Wisbech – A one horse town?

one horse

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.” Mark Twain.

This is not a financial plan.  It does not address the no doubt legal minefield for some of the proposals, neither does it address the potentially large number of environmental issues which might arise from what are ambitious proposals.  It does present a single strand of a wider plan that Wisbech needs in order to grow and develop – a transport plan.

The proposal for a rail link continues to attract much attention, and is now seemingly advancing well with some very public political support.  I cannot see how proposal could be viewed as contentious, especially from people that live in the town.  A population of over 20,000 in the town plus those from the surrounding villages there is an initial business case in terms of potential usage for commuting, and certainly for leisure.  I would think the social benefits are clear but let’s consider improved access to employment and educational opportunities, improved leisure links including visitors coming to our town, and even potential to move more local freight by rail.  The installation of rail usually leads to a “jump” in property prices, but will certainly make Wisbech a more marketable area for residential development.  The actual building of the rail link will provide a number of local jobs, and it is usually the case that several businesses will open and flourish near to the new station.

Wisbech East

Depending on the route there may be some environmental issues.  A particular challenge for a UK strategy is to tackle rising carbon emissions from land transport swiftly. The Committee on Climate Change says that at least a 60% cut in domestic emissions is needed by 2030 to be on the path to secure a 90% cut (equivalent to 80% once emissions from international aviation and shipping are factored in) by 2050.  If we can take aside any areas which are identified as protected then again anything which reduces car, and potentially lorry, traffic from the town centre has to be good in terms of emissions and of course safety.  We should certainly expect that the station and facilities are as “green” as possible and hopefully develop their own power through wind and solar. So, to the largest obstacle which is the cost. There are a number of Government and Local Authority departments who should be lined up for contributions, as well as the potential for approaching the EU for a development grant – even if in projects supporting the bid.  The stated principle of the national rail strategy is “Objectives need to be ambitious yet realistic and could include: reducing the need to travel, improving rail capacity and connectivity throughout the country, reducing regional economic disparities and ending dependence on oil.”  Can you think of a better example than Wisbech for this objective to be tested?

Moving onto the roads (no pun intended).  Any resident of Wisbech will despair any time they get onto the main routes into and around the town, this has not been eased with the opening of the new Tesco and another set of traffic lights on Cromwell Road.  It seems clear to me that a complete overhaul of junctions is certainly required, and while I do not intend to go through the whole list and the reasons for them Churchill Road, Cromwell Road and the Horsefair Roundabout are for me the key issues.  No one will not notice the large numbers of HGVs that go through the town, and there is no doubt that these vehicles account for a large amount of the delay and congestion – but I am also concerned at the pollution caused by them too.  I propose we should look at specifying HGV routes, working with local hauliers of course but seeking away to diminish traffic at peak times in particular.

We have a large number of cyclists in the town, and probably potential for a lot more. We should develop and install a comprehensive cycle route throughout the town.  Wouldn’t it be great if the children were able to get onto the roads without fear, and avoid riding on paths etc.  It is a welcome development to see plans for the part-pedestrianisation of the marketplace are coming to fruition but I would consider it an important first step.  We should be reviewing not just the market but Norfolk Street too in consideration of what benefits the shops, and will encourage shoppers and visitors to enjoy our town.

kids in street

An issue which keeps being raised is speeding.  Having sought to raise the matter with regard to Hill Ward I know it is an impossible issue to get addressed through the authority as a complaint. It does rather require a structured approach, a change of policy. My starting point would be to pan all HGVs (except deliveries) from residential roads – I cannot understand drivers taking such congested short cuts? – and 20mph limit in all residential areas. There are large numbers of such schemes all over the country – and some good discussion on the Shape Your Place website recently with regards to proposed pilot scheme at Ely.  The safety benefits are clear but also there is no detriment to journey time – we are talking additional seconds on a 1 mile journey, and most trips in residential areas are much shorter than this. The other issue is parking, or the lack of enforcement which causes problems. Again, this will shortly be addressed for the Market but we also need it around Norfolk Street (where pedestrian crossing is often used!) and cars parked on yellow lines and on paths in residential areas too…..and repeatedly outside schools.

Being really ambitious the town needs a link road from A17 to A47 to the West. This would remove much of the pass through traffic and should also allow much of the industrial traffic from Cromwell Road to exit without going into the town.  There will come a point, perhaps in 20 years, when this will become the imperative but it something which should start to be planned for now.  Each time there is a large-scale development like the new Tesco, or perhaps additional residential homes, this is the type of investment the town should be seeking in recompense.

The biggest single obstacle to progress is the apparent lack of ambition from local politicians and residents alike.  We are worthy of investment, we can make that change, and above all else future generations are deserving of better.  Imagine the world today if the great entrepeneurs, visionaries and engineers had not been bold and took risks?  We desperately need the road and railways to open opportunities, and let investment in.”

Wisbech Market

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