Fenmen given a �35,000 reprieve by county council

Paddy Davitt Wisbech Town football club yesterday earned a �35,000 reprieve from Norfolk County Council over the cost of access to the Fenmen's proposed new ground.

Paddy Davitt

Wisbech Town football club yesterday earned a �35,000 reprieve from Norfolk County Council over the cost of access to the Fenmen's proposed new ground.

Chairman Paul Brenchley confirmed council officials have now back tracked on an initial decision to charge an extra �37,414 for future maintenance on an access road to the Lynn Road site.

The club had originally budgeted for a �71,000 bill to carry out essential work on the public route before the local authority's recent demand for an additional five figure sum.

"I've had a phone call from my solicitor to say there has now been a U-turn and the future maintenance charge would only be �2,400," said Brenchley. "We haven't had any further dialogue from the council so I don't know the reasons for the decision.

"I would imagine they now realise the access road is already there, that's its part of the carriageway, so it just needs levelling off. We have to put a footpath in and do some work to the existing kerb stones.

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"Clearly it was going to be extremely difficult for us to raise that additional money and we were probably going to end up having to make some major alterations to our original plans. We really didn't know how we were going to raise that extra �35,000."

John Birchall, a spokesman for Norfolk County Council planning and transport department, confirmed the club now faced a reduced surcharge after officials had recently claimed the maintenance figure was a standard cost levied on all developers.

"I can confirm that the maintenance sum has been reduced from �37,414 to �2,414 after the football club queried the original calculation," he said.

"We are able to do this because construction of the right turn lane will provide new surfacing and kerbing in place of old, reducing the need for this to be carried out at public expense. This is now reflected in the reduced amount.

"We hope that this good news will help the club in its plans to move to its new ground."

Brenchley admitted the council's initial ruling had threatened the club's ambitious project which includes a purpose-built stadium, dressing rooms, community area and caretaker's bungalow.

"We had budgeted for a figure just in excess of �71,000 so to be asked for another sum on top was totally out of the blue," he said. "There are other businesses along the same stretch of road and we didn't feel the same rules were being applied.

"Five or six of them come straight off gravel drives onto the highway. I understand the access issue for one of the businesses opposite our site was the last part of their development so they were able to commence work. We have not been able to get onto our site until this issue is resolved. Now we're looking to agree the exact cost involved and wait for the council to put it out to tender."

Wisbech will play at their temporary Outwell base again this coming season but Brenchley reiterated the new stadium project is essential to secure the club's long term future.

"We need our own base so we can start raising revenues and generating income," he said. "In this current financial climate it is vital. We need to be able to have our own club house facilities to raise money, attract new sponsors and ultimately be self sufficient."