Floods prompt calls for a Welney workround

Locals want action on massive diversions

flood08:20 Thursday 14th January 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Drivers are continuing to face diversions of up to 35 miles because of flooding at Welney Wash. The road’s regularly shut following heavy rain. In fact between late-2012 and early-2013 it was closed for around 50 days. Electronic signs now warn drivers on approaching routes when the road is impassable, but progress on any physical alterations to the road like raising it have been slow. The MP for North East Cambridgeshire Steven Barclay will once again raise the issue at a flood summit on Friday. Our reporter Tom Horn is on the Cambridgeshire side of Welney Wash this morning. Tom, is it snowing where you are?
TOM HORN: Good morning Dotty from a misty and pretty freezing Welney Wash. We’ve had a bitter mix of sleet and snow and rain over the last 45 minutes or so since I’ve been here, but it’s just turned to absolute biting cold wind here. I’ve seen swans from the nearby nature reserve fly overhead since I’ve been here as well. I’m just pulled over on the side of the A1101 just before it is flooded. The landscape here Dotty ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: Tom I’m really sorry. I think we’re going to have to leave it there, because the signal in Welney is letting us down a little bit this morning. Apologies for that. Tom though has been speaking to a few drivers on the road this morning. Here’s what one of them told him.
TOM HORN: Where are you on your way to this morning then?
DRIVER: Wisbech.
TOM HORN: Yes. Wisbech. Where have you come from?
DRIVER: Heathrow.
TOM HORN: Heathrow. So you’ve been on the road already a bit this morning.
DRIVER: Yes. Since four this morning.
TOM HORN: So you’re trying to cross Welney Wash just here, but the road ahead of you is closed so you’ve pulled over. Talk me through what’s happened.
DRIVER: Well I don’t know. There’s been nothing on the radio. I’ve obviously got Travel on all the time. It picks up your local station as well, and nothing. No warning. And the sat-nav hasn’t picked it up either which it should do because it’s live. What do I do now?
TOM HORN: Did you notice any of the electronic signs on the way here at all?
DRIVER: None at all. Was there?
TOM HORN: There is one just about near Littleport I think and there’s another just behind us, but that’s right on where we are, isn’t it? So what is it now? A case of diversion? Have you got somewhere to be for a certain time, obviously Wisbech ?
DRIVER: Well I’m alright for time, but just trying to work out another route now I suppose.
DOTTY MCLEOD: We have had reports this morning that some drivers are ignoring the signs and driving along the road regardless. The diversions that are in place, if you’re journeying between Littleport and Wisbech, you either have to divert via Downham Market which is 25 miles or so, or Chatteris which is 35 miles or so. So not an insignificant inconvenience really. But this has been going on for years hasn’t it? Twenty three minutes past eight. Let’s talk to Louise Villis who’s the owner of a children’s party supply store on the Norfolk side of the wash. Morning Louise.
LOUISE VILLIS: Good morning.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So what kind of problems does it cause you when this road is closed?
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Despite bank closure Leader believes the future is bright for Littleport

littleport08:19 Friday 17th July 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Here’s the claim this morning: retailers need to work together if they and the town centres they inhabit are to survive. That’s what one local businessman has told me this morning. It comes as shoppers in an East Cambridgeshire town say it’s centre is now just dead. The comments come as the MP for North East Cambridgeshire met with officials from Barclays Bank, trying to convince them not to close the last remaining bank in Littleport. Steve Barclay, for that is co-incidentally his name, was joined by local councillors at the House of Commons. If the bank does shut in October, it will be the latest in a long line of amenities to be lost from the town. Tom Horn has this report from Littleport.
TOM HORN: Littleport is perhaps no longer known for its bustling town centre. Previously it boasted several bakers, clothes stores, a bridal shop, a fruit and veg outlet, butchers, several pubs and three banks. Despite the recent addition of hundreds of new homes, down the years that list has slowly dwindled. Now with Littleport likely to lose its last bank too, these shoppers say the town centre desperately needs attention.
SHOPPER 1: We had two chemists, and I do believe that chemist is closing down as well and going into the doctors. I know they’re still going to be about. And we’ve only just got the Co-op up here now really for food shopping.
SHOPPER 2: It’s sad to see some of them closing, because we’ve lost the butcher haven’t we, and a few other shops.
SHOPPER 3: Just lots of take-aways now. There used to be three banks, and you could get all you wanted, but it has changed from what it was years ago when I was a youngster. There was a choice of the shoe shops. There was a shop of every description.
TOM HORN: Well people who have seen first hand the impact of the shrinking town centre are of course those who do still work there. I went into the Boswell & Sons bakery on Littleport’s Main Street. How long have you lived in Littleport, or worked in Littleport?
BAKER: All my life.
TOM HORN: What’s the high street like now compared to what it’s been through the years?
BAKER: Dead.
TOM HORN: What makes you say that?
BAKER: It’s because there’s nobody about. There’s nothing really to draw people into Littleport. People go out of the village I think. And we used to do really well. It used to be really busy. But we’re not even busy now.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Tom Horn there reporting from Littleport. With me now James Palmer, who is the Conservative Leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council. So James, going, going, gone. Or dying, dying, dead. Do you agree that Littleport is on its knees?
JAMES PALMER: Well I hope it’s not on its knees, but …
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well plenty of people who live there think so James.
JAMES PALMER: Well I think Littleport is reflecting the way that people shop now in the modern era. And we can do all we can to try and encourage people to shop in town centres. In interviews and things like this the people always say yes, we want to shop in our town centre, but it’s just not seen on the footfall in town centres. It’s the modern way of shopping. People go out of town, they work out of town, and they shop out of town. And it’s not just Littleport that’s suffering in this way, it’s similar villages and towns right across the country.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So that’s it is it? A hopeless case.
JAMES PALMER: No I don’t think so. I think what you can do or what we are trying to do is encouraging business growth in the village, trying to get jobs, people to work in the village. And obviously we know and you will know that we’ve got growth plans for Littleport, for more people to live there. I think some 1,500 new houses going into Littleport in the next five to ten years. So it’s not a give-up on the town centre in any sense of imagination. Of course not. It’s doing what we can. But councils only have so much, so many, powers. They cannot force people to shop in town centres.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Of course they can’t, and I think everyone would accept that. There’s been some claims from some people who live in East Cambridgeshire and who live in Littleport that really you at the District Council, you only really care about Ely. And places like Littleport don’t get a look in.
JAMES PALMER: Well that’s completely wrong. If you were to speak to the local councillors that work very hard with the County to put together newsletters, and I know that David Ambrose Smith and Christine Ambrose Smith over the last four years they’ve spent many many hours trying to build up Littleport town centre, trying to get shopkeepers involved in their ideas, and trying to get the people of Littleport out shopping in Littleport.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Let’s go to Claire Wright, who works for the Country Land and Business Association as their East Regional Surveyor, because Claire you feel that hope might be on the horizon for communities like Littleport.
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Wisbech rail line one step closer

freight_train17:41 Wednesday 1st April 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

SAM EDWARDS: It’s been announced that £10.5 million of funding has been unlocked for the Wisbech rail scheme. It was news announced today by the Conservative candidate for North East Cambridgeshire Stephen Barclay, who of course has been the MP for the constituency for the past five years. Wisbech would be reconnected to the national network by restoring the line between the Fenland town and March, in turn linking it with Cambridge, Peterborough and Ely, as well as many other places across the United Kingdom. Chris Burton is the vice-chairman of Railfuture East Anglia.
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Mixed feelings in Fenland on Tesco retrenchment

victory08:26 Friday 9th January 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: A £22 million Tesco store which was due to open in Chatteris last year has been binned by the retail giant. The sprawling store had been earmarked to open its doors to customers two months ago, but has ended up on the scrapheap without serving a single customer. The store is one of 49 planned new-builds shelved by the retailer, including stores planned for Ely and Whittlesey. Martin Curtis is the Conservative county councillor for Whittlesey North. Martin, what did you think about this, this news that there will be no Tesco store now in Whittlesey?
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Cambridgeshire MP calls for Network Rail to be opened up to scrutiny

railway_line09:20 Friday 5th September 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: The MP for North East Cambridgeshire Stephen Barclay wants David Cameron to confirm when Network Rail will be accountable to the public. At the moment it’s not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, and according to the MP, with £34 billion added to the national debt this week from Network Rail at a stroke, that needs to change. So what do you think about giving a company billions of pounds, when there’s no way of finding out publicly how where or when the money is spent? Well Stephen Barclay is here. Stephen morning.
STEPHEN BARCLAY: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s almost inconceivable that can be right.
STEPHEN BARCLAY: It is, and I think it’s a matter of time that those paying their rail fares will want to see this done quickly. It’s not just the Freedom of Information that we need opening Network Rail up to, it’s also to give the National Audit Office unfettered access. At the moment, the National Auditors have to go through the Rail Regulator, which creates a barrier in terms of the scrutiny that our public money is under. So I think we do need to let the public have access to information, and really open up the challenge that informed people in the community, particularly those with a knowledge of railways, or engineering, someone who perhaps has had a lifetime as an engineer, allow them to start looking at some of the infrastructure projects, and see whether we can deliver them in a more cost-effective way.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. It’s almost like it’s been all done behind closed doors, with billions and billions of pounds of our money.
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Cambridgeshire – a Modest Growth Deal with Conditions Attached

greg_hands07:19 Monday 7th July 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: Over £21 million of Government money is to be pumped into the Cambridgeshire economy next year, with more payments to follow. It’s part of the Government’s £12 billion pot of Growth Deals, handed out to local Enterprise Partnerships to encourage business and innovation over the next six years. The money has been given a cautious welcome by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership, but they’ve expressed disappointment there wasn’t more cash for our county. The Minister for Cities Greg Clark is here now. Morning Greg.
GREG CLARK: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Why wasn’t there more cash for Cambridgeshire?
GREG CLARK: (LAUGHS) Well Cambridgeshire has been doing pretty well recently. We signed the City Deal with the Cambridge area just a few weeks ago. That was investing half a billion pounds into the roads infrastructure of the area. We’ve got another £71 million coming in to Cambridgeshire, with some fantastic projects. So the Enterprise Zone over at Alconbury, a new expansion of the Welding Institute there, so bringing more high-skilled jobs into the area.
PAUL STAINTON: When you look at the level of immigration though into the county, when you look at the level of immigration into Wisbech and Peterborough and places like that, we haven’t got the cash we deserve, have we?
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Virginia Bucknor on 2020 Vision for Wisbech

crescent_wisbech10:09 Thursday 5th June 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDIE HARPER: At the start of 2013 a Vision was announced and outlined for Wisbech, a town fed up with its own image. Cambridgeshire County Council, Fenland District Council and Steve Barclay the MP for the area got together and devised Wisbech 2020, a plan of positive changes to implement in the town by 2020. The then Leader of Fenland District Council, Alan Melton, explained the plans to Paul Stainton on the Bigger Breakfast Show back in January 2013.
PAUL STAINTON: So what is this Vision? What is this future for Wisbech? The future’s bright, the future’s Wisbech. What is it?
ALAN MELTON: Well the future will be bright, and the future is Wisbech. It came about because a lot of bad publicity around Wisbech. Everybody says, in a sentence that includes the word Wisbech, deprivation, dilapidation, dilapidated buildings, poor infrastructure. This is something that we wish to address, and over the coming years as part of the 2020 Vision we’re going to be very proactive in addressing these problems.
PAUL STAINTON: What is the Vision then?
ALAN MELTON: The Vision is better education, better skills, better infrastructure, better buildings, better quality of life.
PAUL STAINTON: So it’s a wish-list basically.
ALAN MELTON: In the present economic circumstances you could say it’s a wish-list. It’s something that we can work to. We have some short-term aims, and we have some long-term aims.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s 2020 Alan. OK?
PAUL STAINTON: Close your eyes.
PAUL STAINTON: Everybody in Wisbech close your eyes. It’s 2020.
PAUL STAIN TON: What does Wisbech look like?
ALAN MELTON: Wisbech looks better because the buildings and quality are better. By then the old dilapidated buildings would have been removed. The infrastructure would be improved. The only thing that I don’t think we should get by 2020, and I’m a realist, is the A47 dualling.
PAUL STAINTON: Alan it’s a dream for Wisbech. Let’s hope one day that dream comes true.
ALAN MELTON: You’ve got to follow your dreams Paul. You’ve got to follow your dreams.
ANDIE HARPER: FDC Council Leader at the time Alan Melton talking to Paul Stainton. Well just under eighteen months on we’ve been contacted by a councillor who wants to know the progress of at least the short-term targets that Alan mentioned. Independent councillor Virginia Bucknor says a meeting had been planned to deliver key updates, but now it’s been postponed, seemingly indefinitely. When I spoke to her she was very cross.
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Paul Bullen and Steve Tierney – the Political Outlook for Cambridgeshire

foxy08:20 Thursday 29th May 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[C]HRIS MANN: The elections may be over, but the fallout from the results is only just beginning it appears. UKIP of course grabbed most of the headlines, and their rise has been particularly strong in Cambridgeshire. In fact Fenland saw the fifth biggest percentage of people voting for UKIP in the UK, and their vote share has, well, rocketed from just 5% in 2011 to a whopping 47% in this year’s Euro elections. So could that mean the area that’s traditionally True Blue is going to turn purple? I’m joined now on the line by Paul Bullen, who’s Leader of UKIP at Cambridgeshire County Council. Hello Paul.
PAUL BULLEN: Good morning.
CHRIS MANN: Still celebrating?
PAUL BULLEN: Ah. I think the celebrations are finished now. It’s down to hard work and planning for the elections next year.
CHRIS MANN: Also with us is Steve Tierney, the Chairman of Wisbech Conservatives. How have you got through the last few days?
STEVE TIERNEY: Very well thank you. Yes. (LAUGHS)
CHRIS MANN: Not feeling down in the dumps, the way that you’ve been dumped at the ballor box by the voters of Cambridgeshire?
STEVE TIERNEY: Well, you know, the election was disappointing, and obviously we would have liked to have done better. But you look at these things and decide what to do about them and you move on.
CHRIS MANN: So Paul Bullen, what are UKIP going to change in Cambridgeshire, realistically?
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