Combined authority ‘safeguard’ support for Wisbech High Street project confirmed by Fenland Council leader

Fenland District Council has agreed to bring derelict properties at 11-12 High Street, Wisbech, back

Fenland District Council has agreed to bring derelict properties at 11-12 High Street, Wisbech, back into use. The images, of the front façade of the properties, show the extent of the disrepair. Picture: FDC - Credit: Archant

Confirmation that Mayor James Palmer’s combined authority will stand ‘guarantor’ to Fenland Council’s plans to regenerate 11 and 12 High Street, Wisbech, was given by council leader Chris Seaton.

Cllr Seaton told Thursday’s meeting that the derelict site had now been bought by the district council and was ready for re-development once negotiations with the prospective developer were complete.

He was responding to a question by Lib Dem councillor Gavin Booth who wanted an update on the project.

Cllr Seaton explained that the only involvement of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority was as “acting a safeguard should the developer not be able to complete the development”.

Commitment by the combined authority to the project meant they would fund the development to completion should it ever became necessary.

Fenland Council is drawing down lottery funding to complete the work but needed guarantees in place to secure the cash.

Cllr Seaton said that as work happens on the scheme, the money will be paid incrementally to the developer and so effectively the guarantee lessens as work gets under way and progresses.

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He also made it clear that Fenland Council retains the freehold with conditions of transfer on completion.

Cllr Seaton said: “I am aware of no problem with the developer and we do have necessary backing from the combined authority to assist in this project.”

When the cabinet of Fenland Council debated the issue last September they reached an ‘in principle’ agreement to make a compulsory purchase order (CPO) on the derelict site.

Fenland Council said it was only intending to use the CPO as a fall-back position if the London based private owner – who bought the site 24 years ago – fails to reach agreement on its future.

The council narrowly won support from councillors to establish “a compelling case in the public interest” to use a CPO to improve the economic, social or environmental well-being of the district.

Councillors were warned that unless something is done – quickly – to resolve the derelict and decaying site, lottery funding being drawn down to assist with the town’s economic revival could be at jeopardy.

11-12 High Street comprises two separate Grade II listed buildings dating back to the 18th century although little of historic value is left.