Nick Clarke on His Day in Wisbech

17:20 Tuesday 6th March 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: Today the spotlight in Cambridgeshire very much on Wisbech, as the County Council held its Cabinet meeting there. Cllr. Nick Clark, Leader of the County Council, and Alan Melton, Leader of Fenland District Council, announced an ambitious vision for the town. Well Nick Clarke joined me a short time ago to explain. (TAPE)
NICK CLARKE: Wisbech, a vibrant town, the north of our county, the only port in the county, a place where we aim to help the economy grow, and somewhere that we’ve got a lot of trust and we’re making lots of investments in.
CHRIS MANN: One of the quotes attributed to you today is it’s currently “like driving through Beirut”. As bad as that, is it?
NICK CLARKE: No, not at all. You’re talking to the wrong people there Chris. What we are keen to do is to make sure that ..
CHRIS MANN: But did you say that?
NICK CLARKE: The point I was trying to make there Chris was that the Boathouse is a fantastic business-led centre, and what’s been happening is that the investment in that area isn’t going to happen for a little while. So it’s time to take down the boardings. It’s time to get some meadow grass there. It’s time for the County Council to put a little bit of money into the road there, to make it look like the fantastic place that it used to be.
CHRIS MANN: You see the Daily Mail has told the rest of the country recently that Wisbech is “terrorised by the Baltic Mafia.” Are they right?
NICK CLARKE: Of course they’re not right Chris. This is a vibrant town. It needs some help to reach its full potential, which we’re doing. We’re investing significant money in training facilities at the Engineering Centre at CWA. Superfast broadband will have an impact there. And of course today at Cabinet we’re talking about some of the drainage work that we need to do in Waterlees in Wisbech. I shouldn’t believe everything you read in the press, shall we say.
CHRIS MANN: But going there for the day to have your Cabinet meeting, it smacks a bit of tokenism. I remember the national Cabinet went to Bradford once, but they didn’t return very often. Will you be back?
NICK CLARKE: Of course we will. One thing that I was keen on was that this would not be about tokenism. Before Cabinet this morning, we had a business leaders’ meeting, where we got to hear what they had to say, and what we had to say. We had Full Cabinet. We then closed Cabinet down and had a question and answer session with members of the general public. We then went on to meet civic leaders in the Oasis Centre, which was a particularly fruitful meeting. And then my Cabinet, including myself, are going around organisations and institutions within Wisbech, to see what the real people have got to say. We’ve announced today as well the Wisbech 2020 Vision, so over the summer we’ll be doing a lot of research , working with Cambridge University, to come up with an evidence base, to decide on the strengths, the weaknesses of this town. And then we hope to bring together with Steven Barclay MP and the Leader of the District Council, we hope to bring together the good and the great of Wisbech to create a visioning group, very much like the Cambridge 2030 visioning group has been formed.
CHRIS MANN: Well we know what Cambridge can offer. We know what Peterborough can offer. We know lots of other parts of the county that can contribute. But what does Wisbech have to offer us. You yourself have talked about it as the poor relation of Cambridgeshire.
NICK CLARKE: Well some may say that. But what we’re trying to find out through this study, through this visioning group, is the actual strengths of this town, and clearly all areas have strengths. And we want to build on those strengths. And we need that to be evidence based. There’s no point sitting back with despair, and doom and gloom. It’s time to get on the front foot and be proactive. The place needs some civic leadership. Alan Melton, The Leader of Fenland District Council and I are pledging to give that civic leadership. And to be fair, if you were up here today Chris, the buzz in the town, and at the meetings that I’ve attended have been tremendous. People are certainly pulling together and up for the challenge. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: Nick Clarke, the Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, on his day in Wisbech.