million, making an overall Combined Authority contribution of £2million and ensuring March does not lose out.

Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough said: "Through cooperation, we can take decisions that start sharing prosperity more widely across Cambridgeshire.  I'm absolutely determined that members of the Combined Authority will work together beyond politics to bring March, Wisbech and all Fenland the better deal they're entitled to, not just now, but in future. We all know they've been sidelined in the past, and that stops now. It's my mission to help Fenland communities like March release the full potential of their beautiful and distinctive area."  

Cllr Chris Seaton, Fenland District Council's Portfolio Holder for Social Mobility and Heritage, said: "This is wonderful news for March. Without the additional £1.1million the whole project could have been in jeopardy. Now we can breathe a sigh of relief and push ahead with the exciting proposals as planned."

Cllr Jan French, Deputy Leader of Fenland District Council and county, district and town ward member for March, said: "We could not be more grateful for the support that the Mayor and the CPCA Board members have shown for this project, for our town and for Fenland as a whole. The investment in March will make a huge difference to our residents, businesses and visitors, which will be especially welcome as we recover from the Covid pandemic."

Cllr Steve Count, Leader of the Conservative group at Cambridgeshire County Council and district ward member for March, added: "There has been a lot of work behind the scenes on the March future high streets project already, so it would have been extremely disappointing to see any of that go to waste. I'm delighted that Mayor Dr Nik Johnson has supported this fantastic scheme and really look forward to seeing it come to fruition."

The March Future High Street Fund project will support five major schemes; these are:

  • Transformation of Broad Street, with more pedestrian space and less traffic and a focus on improving the public realm and shopper experience
  • Integrating the riverside areas into Broad Street, to improve visibility and access
  • Transforming the Market Place into more of a community space for markets, events, and performances
  • Regenerating the Acre Road area into an attractive, multi-use development
  • Retail interventions to bring vacant units back into use, improve the façade of shops and attract more shoppers into town

The project will also work in conjunction with the March Area Transport Strategy (MATS), which is being delivered by the Combined Authority, Cambridgeshire County Council, and Fenland District Council.

The MATS project will address existing traffic flow problems in Broad Street, with the FHSF project developing the public realm following the road alterations. Together the projects will improve traffic flows in the town centre, whilst allowing Broad Street to become more pedestrian and cycle friendly.

Article date: August 2021

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