Councillors vow to battle to save the Wisbech Driving Test Centre, which has been earmarked to close
COUNCILLORS last night vowed to battle and save Wisbech driving test centre, amid claims its closure will cost Fenland people an extra �1million to take their tests. The Driving Standards Agency announced last week it is closing the centre as part of a co
COUNCILLORS last night vowed to battle and save Wisbech driving test centre, amid claims its closure will cost Fenland people an extra �1million to take their tests.
The Driving Standards Agency announced last week it is closing the centre as part of a cost-cutting plan, meaning Fenland learners will face trips to King's Lynn or Peterborough for their driving test.
But Fenland councillors expressed their horror at not being told the result of a consultation into the centre's closure which was carried out two years ago.
That review was not published because under the DSA's code of practice if there is another driving test centre within a 20-mile radius and it's a cost-cutting plan they do not have to consult anybody - they can just announce the closure.
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The issue was brought up as an urgent matter at last night's extraordinary council meeting, with a rallying call for support led by Councillor David Oliver.
He said: "The DSA state closure will be cost-effective for them - my understanding is that it will save in the region of �12,000 a year.
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"However, Fenland people will not benefit from this saving - some will face a 56-mile round trip. All learners will have to travel to King's Lynn for familiarisation lessons and for the test.
"Two-and-a-half thousand people use Wisbech test centre every year. It could place an additional financial burden collectively of between �500,000 and �1million for learners, employees and school bosses.
"The DSA don't seem to have taken this into consideration because these costs are additional lessons, additional time that learners will have to take off work and out of education, and additional wear and tear on instructors' vehicles. In addition to the financial implications, there will be additional journey impact environmentally through emissions and congestion. Road safety could become an issue.
"In conclusion the DSA will save �12,000 and Fenland people will be disadvantaged to the extent that some people may not be able to continue to be able to drive. Driving is a valuable and important qualification."
All the councillors at the meeting supported the call to save the centre, but some were more sceptical than others about how successful the council's campaign will be.
Councillor Simon King said: "This is of great concern to the people of Wisbech. I suggest our new leader (Councillor Alan Melton) writes a letter requesting a meeting to discuss the issue."
Councillor Mac Cotterell said: "We are going to fight until it sinks. Again, it is another thing Wisbech cannot lose. It is not just the town of Wisbech, but the surrounding villages and he other people who have to use it.
"Please, support Wisbech on this one - don't let Fenland lose yet another facility."
Cllr Melton said: "Fenland is about to grow greatly but so is West Norfolk. It is short-sighted.
"I am quite happy to consult with officers and get a letter out as quickly as possible to express our horror at this decision without any consultation or coming back to us."
Councillor Jan French said: "I do sympathise with what you say but really this is a bit late in the day. This consultation was a couple of years ago. I think we missed the bar."
Councillor Steve Count suggested a taskforce is drawn up, led by Cllr Oliver, to look at ways of fighting the closure.