March has been awarded £6.4million from the Government to help implement a “once in a generation” transformation of the town centre.
Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, announced on Boxing Day that March is among the areas in England which will receive a share of £830 million from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, the FHSF.
It follows a successful bid, made by Fenland District Council and supported by the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority, to complement the town’s Growing Fenland Masterplan Project and the emerging March Area Transport Strategy.
The investment will help to deliver ambitious plans to revitalise the Broad Street, Market Place and Acre Road areas, reimagine the picturesque riverside areas and reduce town centre traffic.
Additional project funding had already been pledged by the Combined Authority, led by Mayor James Palmer, in October to help strengthen the Council’s FHSF bid and lever in the larger amount of funding from Government.
A total of £2million on top of the Government money will be spent in March, including £900,000 committed from the March Growing Fenland Masterplan Project, part of the Combined Authority’s Market Towns Programme.
Mayor James Palmer said: “I’m delighted that investment and support from the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority has helped March to land this prize. From Day 1, the Combined Authority has been determined to address decades of under-funding for Fenland, and this is one inspiring result of creative and future-facing partnership working.
“The Mayoral Combined Authority I lead will remain committed to keeping market towns like March thriving and vibrant. Attractive, accessible high streets reached by greener, safer roads and better public transport, like the station at March which we’re revamping this year, will do so much to help us push back the social and economic effect of Covid.”
Cllr Chris Seaton, Fenland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Social Mobility and Heritage, said: “This fantastic package of improvements is a credit to the Growing Fenland March Town Team, chaired by Cllr Jan French, which has worked closely with the Combined Authority, March Town Council, the community and consultants to help collate and design the planned improvements for the town.
“It really is a once in a generation opportunity that will transform March for years to come, ensuring it remains a thriving place where people want to go, meet and spend their money. It will also help the town to recover from the pandemic while also driving long-term growth.”
Cllr French, Deputy Leader of Fenland District Council and county, district and town ward member for March, said: “Interest in the Future High Streets Fund was significant, with so many strong applications from local authorities across the country. So, I’m delighted to say we have now cleared the final hurdle, thanks to some fantastic transformational projects and support from the Combined Authority. I can’t wait to see the projects come to fruition.”
Cllr Steve Count, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council and district ward member for March, who has been involved with Growing Fenland and the March Area Transport Strategy, added: “This is brilliant news for March and the whole of Fenland and is a credit to so many people I have worked alongside to develop and put forward these exciting proposals. I’m delighted to see such considerable investment in the area and look forward to what the future holds.”
Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “The year ahead will be a big one for the high street as it seeks to recover, adapt and evolve as a result of the pandemic. The £830 million investment from the Future High Streets Fund is one of many ways the government is working to help our much-loved town centres get through this and prosper into the future.
“The role of high street has always evolved. We want to support that change and make sure that they are the beating heart of their local community – with high quality housing and leisure in addition to shops and restaurants.
“This investment will help us build back better and make town centres a more attractive place to live, work and visit.”
The FHSF funding will support five major projects; these are:
The projects will work in conjunction with the March Area Transport Strategy (MATS), which is being delivered by the Combined Authority, Cambridgeshire County Council, and Fenland District Council.
The MATS project will address existing traffic flow problems in Broad Street, with the FHSF project developing the public realm following the road alterations. Together the projects will improve traffic flows in the town centre, whilst allowing Broad Street to become more pedestrian and cycle friendly.