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OPINION: Moving March fountain next to us could kill our shop

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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’ve expressed outrage and indignation at the decision – and queried why no councillor came to speak with them prior to the decision being taken.

Artist’s impression showing new position of March fountain once work is completed

Artist’s impression showing new position of March fountain once work is completed

Here, in full, is their letter:

Unfortunately, we were unable to attend the Fenland District Council planning meeting on 8 February but have watched it on You Tube.

The beauty of this medium is that it can be watched over and over, so nothing is missed, highlighting the good, the bad and the blatant discrepancies voiced during this meeting.

Our shop has been here since the 1930s

For those of you who do not know the background of Malletts, it has had a presence in the town for 100 years this year and has been at No 32 since the 1930’s.

Retail on the ground floor and it’s workshop above, benefitting from natural light and overlooking Broad Street.

We have a birds eye view of all the comings and goings of Broad Street and its traffic activity.

It’s a shame businesses were not consulted on the regeneration scheme as these observations would have been beneficial to the planners.

Street view Broad Street

Broad Street, March; one of the slides shown to planning committee members

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

Fiona Bage, heritage consultant for ELG Planning was present at the meeting, ELG Planning being the experts hired in for this project.

They are an award-winning company with lots of experience dealing with many multi-million-pound projects, far in excess of the March Regeneration Project budget and have all the design technology at their fingertips for creating their visions.

Despite this the presentation at the meeting regarding the current and new position of the fountain was agreed by the councillors by viewing an aerial view, a floor plan of this section of Broad Street and a front elevation of how the fountain is in front of our shop.

There have been no side elevations available to view and although the condition assessment report states “3.1 The fountain canopy is approximately 6.6 metres high plus the height of the stone plinth (approx. 0.5 metres, part obscured).

Plans for moving March fountain shown to planning committee

Plans for moving March fountain shown to planning committee

“The overall base width of the cast iron columns is 3.15 metres” there is no definitive measurement of the overall height and was arrived at by a scaled plan.

Where was the computer-generated imagery presentation to show everyone just how close it is going to be to the front of No 32 and how the size of the dome is going to impact on the shop front and how the light is going to be diminished?

Why no 360-degree presentation?

There should have been a 360-degree presentation of this, why wasn’t there?

ELG have the technology to do so. In fact, I note that the company SNC Lavalin Atkins, that have their name on the floor plan, are also a huge company with this technology at their disposal.

I would also expect Swann Edwards Architecture (responsible for the front elevation document) to have a level of CAD technology too.

This is a hugely important change to the fountain’s placement and yet it was presented wholly insufficiently.

It was stated at the meeting the distance from the shop front will be 5.2 metres.

Did any councillors do a site visit before the meeting to check on the actual distance for this large imposing structure and try to imagine how it would impact us?

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

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

We and our near neighbours didn’t witness any.

We have measured it and it will be too close.

Malletts and our neighbours The Carpet Shop, are the only retail units (on the side that is to have the new widened path) that have window displays showing goods to attract customers.

Although also retail, QD have their windows blocked out.

All of the other units are made up of service providers or food outlets. The service providers will no doubt retain a level of their business as these are pre-arranged appointments.

We often at present see people in their cars waiting at the traffic lights pointing and discussing things they see in our window.

This will go once the new road system is in place but as well as that we will no longer be seen from vehicles heading left into Broad Street from Station Road, or right from Darthill Road around the new roundabout, as all they will see is the fountain right in front of us.

You’re already trying to kill our business by taking the parking out of Broad Street and this seems a further kick in the teeth.

A compromise to all this lunacy would be to place the fountain further south on the new public realm, in front of March Dental.

This is a wide three storey building, with frosted out front windows.

Broad Street early 20th century postcard from the south looking toward coronation fountain

Broad Street early 20th century postcard from the south looking toward coronation fountain

They have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on this building recently and therefore very confident of their long-term presence in Broad Street. The proprietor is very much in favour of the widened footpath, whereas we are not.

The fountain will completely dwarf Malletts whereas this building wouldn’t be impacted in the same way.

It would still be fully visible from traffic passing both ways on the new road layout and as previously stated, their custom is usually pre-planned.

We are told the new public realm doesn’t need planning permission, it only needed the green light from approval of the fountain being moved, so tweaking the public realm to accommodate the fountain in this suggested position wouldn’t be difficult to make work.

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.

There wouldn’t be any need for piling/groundworks as the toilets have been there for the best part of 100 years without a problem, their cubic weight would presumably be in excess of that of the fountain.

We heard at the meeting that other sites, including in front of Iceland had been considered but we didn’t hear any substantive reasons as to why these were not thought suitable, why didn’t we hear the reasons?

There will no doubt be a paper trail regarding these discussions, they should be revisited.

We had assurances in writing from Phil Hughes of Fenland District Council that the CCTV viewing our business would not be compromised.

CCTV unfortunately doesn’t stop anti-social behaviour or thefts and we feel having the structure so close to us, especially during the winter months, will enable cover for such minded individuals.

Having already suffered an aggravated burglary at the shop a few years ago, leaving all staff extremely anxious, the Police Designing Out Crime Team’s view on the safety element in and around the moving of the fountain is a nonsense.

Things can only get worse

As already referenced in this letter, we have a birds eye view of the daily unlawful activities that take place and with no police presence it is only going to worsen.

Malletts is a jewellers, let’s have some common sense applied!

Our shop is our livelihood, and we employ four part-time staff.

We feel very passionately that losing the Broad Street parking will impact considerably on not only our business but that of many of our neighbours, of which they agree.

Also, this could very well have a detrimental effect on the value of our property, and we feel very strongly that having the fountain so close to us will have a further negative impact on its value too.

Will there be any accountability regarding these decisions if we are proved to be correct?

We don’t have the luxury of lifting the structure into place just to see how it would be and therefore we urge you all to consider all of the points we raise and move to have the location of the fountain shifted.

If this situation was in relation to a residential planning application it wouldn’t pass planning rules, why is it different with it being commercial?

We look forward to your responses.

Yours sincerely

Linzi Betts & Gary Richmond

 

 

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