Fenland Council reveals £2.03m bid to Government to fund crucial next stage of Wisbech ‘garden town’ proposals that could bring 12,000 new homes - and a railway

These are the results of the survey conducted by Fenland Council when they asked residents about exp

These are the results of the survey conducted by Fenland Council when they asked residents about expanding Wisbech under the Government's 'garden town' proposals. Rail is top priority. - Credit: Archant

The Government is to be asked for £2.03 million for the next stage of Fenland District Council’s bid to regenerate Wisbech through designating it a ‘garden town’ to allow 10,000-12,000 homes over 40 years.

Corporate directorate Gary Garford will seek approval from Cabinet next week to submit the funding bid that follows an initial launch last year of the ‘garden town’ concept, central to which is re-opening of the Wisbech to March rail line.

Mr Garford says if the Government agrees to pay the money the council will have two years to put flesh on the ‘garden town’ bones and allow for a final approach to determine its viability and progress to the delivery stage.

“Initial work has proven it has the potential to lever in investment for a variety of transport and regeneration infrastructure,” he said.

“In addition it has the capacity to positively impact on the social wellbeing of the town by realising aspirations and improving education attainment along with developing a new branding and profile for the town.

“There is strong support from all tiers of local government across the area along with initial support from the community.”

Mr Garford said the devolution proposals show support for the concept and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) seconded a senior manager to assist the council to prepare its submission to the Government.

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He said the Wisbech 2020 programme has delivered and initiated significant projects – and continues to be proactive with a refresh of the programme this summer- and Anglian Water had joined as a private partner to help with infrastructure needs.

Mr Garford will remind Cabinet of the work done in the past year to drive the project forward with a focus not only on re-instatement of a rail link but also advancing the need for upgrading the A47 from Thorney through to Walpole Highway.

Other key infrastructure such as a western relief road, new river crossing, country park, flood mitigation, schools and community facilities would be included.

“It should also be stressed that the proposal includes for an integrated proposal so both the existing and the proposed communities benefit from the new growth,” he said.

Mr Garford said the council tested the water locally last September and October with both an online survey and a market stall that found 68 per cent of respondents supporting the garden town plans, 20 per cent were unsure and only 12 per cent were unsupportive.

“Steve Collins from the HCA was seconded to work on the project from the end of January to the end of March 2017,” said Mr Garford. “He has been working closely with council officers and a steering group “to build upon, challenge and drill down on previously produced material in order to prepare a proposal that will inspire confidence in Government to support the garden town proposition”.

He said the outcome of the work will be to submit a proposal to the HCA and Government to include Wisbech in its garden town prospectus programme.

If the Government funds the development work, a project team of technical professionals will look at flooding, highways, land acquisition, ground investigation, ecology, open space, design, social impact assessment, viability and development appraisal together with a branding and communications strategy.