Market Place Consultation

Wisbech Town Council have been looking at plans to refresh, rejuvenate and renew Wisbech Market Place for the last six months. This is our vision:

  • The first problem we wanted to resolve was that of poor or illegal parking. We propose to pedestrianise the majority of the Market Place using beautiful wrought metal gates to bar entry completely between10am and 4pm, however these times will be addressed as part of the consultation. Cars will be completely removed from the Market Place, including those of Market Traders (who will benefit from arranged parking elsewhere.) This will make the Market Place safer and look much more attractive. Although the High Street / Hill Street route will not be part of the pedestrianisation, it will feature bollards to prevent pavement and poor parking and the only parking allowed there will be disabled parking. There will be no reduction of the number of bays available for disabled use.
  • We wanted to introduce an open, light and enjoyable atmosphere to the area and we propose to do this in a number of ways: generous planters positioned around the market surrounding stylised seating, delightful water features and a redesign of the layout to give an airy and continental feel that can be enjoyed by shoppers and pedestrians.
  • We will also add a Tidal Clock, as a nod to our town’s historic nautical links and to the plans of designers years ago. This will be an attractive feature.
  • At one end of the Market Place we hope to introduce a small Children’s Play Area, nothing too grand, but fun for the youngsters and a chance for a break for busy parents with children in tow.
  • The statement piece of our proposed redesign is a high canopy which will cover nearly half of the Market Place. This will created a covered market where stall holders can trade without concern for bad weather, more comfortable and convenient for shoppers using their services.

The overall effect should be a car-free safe area, with a covered market and brightened by lush greenery, water features, a tidal clock and elegant seating. We hope it will look lovely.

This proposal has been the result of public consultation followed by a hard working task group of Councillors and members of the public. It has the support of the Wisbech Society, the Chamber of Commerce and the trustees of the Wisbech Museum.

Tha attached concepts (kindly provided by Peter Humphreys Associates) are now out for public consultation. We would welcome input and suggestions. You can make coments here, but there will be opportunities to meet and talk to councillors about the proposals – dates will be advertised.

Number 46

Number 46

In regards to the possible loss of important bus services in Wisbech:

Although this is a private company, its important that the County Council challenge and try and work through damaging proposals to get the best for local people.

County Council officers have been working hard since the worrying announcement to find a suitable resolution to the issue.

Although its not 100% decided, the news so far seems to be positive.

A tender to ascertain the cost of replacing the 46 service, that will be withdrawn by Stagecoach from 28 April, has been issued this week. County Council are tendering for three potential options.

The first is based on the existing timetable, which operates on an hourly basis. The second is on a revised 90 minute timetable which has the benefit of protecting the service and being more affordable as it reduces the vehicle requirement from two buses to one and should therefore be more economical to provide.

The final option is for an operator devised timetable, where they can make their own proposal built around their availability of vehicles and drivers.

The company are engaging with the County Council to try and find a way forwards that doesn’t let local people down and leave them without an important service.

So there’s no need to panic at this stage and County Council are doing their best to negotiate something which will prevent the problems of losing the service.

Your County Councillors have pushed hard and will continue to press as best we can for a deal which gets a good resolution for our Town. I hope this update is useful to you.

Further Thoughts Wisbech Castle 

Further Thoughts Wisbech Castle 

The first meeting of the committees that will run the Castle have been scheduled for 3rd April.
 
Myself and a handful of Councillors, along with the Town Clerk, did a walkaround of the Castle this week, and we will be arranging the same opportunity for members of the Committee and Working Party very soon.
 
So having done the walkaround these are my observations:
 
Yes, it needs a lot of work. There are some areas which will need builders and craftsmen in fairly soon to address structural issues before they spread problems elsewhere in the buiding. But the the majority of the building really just needs what it appears to have lacked for some time – some tender loving care.
 
There are quite a lot of nooks and crannies that just need a LOT of elbow grease. Rooms and alcoves which are filled with junk, dirt and rubble – which need clearing, cleaning and painting. We can get on with this fairly quickly using volunteers while professionals are working on the more urgent and serious things that need addressing elsewhere in the building.
 
We were told “the keys aren’t very well labelled.” This was quite funny. There is a huge box of keys with no labels at all and loads of locked doors. It is going to take quite some time to work out which keys fit which locks and probably to replace locks in rooms where the keys are permanently adrift. But many rooms have more than one point of access so it’s not that we can’t get into them, only that routes in and out are presently a bit of a trek.
 
This is a truly incredible building. Walking around it, despite the fact that it has been allowed to fall into a poor condition, the opportunities and possibilities spring out at you from every side. It is really quite remarkable and I am very very excited about the potential to bring it back into full use.
 
My expectation is that the Working Party will be running with quite a few different ideas at once, and that different individuals will lead on different projects. Ideas are already flooding in and we’ve not even met yet.
 
It is absolutely vital that we get the urgent repairs done soon, both to protect the building from further deterioration and to bring parts of it back into use as soon as feasible.
 
It’s also vital that we don’t sneer at any ideas, no matter how wild, because this place is incredible and it can (and will) incorporate many different functions and services and interesting facets for the people of Wisbech long into the future. The Working Party will need to consider, work through and be creative at every turn. It will also need to be cost-effective, of course, and I make no apology for saying we hope that we will get lots of volunteers for the graft and for the planning and that we will rely on the goodwill of the people of the Town to help the whole project grow and prosper.
 
I don’t know where all this will lead. But I anticipate that it is going to eat my life for the next couple of years, and probably the lives of other people who are as passionate and excited about the project as I am. Do I think it will be a huge money-spinner? No. My first aim is to try and get it so that it’s able to stand on its own two feet, physically and financially. I know that’s not easy and previous folk who have run it have failed to do so. But that’s not a reason to be utterly negative.
 
To this day people are sad that we lost the Octagon, and the Canal and any number of other past assets. Without wanting to enter into that debate, the Castle Committee and Wisbech Town Council have acted to prevent the Castle joining that lost list.
 
Because what this is about, first and foremost, is protecting one of the Town’s most loved and memorable assets for future generations. I don’t think we could just stand by and let it go. I hope you agree.

An Incinerator In Wisbech?

An Incinerator In Wisbech?

My personal feeling about the idea of putting an incinerator in Wisbech is that I will oppose any plan that comes forwards.

I do intend to ask the voters in Medworth, since that seems to be where they might want to site it. And if they all say “no problem” then I will need to have a rethink, as I am first and foremost an elected representative who must try and reflect the views of my constituents.

But my gut says that the majority of voters will take the same view I do – that it is something we don’t want, don’t need and should say “no” to as clearly as possible.

I will shortly be sending a letter to all the Medworth voters, asking for their views and I will report back once I have an idea of the majority position.

Rob McLaren

Rob McLaren

Yesterday, Cllr Rob McLaren was removed from the Conservative group on Wisbech Town Council.

Almost immediately, the usual suspects begin frothing at the mouth and making nasty comments, pretty much as they always do.

I like Rob McLaren.  I think he’s a nice guy and I’ve always got on pretty well with him.  I am sorry to see him go.

But there are a few things wrong both with what the Hatefest crowd are saying and also with the newspaper article in the Wisbech Standard.

First, calling Rob McLaren “lazy” is wrong.  He isn’t lazy, and that is not what the Leader of Town Council said at all.  Rob has been removed from the group because of ongoing poor attendance and poor conduct – the latter being related to poor attendance.

In the last six months Cllr McLaren has not attended a single Town Council meeting of the Full Council or of any Town Council Committee.  Even in the six months before that he was barely seen at all.  He has not helped at any festival or Town Council organised event in the last year.  He has not turned up at any of the civic functions which Councillors are supposed to attend.

Rob has been given every chance to amend this.  He has been asked to be sure to turn up on multiple occasions and has not done so.  Just before the last meeting of Full Council the Leader of Wisbech Town Council contacted Rob and reminded him that this was his last chance to attend; she contacted him by email, by Facebook messenger and by post.  Rob did not turn up.

This means that Cllr McLaren will imminently fall foul of the six month rule.  This isn’t a decision of Town Council, it is the law.  If a Councillor fails to attend any meeting for six months they cease to be a Councillor.  Cllr McLaren cannot now fix this, because there is no further meetings before the deadline of his six months.  In view of this repeated failure to meet the minimum standards required of a Councillor, of course the Conservative group had no option but to remove him.

At the moment, he is still a Councillor, but now he is an Independent Councillor.  Once the six month rule reaches its limit, he won’t be a Councillor anymore.

Now Rob has been quite clear about the fact that this was his decision.  He has said today that he “sacked himself” at Christmas, and I think that’s broadly correct.  It isn’t as though the Conservative group have not tried to give him every opportunity to return.  If he no longer wished to be in the Conservative group he could have simply announced he was “crossing the floor” and been an Independent, or any other party he chose, and continued to attend meetings and do his own thing.  He didn’t.

Again I’d like to stress that I like Rob and I have a lot of time for him.  He is a nice man and he is often willing to help others.  He has a big heart.  But I am disappointed by his comment that he was being “suppressed” on Town Council, simply because not only is this not true – it’s not even possible.

There is nothing to stop any Councillor saying whatever they want to say in a Town Council meeting.  No group or member has the power to “sack” them as a Councillor.  They can remove them from a political group, but they still continue to be a Councillor.  So there is no physical way at Town Council level for anybody to be coerced into anything they don’t want to do.  It is particularly difficult for it to happen to Rob McLaren simply because none of us ever saw him.   He didn’t turn up for meetings or functions or group meetings – or at all, really.

It seems to me as though Rob has gotten very busy since he went self-employed and – this is just my personal opinion – he has been focusing on developing his business more.  All power to him, he’s great at what he does and seems to be doing very well.  I really do wish him all the best and I wish that he’d been able to turn up to recent meetings in order to prevent his falling foul of the six month rule.  Unfortunately, he chose not to.  But that was entirely his choice and nobody elses’.

Time For A Cuppa

Time For A Cuppa

On Monday morning I visited Rosebank Centre in Edina Court to enjoy their “Time For A Cuppa” morning, raising funds for sufferers of dementia and their families.

 
I always enjoy visiting Edina Court where the residents and staff and so welcoming and friendly, and where they make one of the best cups of tea for a hundred miles.
 
I even jointly-won the “guess the weight of the cake” competition. But since I have to lose weight for my parachute jump in May, I let the other winner have the honours of devouring that massive feast :)

New Camsight Shop

New Camsight Shop

Last week it was a great pleasure to open the new Camsight shop in Wisbech.
 
I was amazed by some of the new technology coming out to help the blind and partially-sighted and the team at the shop seem both knowledgable and caring.
 
A real asset to the town!

Gritting In North Ward / Waterlees

Gritting In North Ward / Waterlees

In response to the Councillor who, speaking about the North Ward / Waterlees yesterday, declared that “none of the primary routes had been done – at all.”

I thought this very likely to be untrue, and so I asked County Council officers to clarify. This is the response from yesterday:


Good afternoon Cllr,

I can confirm the following that primary routes in Wisbech were gritted as follows.

Friday 23rd 18:30
Saturday 24th 18:30
Sunday 25th 18:30
Monday 26th 03:00 and 18:00
Tuesday 27th 19:00
Wednesday 28th 03:00 and 13:00

I have attached a screen shot from one of the vehicles tracking devices that is fitted to every vehicle of the fleet. We can follow them live or investigate afterwards. The records are kept for twenty one years for insurance purposes. They show where the vehicle was what speed it was travelling and the spread rate of salt.

Any salt we do spread will need traffic to make it ”work” so you will typically see a white road then, black tram lines and eventually an all-black road.
Road surface temperatures have been very low all day not really rising above -2.0 c and this obviously slows the melting process.
I have spoken with the two drivers with the Skanska Operation Manager and they were giving good feedback on what they had done, for example upping the spread rate from 15 to 20 grams according to the road conditions.

I hope this is of use to you, if you need any further information please let me know.

 

As you can see, her claim was completely false. Now that could have been an accidental mistake, based on not having much of a clue what is going on. But if so, it might be an idea to avoid making people worried and angry, before you’ve taken the time to find out the actual facts.

Please everybody – drive carefully out there. Grit is great, but its not magic. Take it easy and be safe.

New Wickes In Wisbech Opens

New Wickes In Wisbech Opens

This morning I was invited to the new Wickes store in Wisbech to cut the ribbon and officially open it.

The Store Manager said they were keen to get involved with projects around the Town and offered support and help with the Wisbech Castle Project as well as other activities.

They have a great team there and the staff all seem very helpful, knowledgeable and keen to help. I hope the store goes from strength to strength, supplying local people, employing local people and being another integral retail outlet for Wisbech.

 



Wisbech Castle Project

Wisbech Castle Project

I have been asked by the Leader of Wisbech Town Council if I will Chair the new Castle Committee, whose job will be to handle the oversight of Wisbech Castle once the Town Council has it under its control.  Since my time as Mayor comes to an end in May, freeing up a lot of time, I have accepted the role.  Being the Chairman does not mean I am “in charge” of Wisbech Castle, it simply means I will be Chairman of the Committee and Working Party.  Running the Castle will be very much a team effort.  I’d like to talk a little about my initial ideas for the running structure of Wisbech Castle.  These are just ideas, subject to discussion and agreement of everybody else involved.

I think it appropriate for there to be three platforms to running the Castle.  The Castle Committee, the Castle Working Party and the Friends Of Wisbech Castle group.  The way the Committee and the Working Party will interact will run on a similar basis to the Town Council’s Festivals’ Committee and Working Party, which has proved to be a successful model over recent years.

The Castle Committee will be a constituted Committee of Wisbech Town Council, made up of seven Town Councillors, whose primary role will be to maintain the Council’s control of the project and scrutinise the spending on it and to oversee the work done by the Working Party.   I would guess the Castle Committee will meet three or four times a year.

The Castle Working Party – who will do most of the work and organisation of the day-to-day running of the Castle – will be a group made up of Councillors, representatives of interested local groups, and knowledgeable volunteers who bring skills to the table.  I hope that this Working Party will be a dynamic and imaginative bunch, with a mixture of skills and backgrounds, able to press on with multiple projects, income streams and public offers.  I would welcome communication from anybody who might like to be on the Castle Working Party.  But please bear in mind that members of the Working Party will be expected to put time and effort into the project on a voluntary basis, and so should be sure they are able to handle the commitment that something as important as this will take.  I would expect the Castle Working Party to have monthly meetings, and for members to touch base with each other and the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, often.

The Friends Of Wisbech Castle  will be a completely free voluntary organisation made up of anybody who values Wisbech Castle and want to join.  People who become “friends” will receive regular direct updates, early notifications of plans and events and possibly special opportunities and offers to enjoy all that I hope Wisbech Castle will come to offer.  Once this launches, I hope we will get hundreds, or even thousands, of people join in and become a part of the future of Wisbech Castle.

Aims
I see the aims of the project to be threefold.  First, to maintain Wisbech Castle as a public resource and asset, regularly accessible to the people of Wisbech and its guests to enjoy and make use of.  Second, to maintain and preserve the historic building in good order for current and future generations.  Third, to work towards making sure the building is not an undue burden on taxpayers of the Town and to aim towards cost neutrality, or profitability as early as feasibly possible.  I should add that cooperation and partnership with other Wisbech features like Wisbech Museum and Peckover House will not only be desirable, but crucial.

First Things First
What we can do in the very short term is limited by the work needing to be done in the building.  First priority will be to get urgent repairs done so that the building is in a fit state to be used.  To clean up the gardens and get the whole site ready for further use.  If this is planned well and the work goes without too many issues, then the Castle should be usable for at least some activities in the next few months.  After that we can pick and choose what to renovate and work on as the Committees decide on what the various uses will be, so that we can roll out activities and ideas in phases.

Ideas
There are so many ideas for what the Castle could be used for and how its access and usefulness could grow.  Both for things that have gone before like school visits and weddings, heritage open days, fetes, art fairs and garden tours – to many brand new ideas for the future.  While I am Chairman I will encourage creativity, imagination and fresh thinking.  The door will be open to anybody with a great suggestion or proposal.  If everything goes according to plan, Wisbech Castle will take its rightful place as a centre-piece and an incredible community asset for now and for the future.

Communication
All Committee Meetings will be open to the public.  Discussions, ideas and decisions will be published transparently.  I hope that Wisbech Castle will have a Facebook Page and a Twitter Feed.  I hope to have a website for Wisbech Castle set up.  These things will all be free and operated by volunteers.  It will be my aim to encourage engagement, support and volunteering throughout the Wisbech Castle Project – to welcome anybody who loves the Castle and the Town to be a part of it and to contribute to it.  I would welcome participation, even from critics of the project, as long as those critics come to the table with an open mind and a desire to help.  I would hope that people who have something to say will come and be a part of the project and say it on record so that it can be thought about and addressed, rather than just snipe from afar on social media or elsewhere.

And Finally…
Once again, these are just my initial ideas.  They are all subject to discussion, to debate and to challenge by those people who are part of the Project.  I wanted to put my ideas down so that people could see where I’m coming from, but that should not be taken to mean the whole thing isn’t open to the great ideas and suggestions of everybody else.  In fact I know that several of my Town Council colleagues are overflowing with ideas, as are members of local organisations and also many individuals.  There is nothing easy about this project and I will not claim there is.  It’s a real challenge and also carries some risk.  No doubt about it.  But is it worth trying?  Is it worth doing?  I believe so.  Wisbech Castle is part of the fibre of the Town, built into its DNA, a long-standing historic monument both in its current form and for what has gone before.

A Committee of Councillors can’t do this alone.  Wisbech Town Council can’t do this alone.  But together, I really believe we have a great opportunity here to deliver something absolutely incredible for Wisbech and everybody who lives here.  If you are excited about Wisbech Castle, if you think you have something to offer or can help – please get in touch.