Whittlesey – the forgotten town of the Fens

Supermarket saga ends in calamity..

10:40 Tuesday 12th January 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Many of you getting in touch this morning with regard to Whittlesey. David earlier saying, “Whittlesey has become the forgotten Fenland town.” Stewart Hill says, “Hi Paul. As I’ve been living in Whittlesey for 37 years it’s true. We’re bottom of the pecking order when it comes to having anybody thinking about our small town. Fenland District Council, shame on you.” says Stewart Hill this morning. The reason we’re talking about Whittlesey of course is because first there were two. Then there was only one. Now, there are no new supermarkets coming to Whittlesey. Sainsbury’s have announced they’re not building one there despite promising to do so, despite promising that beautiful country park. And apparently the sign is still up saying Country Park Coming Soon. About time you took it down I think. The people of Whittlesey, how do they feel this morning? Hard done by? Forgotten in Fenland? Is there a Cambridgeshire pecking order? Are you bottom of the list? Brian has called in, Brian Parker. Morning Brian.
PAUL STAINTON: What’s going on in Fenland?
BRIAN PARKER: Let me just go back to the sign, because I was involved with the people who were putting it up. It will come down obviously, but it only happened yesterday. (LAUGHS) Things move slowly in Fenland.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes I was talking metaphorically really.
BRIAN PARKER: Yeah I know I know.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s a sad .. I remember we were on Breakfast doing this story. It seems like it’s been going on as long as North Westgate in Peterborough, another promised development.
BRIAN PARKER: It’s been going on for years Paul, and to say we’re disappointed is an understatement. We feel let down. We feel angry. I’ve been on the Whittlesey blog this morning, speaking to so many people, and the people are just up in arms about the whole situation.
PAUL STAINTON: For those people who don’t live in Whittlesey, what have you got at the moment? What facilities have you got?
BRIAN PARKER: We’ve got a supermarket that’s not the cheapest in the land. And we’ve got a couple of small Netto and other little supermarkets. And that’s about it.
PAUL STAINTON: This is for a big big town really, isn’t it?

I think nothing short of an inquiry into the whole fiasco is needed now.

BRIAN PARKER: It is, and it’s getting bigger. Where Sainsbury’s was going to build, there’s up to a thousand houses being planned there. And to say that’s not viable, you know. Morrison’s did it at Cardea, and they’re up and running, and they’re doing very well.
PAUL STAINTON: The point is as well they were supposed to build this country park as well. It was all part of a grand scheme, a grand plan. They went to court. They fought Tesco’s. They fought, they won. And then nothing.
BRIAN PARKER: The country park was also going to be a business park, with a doctor’s and everything. The whole package was going to be good for Whittlesey. We not only fought Tesco’s. We also had to fight Fenland District Council, because at the onset, they voted to ..
PAUL STAINTON: Well they made a mess of it, didn’t they, completely made a mess of it.
BRIAN PARKER: They voted to kick out Sainsbury’s application.
PAUL STAINTON: And then they sacked the Planning Committee if memory serves me right.
BRIAN PARKER: They spoke up to it. Martin Curtis spoke up to it, and he got sacked.
PAUL STAINTON: And then the whole of the Planning Committee were fired if memory serves me. It was a right mess, wasn’t it?
BRIAN PARKER: I think nothing short of an inquiry into the whole fiasco is needed now. I know it’s going to cost money for that, but lessons have got to be learned. They’ve got to find out where the fault lies. And whoever’s responsible for it should definitely go. It’s as simple as that. It’s cost money. It’s cost money all the way down the line for the last four or five years. And to say that we’re angry is an understatement. We’ve got to get answers now, and only an inquiry can do this.
PAUL STAINTON: People getting in touch with us this morning saying look, we are the forgotten town when it comes to Cambridgeshire, when it comes to Fenland. Decisions are made and we’re not thought about. Are there other examples where Whittlesey is forgotten about? Is that true?
BRIAN PARKER: I’m involved with the Christmas Lights Appeal, and we’ve been involved with this since before Christmas. And this Christmas it could have been our last Christmas light-up. Because we got nothing. We got nothing from Fenland District Council. We got a little lump sum from the local council. But it’s all done on fundraising,. It’s all done on collecting tins, things like that. And yet March and all the rest of the big towns get a big lump sum. Why don’t we?
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. And you’re cut off at the moment, aren’t you, because the road’s closed again because of flooding. And the King’s Dyke effectively, the railway crossing there, it sort of cuts you off enough times an hour in the morning because of the railway. And that crossing is supposed to get built. Are you confident that’s going to happen?
BRIAN PARKER: (LAUGHS) Well no. No I’m not confident. I’m hoping it will be. They all say it’s going to be. But they said we’d get a supermarket. No I’m not confident. Our problem is as well we’ve got a by-pass right through the middle of our town. When they by-passed our town they put it through the middle. We’re the only Fenland town that hasn’t got a by-pass. we’ve got no major supermarket. Everything seems to be March, Chatteris, Wisbech. Nothing, nothing for Whittlesey. That’s my opinion.
PAUL STAINTON: What would you like to see happen? Would you like to see Whittlesey have a bigger voice?
BRIAN PARKER: Well yes. Most definitely. I think it’s getting a bigger voice via the people. People power won the day to get Sainsbury’s in the first place, because as I say at the planning meeting .. and even three weeks after the planning meeting Fenland District Council kicked it out again. So it had to go back to planning. So their attitude was right, we’ll have the next planning meeting in March, so no-one can turn up. But we turned up, and we again voiced our opinion. And it was passed again.
PAUL STAINTON: Brian, we’ve got to leave it there. Thank you for coming on this morning. Appreciate having your point of view. We’ll get in touch with Fenland District Council and get them to answer a couple of things that you said. Brian Parker thinks Whittlesey is the forgotten town of Fenland.