Exciting plans to transform derelict buildings on Wisbech High Street into new shops and flats have moved forward after a regeneration agreement was signed this week.
Fenland District Council has signed a lease with developers Whitfield Property Investments Ltd, signalling the start of redevelopment works at 11-12 High Street.
The Council took ownership of the properties in February to ensure their long-term viability after protracted attempts with the previous private owner to take action were unsuccessful.
Two phases of emergency demolition works were then carried out to make the site safe for the public and for contractors to undertake site investigations.
Now what remains of the dilapidated buildings will be demolished in January 2020, ready for construction to begin in March.
The plan is to sympathetically rebuild the façade, reinstate a retail unit on the ground floor and build up to 15 residential units above and to the rear.
Councillor Chris Seaton, Fenland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Social Mobility and Heritage, said: “The signing of this lease is a key moment for the future of Wisbech town centre. The site has been a blot on the high street for many years but this paves the way for significant transformation of the area.
“We are delighted to be working with our partner, Whitfield Property Investments Ltd, to redevelop the site and inject renewed vibrancy into the High Street, to the benefit of local residents and visitors.
“In the meantime, we are continuing to work very hard behind the scenes to get the relevant approvals needed for a number of other property improvements funded via the Wisbech High Street Project.”
Following planning consent in July, and subsequent party wall agreements and ecological assessments, demolition works are also due to commence shortly to a building at the rear of 24 High Street. Removal of the structure is expected by the end of the year and will allow for the redevelopment of the derelict site – known as ‘The Gap’ – to begin.
The Council has also agreed to fund significant improvements to a further four properties in the High Street, and is awaiting start dates from the owners.
The agreed schemes include reinstatement of traditional shopfronts, redecoration of others, repair and renovation of brickwork and conversion of the upper floors to residential use.
Cllr Seaton said: “These works will have a huge impact on the High Street, with the upper floors of one property being brought back into use after remaining vacant for over 30 years. A number of other properties are also lined up to benefit from a grant once the owners have secured quotations and submitted their project applications.”
In addition to the building improvements, the project continues to deliver a number of free workshops, activities and events aimed at engaging the local community with their heritage.
The next activity is a free talk about the use of decorative tiles in Georgian and Victorian architecture, led by leading ceramics expert Hans van Lemmen. It is being held at the Wisbech and Fenland Museum on Saturday, November 30, from 1pm to 3.30pm. To book a place contact Taleyna Fletcher, the project’s Townscape Heritage Officer, on 01354 622210 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org