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Council supports Ferry Project towards Queen Mary Centre ownership

21 March 2024

Councillors today renewed the lease of the Queen Mary Centre, Wisbech. A further two-year lease of the building was agreed between the county council and the Ferry Project for peppercorn rent of £1 to ensure community services can continue whilst the charity seeks funding to take on the 1960s building.

The Queen Mary Centre is a popular local community hub with 77,000 visitors last year. The centre is home to health support services and used regularly by 45 different community groups, as well as the county council.

The centre was first leased by the Ferry Project, a homelessness-focused charity back in 2013. Previously, the building was slated for demolition due to the need for extensive repair work. Some repairs have already been undertaken by the charity – although more building improvements are needed.

Assets & Procurement Committee councillors acknowledged that the future sale of the site or potentially a community asset transfer to the charity were practical ways to safeguard community services in Wisbech. Councillors were supportive of this ambition and recognised that if the building were sold or transferred to the charity in the future, The Ferry Project would be able to access grant funding to make the necessary building repairs – and such a move could even lead to the expansion the facility.

In this month’s budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, announced funding and support of up to £20m for Wisbech, as part of a programme of regeneration investment, known as the Long-Term Plan for Towns.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s Assets & Procurement Committee Chair, Councillor Ros Hathorn, said: “We’re keen to safeguard the critical role The Queen Mary Centre plays in the local Wisbech community. From hosting clinics and children’s groups to providing homeless people with much needed support, valuable community services are provided from the centre on a daily basis.

“We recognise the huge public benefits associated with the Ferry Project’s works and its initiatives with the wider community, which is why we’ve agreed a peppercorn lease for the next two years. We appreciate that, as a charity, the Ferry Project are better placed to access the grant funding needed to rejuvenate the site with the aim of providing an even better community space in the future.

“We will continue to work closely with the Ferry Project and hope that this short term lease will offer time for the charity to draw up its proposals for an even better home for its important community work. ”

Nicola Knowles, the Ferry Project’s Centre Manager said: “Renewing the lease of the Queen Mary Centre at a peppercorn rent ensures that our community can continue to access a range of essential services here in Wisbech. The services and groups based here make a huge difference to people’s lives. Each week we have people meeting with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, accessing healthcare, attending church services and meeting others through social groups for older people, new parents, teens and foster carers as well as popping in for our community market.

“As the centre continues to get busier, we’re interested in making plans for the longer term that will help us to serve even more people in more ways. That’s why we’re working with Cambridgeshire County Council and considering taking on the building ourselves.

“It’s great to hear that councillors are supportive of our work and our ambition to develop the centre and secure its future for many years to come.”