Inter faith group urges those preparing for new Wisbech garden town must ensure communities are brought together

Left to right Sean Finlay, Wisbech Interfaith Forum, Rev. Matthew Bradbury, St. Peter's Church of E

Left to right Sean Finlay, Wisbech Interfaith Forum, Rev. Matthew Bradbury, St. Peter's Church of England, Pritty Khetani, (WIF), Captain Paul Cooper, Salvation Army Citadel, Rev. Kevin Newton, Wisbech Baptist Church, Bharat Khetani, (WI) - Credit: Archant

Fears of Wisbech becoming split into two communities if the garden town project goes ahead have been expressed by a group that brings Christian and non Christian religions together.

The recent annual meeting of the Wisbech Interfaith Forum was followed by a debate entitled ‘Wisbech 2020: a faith perspective’.

Spokesman Sean Finlay said: “The forum felt that there is no provision for faith in Wisbech 2020 plan.”

He said as a result three local clergy, Rev Matthew Bradbury, Captain Paul Cooper and Rev Kevin Newton, had been invited to air their views.

Mr Finlay said: “The panel all reflected on their current provisions of pastoral care and planned increases in supporting the community with various church led projects.

“All felt that while it would be very nice to see the town grow in line with the plans, which will hopefully bring in new jobs and industries, they all felt concerned “

He said one expressed the view that “we must ensure that we don’t create two towns, the existing one and a new community with its own identity.”

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He said the view was that any growth must ensure that it enhances the town of Wisbech and brings all residents together whether it is the new talent who may be working in Cambridge, while living here or those who have lived here for generations.

“The latter must not be left behind,” said Mr Finlay.

He said there was concern that, as one of the most deprived areas of Cambridgeshire, this needs to be addressed before other spending.

He said the Rev Newton explained that the food bank operates from his Baptist church and there are unprecedented levels of demand, with pressures increasing, at least in the short term, as the Government’s Universal Credit Scheme rolls out locally in April 2018.

Mr Finlay said: “They all also felt that the faith groups must reach out to all people, the current migrants as well as those that may come in with the new development, and not stay within their own comfort zones.

“As people of faith we should be proactive in doing this and not wait until problems arise.”

An audience of around 30 people attended and Mr Finlay said they were emphatic that Wisbech 2020 “must not just be about bricks and mortar but what will create vibrant communities”.

He said this needed to include open spaces; accessible and affordable transport links between the various parts of the town including the proposed new railway station.

Mr Finlay said it was felt new schools which are community hubs should have a “sacred space” which is available to residents.