Waterway project nets national award

SUE SKINNER A flagship regeneration project in the fens, which is already sparking an economic boom, has beaten off stiff competition to scoop a prestigious national award.

SUE SKINNER

A flagship regeneration project in the fens, which is already sparking an economic boom, has beaten off stiff competition to scoop a prestigious national award.

The £47m Nene Waterfront project at Wisbech, which will transform a derelict riverside area with hundreds of new homes, businesses, shops and leisure facilities, has earned Fenland District Council a Waterways Renaissance Award.

The awards, run by the Waterways Trust and the British Urban Regeneration Association, promote sustainable waterway regeneration and development across the UK.

The council, which won the category for strategy and master planning, was praised by the judges for "punching above its weight" - and the passion with which the Wisbech scheme was planned.

They also liked the innovative way the authority had acted as a catalyst to unlock the potential of the 20-acre site beside the River Nene, which has been lying idle for more than two decades.

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Earlier this year, an exhibition showing how the project will revitalise the area attracted more than 600 people.

There were more than 50 inquiries to buy houses and flats - even before detailed plans had been submitted, with the proposed mooring berths and retail space also catching the imagination of visitors.

More than 20 businesses expressed an interest in taking offices in the £3.5m Boathouse building, which will include a conference centre, yacht club and harbour office.

Work is due to start on the complex in the summer, while developer Taylor Woodrow has been signed up to build more than 300 properties as part of the overall scheme.

The council, working with funding partners, the East of England Development Agency, English Partnerships and the European Regeneration Development Fund, administered by Go-East, has laid the groundwork for the project as a whole, which is expected to kickstart an improvement to the economic fortunes of the town and the wider fens area.

The award was presented to council leader Geoffrey Harper by TV presenter and Waterways Trust vice-president John Craven.

"We are ecstatic," said Mr Harper. "We have beaten very strong contenders for this award.

"It's a ringing endorsement of the authority's total commitment to regenerating Wisbech and Fenland as a whole."

Mr Harper added: "This award is a tribute to the vision of elected members and senior officers. It is also a tribute to the drive and commitment of our funders, EEDA, English Partnerships, Go-East, as well as a top-notch project team."