Category Archives: Fenland District Council
FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL
July 28, 2017
All aboard for bus service launch
It was all aboard in Wisbech as the Wisbech Tesco Bus Service celebrated its official launch.
Three weeks after the No 68 service went into operation, civic dignitaries and business representatives gathered at the Horsefair Bus Station on Friday, July 21, for a special launch event.
Guests were welcomed by Councillor Simon King, Fenland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Transport, who told how the service had been designed through the authority’s Wisbech Bus Service Project using Tesco S106 funding.
Created following the withdrawal of the failed Tesco 66 Service last year, the project was set up to develop a community-led approach to a new bus service design and offered a genuine opportunity for local residents to influence a new route and timetable.
Belinda Pedler, the Council’s Wisbech Bus Service Project Co-ordinator, also provided guests with an insight into her work with the community, public transport providers and organisations over the last few months to design and plan the new service.
Feedback from bus service users before the 66 service was withdrawn revealed what wasn’t working and where improvements could be made, and gave the Council a strong focus to make the new service work better.
It meant the 68 service would not only provide access to Tesco Extra and other businesses in Cromwell Road, but also to local healthcare, education and community facilities, as well as residential parts of South and North-West Wisbech not served by other public transport.
Guests also enjoyed a trip on the bus service to Tesco Extra, where they enjoyed refreshments from Tesco and Costa and a speech from Wisbech Mayor Steve Tierney.
Cllr Tierney said: “The Wisbech Bus Service Project is a unique approach putting local customers’ needs at the heart of bus service design. At a time when many public transport services are being withdrawn, the decision to maximise the potential of the Tesco S106 funding this way is very important.
“It is great to see a project delivered with such a strong emphasis on local engagement. No one knows better what local peoples’ needs are than local people themselves. To focus on a community-led design for a new local bus service will surely make all the difference in ensuring it becomes a successful, long term service.”
Passengers who had travelled on the new service since its launch on July 3 were also entered into a prize draw to win a luxury hamper from Tesco. The winner, announced at the launch event, was Lucy Moody, of Wisbech.
The bus service will initially run as a 12-month pilot and if successful will aim to become a permanent local bus service. It is operated by Fenland Area Community Transport (FACT), although you do not need to be a member of FACT to use the service.
For more information on timetables, routes and fares (free to concessionary bus pass holders), visit: www.fenland.gov.uk/wisbechtescobus
Also keep a look out on Twitter (@FenlandCitizen) and the council’s Facebook page in the coming months for more bus service competitions and offers.
Love Your Home with seaside crafts
Residents young and old can enjoy seaside themed arts and crafts when the latest Love Your Home event is held in Wisbech.
The community event is held at the Queen Mary Centre on the second Tuesday of every month from 10am to 1pm, with the next one taking place on August 8.
Visitors will be able to try their hands at making sand pictures and seaside themed jewellery, painting pebbles and sewing a fishing game, and Anglian Water representatives will be presenting ‘Mad Science’.
The Love Your Home events invite residents to have a go at DIY, decorating, crafts, gardening and more to help them pick-up valuable skills.
They also offer a pop-up paint store and scrapstore from CCORRN (Cambridgeshrie Community Reuse and Recycle Network), a gift swap shop, guest contributors and help and support to get online.
Entry, activities and refreshments are free and there are also five free annual CCORRN memberships up for grabs at each event.
The events are organised and delivered by CCORRN with support from Fenland District Council, and are sponsored by Making Money Count and The Big Lottery Fund.
Like the ‘Love Your Home events’ Facebook page for updates on each month’s themed activities.
Anyone wishing to volunteer to share their skills at a future event is also invited to go along to a session to see what’s involved and have a chat with the team. Alternately, email: email@example.com
Refurbished Town Park Bandstand
The Mayoress and I joined Cllr Peter Murphy, Cllr Viv McRae, Cllr Carol Cox, Mr Peter Humphreys, plus users of the St. Augustines Day Centre and other local people for the grand opening of the Wisbech Town Park Bandstand.
The project featured involvement from various local groups and was funded by WREN, s106 Money from Fenland District Council and with design assistance from Peter Humphreys.
The bandstand looks amazing. It took a while due to a series of manufacturing delays, but it was well worth the wait. It is now the highlight of the park and looks incredible.
Thanks to Roy McManus for his lovely music, which everybody enjoyed. Also thanks to Franks for the refreshments. A very pleasant afternoon and a brilliant new feature for our town.
(Photos courtesy of Lynne Gillings. Cheers!)
FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL
July 19, 2017
Praise for Wisbech as town grows for gold
“A credit to themselves, to Fenland and the In Bloom initiative across the entire country.”
That was the praise heaped on to dedicated volunteers and organisations in Wisbech when judges toured the town as part of the annual Anglia In Bloom competition.
Everyone behind this year’s campaign is hoping they’ve enough to help secure the town’s tenth consecutive Gold Award in the regional horticultural contest when the results are announced in September.
The judges visited the town on Friday, July 14, with their tour culminating at St Peter’s Church Gardens to see this year’s themed garden celebrating the 50th anniversary of BBC’s Gardeners’ World.
They admired the different flower, vegetable and herb beds, two rabbits dressed in full carpet bedding and show presenter Monty Don’s Potting Shed – and they even got to meet the man himself.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to meet Monty Don!” joked judge Ian Haynes after being greeted by star ‘lookalike’ David Judd, and his faithful golden retriever.
The tour also included the courtyard garden and Centenary Green at Octavia Hill’s Birthplace House, the Bee Garden at Somers Road Car Park which was created from an area of wasteland, the new hanging basket tree, baskets and containers at the Clarkson Memorial, Peckover House garden, the Welcome Garden at the Chapel Road car park entrance, Wisbech General Cemetery and Nene Quay.
They also met horticultural students from Meadowgate School to see their work in Wisbech Park, discovered more about the £2 million Heritage Lottery Funded Wisbech High Street Project and toured The Crescent and Museum Square.
Judges were led on the tour by Fenland District Council’s parks and open spaces manager, Bob Ollier, Wisbech In Bloom chairman Brian Massingham and secretary Penny Stocks.
Afterwards they enjoyed lunch with many of the volunteers and organisations involved in the In Bloom campaign including from Wisbech In Bloom and Street Pride, the Friends of St Peter’s Gardens, Friends of Wisbech General Cemetery, the Community Payback team, Wisbech Lions, and local businesses and councillors.
They were also joined by the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Environment, councillor Peter Murphy, and Wayne Eady from plant company Volmary, formerly known as Delamores, which donated thousands of seedlings.
Judge Mr Haynes told lunch guests: “I remember being here two years ago before the town went on to win gold and the best large town category; now we’ve returned today and you haven’t disappointed at all. You’re not only a credit to yourselves but a credit to fenland and the whole In Bloom initiative across the entire country.”
Mr Ollier said: “This year is probably one of our best entries into Anglia In Bloom in the last 14 years; so many areas look fantastic. The community effort is just amazing and is some of the best in the Anglia region without a doubt.”
“The number of individuals and groups who continue to play an invaluable part in the In Bloom campaign in Wisbech is wonderful,” added Cllr Murphy. “Their tireless efforts do Fenland proud.”
New fountain installed following vandalism
(Press Release from FDC)
A new fountain is flowing at Wisbech’s St Peter’s Church gardens, replacing the one destroyed by vandals six weeks ago.
Residents and visitors alike have welcomed the new water feature, which was officially switched-on during the Wisbech Rose Fair on Thursday.
Fenland District Council set about replacing the fountain and completely renovating the pond at the same time after the vandalism in May caused extensive damage.
A replica of the original 1963 fountain was chosen and the pond fish were temporarily rehomed before the authority’s contactor ISS Landscaping got to work.
A new pump and filtration system were fitted and the pond was repaired and brightened up with specialist paint. The fountain was then installed and the pond filled ready for the fish to be carefully brought back home.
The new feature was officially switched-on by Councillor Peter Murphy, Fenland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for the Environment, who was joined on the day by Bob Ollier, the council’s Parks and Open Spaces Manager and Wisbech Mayor Steve Tierney, along with representatives from ISS Landscaping, the Town Council and Wisbech In Bloom.
“It’s lovely to see the fountain taking pride of place once again,” said Cllr Murphy. “I hope it will be enjoyed by many, and respected and looked after for years to come.”
Cllr Tierney said a lot of thought had gone into the process of getting the fountain replaced. “The pond has a bright new colour and the replica 1963 fountain shows the traditions of the town have been taken into consideration as well. Long may it be enjoyed.”
Direction Of Travel
Readers of my blog will know that I have been extremely skeptical of the “Devolution” plans put to Councils around the County this year. I’ve written and tweeted about it many times. However, I think I will vote “yes” at Fenland District Council when it comes back for final approval.
I’d like to explain why I have changed my mind.
My biggest problem with devolution from the very outset has been the murky details. They suggested they would do many wonderful things for us, but nobody guaranteed anything. And without something guaranteed in writing – it’s just words.
On top of that people keep saying “it’s not another tier of Government” when it plainly is; Leader, Cabinet, Precept, Staff, Devolved responsibilities.
Despite the eyebrow-arching IPSOS MORI poll, I’m yet to encounter anybody in the real world who wants it, or the Elected Mayor that comes with it.
I have always thought that it was quite likely the introduction of this new tier of Government would mean the end of one of the other tiers of Council, and I still do.
So what has changed?
Well, nothing really. Except my mind. For two reasons.
The first is that Government has attached so many grand goodies, packets of funding and careful hints of great stuff for our towns, who wants to be the Councillor who says “no” to all that? Who potentially wrecks the chance of a Wisbech Rail Link, or an A47 upgrade, or huge investments across the area? Nobody does, I reckon. I certainly don’t. But there’s the thing, you see. Government expect an answer and want the first elections next year. The language from every side is “take it or leave it, but don’t expect a second chance.” The stern warning is that if you say “no” you’ll lose the entire package – which means that when the dust settles, and forevermore, you will be the Bad Guy who lost huge investment for your community. It’s a clever approach, it would take a brave person indeed to throw a spanner in the works at this point.
But I still might have rebelled. Because I can be a stubborn old goat on occasion.
The second thing which finally changed my mind was when I heard Cllr. James Palmer speak on the issue earlier today. I have found James’ arguments on Twitter to be persuasive in the past, but not quite persuasive enough. Today, he changed my mind, which – let me tell you – takes some doing. :) Cllr. Palmer is the person chosen by the new Combined Authority to be the spokesman on Transport. He gave a simple talk full of passion and conviction and I just found it very convincing. Which is, for me, what I’ve been hoping for all along. Sincere, simple, conviction. You see, if you’re being offered a gamble with a potentially huge benefit if its successful, but possible bad outcomes also, you have to think long and hard about it. What helps, is when you think somebody is at the helm who can deliver the goods. James couldn’t make any promises either. In the end the final decisions will be with whoever ends up as the elected new Mayor. But he knew his brief, and he was convincing. I was convinced anyway, of his conviction to deliver the infrastructure improvements that Wisbech, and Fenland, desperately need.
Do I still have reservations? Yes, loads.
But we are almost at that turning point where we have to finally say yes, or no. It’s a really big decision whose outcome we cannot know. It could lead to improvements and prosperity on a grand scale, or we could end up saddled with a dud. In many ways it’s a bit of a shot in the dark. But the Government have clearly said all they are going to say on it. If we really want a chance at those big infrastructure wins then this is it. Devolution is the direction of travel and I think, on balance, I’ll be voting for that journey. I wish it had been handled differently. I wish we had more promises written in stone. But we are where we are. Its been a tough decision. I hope its the right call.
Eye On The Ball
At the Wisbech 2020 Seminar the other day and Councillors were asked to set priorities for “Transport and Infrastructure” which would be used to lobby and fundraise going forwards. I’d have thought it was a slam dunk for Wisbech Rail to get the top slot, but it took quite a fight to make it happen.
The Officers were keen to have some very wishy washy top slot item: “Rail, Highways and stuff” kinda territory. It is this lack of focus which has left us without a railway for decades, and it very nearly rolled right on through again. Unlike the train. But I had a snotty cold and I was in no mood for nonsense, so I made a stink about it. I have nothing against the A47 being upgraded, or cycle paths or whatever – but in regards to transport I am aware that the majority of Wisbech people want our train back. And I said so.
There was a brief but fiery debate where a number of my non-Wisbech colleagues thought we should keep everything in the top slot in the suggested diluted way. Cllr Seaton pointed out that road usage is far higher than rail usage. True, but we already have roads. It’s quite hard for a train that doesn’t exist to be well-used. I was happy for the A47 and other roads to take the second slot – of course they are vitally important too. But if we are ever going to get the Rail Link back, we have to be very very clear that it is our top agenda item for transport.
I got support from some obvious and surprising directions. Cllr Simon King agreed with me 100% and made the useful point that the rail link is far more achievable in the short term because the cost is far smaller than the A47, it has political and Government momentum. I might have added that it also doesn’t involve potentially flattening a village or two, in the way the A47 dualling might, but that’s for another day.
Cllr Mrs Bucknor also agreed with me. I don’t think she enjoyed doing so, but credit where credit is due. Oddly, Mr Bucknor did not agree, initially. “No!” he said. Before changing his mind, I think? It was hard to tell. I like to imagine Mrs Bucknor giving him a kick under the table and saying: “It’s the rail link. What are you doing?” But that’s just a flight of fantasy.
Cllr Tanfield seemed firmly in the Officers camp, but moved by the comments made by Wisbech Councillors changed her position and supported Rail as the number one item. A few others did the same. It was good to see people willing to revise their view after hearing sound arguments to do so.
And you may well be asking, Dear Reader, does any of this matter? Does the “number one priority” suggested after a Seminar, which is just another of a long line of priority-setting meetings and projects, really have any ongoing effect on whether we will get our rail link back, or how soon? I have no idea, is the truth. But it might. And that’s the key for me. I have found, in local politics, that you get the “bigger things” done by applying focus and never, ever letting up on it. There will always be forces, economics and realities set against your goals. If you take your eye off the ball, you lose. So keep your eye on the ball.
Practical help on offer to community groups
Community groups have two more opportunities coming up over the next few weeks to get help with funding and organisation.
Dawn Bainbridge from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Alan Turner from the Cambridge Council for Voluntary Service (CCVS) will be holding an advice surgery at March Town Hall on Tuesday, November 15 (10am-3.30pm).
To book an informal, 30-minute chat with Dawn on how the HLF can help groups celebrate and share aspects of Fenland’s heritage, call 01223 224880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
That will be followed on Tuesday, December 6 (10am-1pm) by a workshop hosted by the CCVS, also at March Town Hall, that will focus on practical tips on running a group.
Those attending the workshop will also be able to find out more about grants available from the Healthy Fenland Fund.
For more information, call 01223 464696 or email email@example.com.