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Fenland’s ‘Arc de Triomphe’ on the move but future location uncertain

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Historic March Fountain – compared to the Arc de Triomphe by the local civic society – is being dismantled and stored in a council depot for at least a year.

Precisely when and more importantly where its new home will be, will be decided next month following an outcry over original plans to relocate to outside Malletts jewellers, just yards from its original spot.

Work to dismantle and store March Fountain is under way. It could take up to a fortnight to complete the removal. PHOTO: Gary Richmond


Work to dismantle and store March Fountain is under way. It could take up to a fortnight to complete the removal. PHOTO: Gary Richmond

Fenland District Council Chris Boden supported calls to review its new location after responding to a petition signed by 3,587 people.

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Cllr Boden said it was important for the council to “get the best decision” and the fact that a decision had already been made, it was now important to look at whether an alternative is possible.

He said the council needed to “retain an open mind” and hinted that the decision to relocate it outside Malletts was something the council “maybe got it wrong”.

The council is now looking at possible alternative locations and cost implications before a report is presented to Cabinet in September.

The removal of the fountain was due to commence in June but was postponed after doves were found nesting at the top of the structure.

Work to dismantle and store March Fountain is under way. It could take up to a fortnight to complete the removal. PHOTO: Gary Richmond


Work to dismantle and store March Fountain is under way. It could take up to a fortnight to complete the removal. PHOTO: Gary Richmond

Town councillor Jennifer Lawler, and of March Civic Society, has expressed concern about moving the fountain although with a £8m Broad Street regeneration project under way, the council has few options about a new location for it.

“Many people were shocked to hear that half of Broad Street would be pedestrianized and that the listed 1912 Coronation Fountain would be moved onto the pavement in front of shops,” she told a planning committee meeting debating moving the fountain.

Work to dismantle and store March Fountain is under way. It could take up to a fortnight to complete the removal. PHOTO: Gary Richmond


Work to dismantle and store March Fountain is under way. It could take up to a fortnight to complete the removal. PHOTO: Gary Richmond

“This is about conserving the historic environment and the setting of the listed Coronation fountain in March conservation area – it’s not just about moving a relatively rare, beautiful iron work.

“The fountain is an historic landmark marking an event which took place in 1912 when the people of March came together to raise money by donations to mark the occasion of King George V’s coronation.

“Moving the fountain is comparable with moving a structure such as the Arc de Triomphe from its setting; it completely loses its impact if it’s moved onto a pavement at the side of the road in front of and close to shops

Work to dismantle and store March Fountain is under way. It could take up to a fortnight to complete the removal. PHOTO: Gary Richmond


Work to dismantle and store March Fountain is under way. It could take up to a fortnight to complete the removal. PHOTO: Gary Richmond

Cllr Boden admits the council faces difficulties if a decision is made to change the intended location of the fountain. He said the overall Broad Street project was in its delivery phase and there were potential cost implications and the possibility of any new location having to be subject to a fresh planning application.

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Cllr Boden was also keen to know whether Historic England, who had agreed on the move to outside Malletts, would be able to veto any new suggestion if it was in an entirely new place.

Work to dismantle and store March Fountain is under way. It could take up to a fortnight to complete the removal. PHOTO: Gary Richmond


Work to dismantle and store March Fountain is under way. It could take up to a fortnight to complete the removal. PHOTO: Gary Richmond

The council leader outlined risks such as reputational damage of any failure, wider design and civil engineering implications and the key issue as to whether changes at this late stage would be acceptable to the Broad Street funders.

However, Cllr Gavin Booth, who presented the petition on behalf of objectors, said that was it important to note that the large number of people who had signed were the very people who used March and wanted it to grow.

“They believe moving it (the fountain) outside Mallets is unacceptable,” he said.

Cllr Booth said it was widely acknowledged that the consultation process “was not robust” and a number of councillors had received emails and letters suggesting a better position might be open space near the river and the town bridge.

The petition, with 3,587 signatures, says the intended location of the fountain in front of Malletts was announced “without any consultation with the proprietors or their near neighbours.

The petition, with 3,587 signatures, says the intended location of March fountain in front of Malletts was announced “without any consultation with the proprietors or their near neighbours.

He even felt moving it to the old Barclays bank site (recently bought by the council) could not be ruled out and it was vital to “keep an open mind”. It was possible, he said, to shape something to improve the situation.

Linzi Betts and Gary Richmond who own Malletts jewellers in Broad Street, March, believe Fenland councillors have made a massive mistake in agreeing to move the coronation fountain close to their shop.

In an open letter to councillors, they expressed outrage and indignation at the decision – and queried why no councillor came to speak with them prior to the decision being taken.

“The decision to move the fountain in front of Malletts, our property, was approved by five non-March resident councillors,” they said. “No consideration as to how this could impact our business was discussed.

Digital photography used to show March Fountain on the move - computer mock up demonstrates new location Broad Street, March Friday 07 July 2023. Picture by Terry Harris

Digital photography used to show March Fountain on the move – computer mock up demonstrates new location Broad Street, March Friday 07 July 2023. A fresh look is being taken at this proposed location. Picture by Terry Harris

“A further alternative would be to place the fountain on the site of the toilet block that is to be demolished.

“We have heard a great deal of how the riverbank is to be made more appealing to March residents and visitors, especially those in boats; well having it re-located there would enable all to see from the paths, road, and the river as well as from the Acre public house and library.

The fourth councillor to vote to move the fountain was Conservative Cllr Meekins, who ironically had fought the 2019 local elections as an independent. He was enticed to re-join the Conservatives in 2021. PHOTO: Rob Murray

March Coronation Fountain in all its glory. 

The town’s public toilets are due for demolition as part of the regeneration programme but no site for replacements has been identified.

 

 

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