Labour Euro MEP Howitt accused of “jumping in with two feet” over alleged BBC comments by Fenland leader

PUBLISHED: 11:39 19 March 2012 | UPDATED: 14:58 19 March 2012

Fenland District Council leader Alan Melton and MEP Richard Howitt

Fenland District Council leader Alan Melton and MEP Richard Howitt

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LABOUR MEP Richard Howitt has been accused of “jumping in with two feet” after claiming Fenland District Council Leader Alan Melton allegedly snubbed a bid to help regenerate Wisbech shops.

Cllr Melton said the interview on the BBC Politics show on Sunday was heavily edited “and Richard Howitt needs to see the full context of the interview before jumping in with two feet”.

Mr Howitt said he was “shocked to take part in the television debate in which Cllr Melton said shopping in the town would have to contract and that ‘this is not the sort of place people want to browse and pick up knock-knacks’”

The Cambridgeshire Euro MP said he was supporting the Portas bid to get Wisbech £100,000 to rejuvenate shops “and the local council should not accept as inevitable that shops must close. There is no reason at all why Wisbech can’t be an attractive town centre with distinctive and thriving shop.”

Cllr Melton said he did indeed the use the work ‘knick knack’ but “what I actually said was ‘the shopping centre will probably have to contract’. I also said ‘what Wisbech needs is a high quality anchor store in the centre, to draw people into the centre. At the moment this is not the sort of place people want to browse and pick up knick knacks.’”

Cllr Melton added: “I am committed to the redevelopment of the town centre of Wisbech but as I said in a recent speech it is time for a major re-think, with nothing ruled in or out.”

He said the BBC interview took 75 minutes and Mr Howitt had latched onto a small section “which didn’t reflect my true feelings.”

The council leader added that he had also asked for “discretion around business rates and business rate holidays to encourage growth and enterprise in the town centre.”

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