17:48 Friday 13th March 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS BERROW: Detailed proposals aimed at bringing about the wholesale regeneration of Wisbech and its surrounding area have been published. The project is called Wisbech 2020 Vision. It’s a twenty nine point action plan, and it was launched in January 2013. Now the idea is to make Wisbech a good place to work and a nice place to live. This morning there was a meeting to review the progress that’s been made so far. Steve Count is Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, and I asked him what progress has actually been made.
STEVE COUNT: It was a good news day. There was a whole raft of things that we were able to update people on. I think the big one that most people have been talking about is getting the railway line back to Wisbech. The progress on that has been very good. We’ve completed a GRIP 1 Study and a GRIP 2 Study, and we’re now commissioning and underway with a GRIP 3 Study. And these are the hoops that we have to get through in order to reopen a railway line that will link Wisbech with the national rail network. I think one of the things that people have realised now is that it’s not just good for the people of Wisbech, it’s good for the people of March, Manea, those that are along the line towards Cambridge. And also there’ll be benefits for the people of Cambridge, because if you look at the house prices in Cambridge which I think are quite a bit above £300,000 average, and just over £140,000 is the average prices in Wisbech. If we introduce that into the travel to work area for Cambridge, it’s going to be fantastic news for everyone.
CHRIS BERROW: Infrastructure is a problem in Wisbech. What other problems does it face?
STEVE COUNT: It’s got a multitude of problems. It’s got health issues, it’s got infrastructure in terms of not just the travelling to and from Wisbech but also the town centre has become rather worn over a period of time. There’s a lot of beautiful heritage buildings there that have simply not weathered the test of time. And some work’s been going on there. The District Council with a £200,000 contribution from the County Council has managed to attract some heritage Lottery funding, £2 million, the top bid in the country. And that’s being spent with private people being leveraged up, so that we can bring up some of those dilapidated buildings. And some of the buildings we’re not just talking about they need a bit of (UNCLEAR). Some of these are absolutely gutted by fire. As you approach Wisbech, a grand old building called Constantine House, the work’s been ongoing there. The roof’s about to go on, and we’re really starting to see that lift up. But it’s the aspirations as well. We’ve been concentrating a lot on skills this morning, trying to find a way forward on that particular subject. But also health. Health, Fenland and Wisbech has the worst metrics for the whole of Cambridgeshire, and smoking is particularly prevalent. And we were concentrating this morning on trying to find new ways to tackle that.
CHRIS BERROW: It’s a twenty nine point plan . Is that a bit too much to be taking on?
STEVE COUNT: No. No. And one of the reasons we’re able to take on so much work is because so many people believe in it, and so many people bring so many things into the game. So if you’re looking at the County Council, (they’re) the lead people on some of the projects. The MP is the lead on others. National Health, public health, the District Council, the Town Council – and once you start allocating leads to each of every one of these projects, you actually see them moving forward. So no, there’s a document out there easily available on the website, the County Council website or the District Council website. And it actually tracks each one of those points and where we’ve made progress on them.
CHRIS BERROW: It’s been over two years since its launch. How much progress have you made? Are you where you’d like to be, or would you like to be further down the line?
STEVE COUNT: I’ve got to say that I’m humbled by the amount of progress we’ve made. I would love to be further. Wouldn’t everybody? If you asked for something more, wouldn’t everybody love to say that they’re further down the line? But I do realise how big some of these projects are, the dualling of the A47, the railway line. And this was called 2020 for a reason, tha fact that it’s going to take a long while to get some of those big projects. But we’ve had wings along the way. Just recently the College of West Anglia secured another £6 million to build a teaching block, which raises the standards and the aspirations of the people there. We have £7 million built the original block. We put Awdry House there, which delivered 70 higher education jobs into that area. And I think we’ve got a lot to be proud of there. Just recently on some of the other tacks we received last year $19,000, £15,000 from the Arts Council and £4,000 from the County Council for arts funding, which is absolutely unheard of in that neck of the woods. And that delivered a three week residency there, which has gone on to be acclaimed widely as a success, leading onto three extra years of funding now, coming forward.
CHRIS BERROW: That’s Steve Count Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, with an update on the Wisbech 2020 Vision project.