Fenland Council votes to move historic March fountain despite being told it's 'like moving Arc de Triomphe'
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Permission to relocate March's grade II listed Coronation Fountain has been granted by Fenland District Council's (FDC) planning committee - despite warnings it would be like moving the Arc de Triomphe.
March Society chairman Jennifer Lawler spoke at a committee meeting today (Wednesday, 8 February) to object to proposals to move the 111-year-old fountain from its current position between two lanes of traffic on Broad Street to the pavement 14 metres away.
“Moving the fountain is comparable with moving a structure such as the Arc de Triomphe from its setting,” she told councillors.
“It completely loses its impact.”
The Arc de Triomphe, nine times taller than the Coronation Fountain, is on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
FDC, which made the application, wants to move the fountain to the pavement in front of Malletts (32 Broad Street) in order to create a roundabout in its spot.
It also says that the new, pedestrianised location will allow greater appreciation of the historic structure, built to celebrate the coronation of King George V in 1911.
Cllr Steve Count (Conservatives) was among those who spoke in favour of the plans.
March town centre is “slowly dying”, he said, but a new roundabout would reduce congestion and make it more attractive.
“Instead of killing the town centre as some believe, this is an opportunity to enhance the town I love,” he said, adding that the fountain’s new location is still “highly visible”.
FDC contractors working on the project also stressed that Historic England has scrutinised their plans and that they have had no suggestion from police that moving the fountain will increase antisocial behaviour.
But Cllr Charlie Marks (Independent) suggested that people will eat takeaways under the fountain, while Cllr Rob Skoulding (Conservatives) said it will be used as a climbing frame.
Cllr John Clark (Independent), meanwhile, said that altering March town centre will "rip the heart out".
Cllr Will Sutton (Independent) even went as far as to suggest that those without history in the town can't fully appreciate objections to moving the fountain.
"Two councillors spoke against it and two councillors spoke in favour of it," he said part-way through the debate.
"All four are March town councillors but there’s one real difference between them, Madame Chairman, and that is Cllr Skoulding and Cllr Clark have got history in this town.
"Both their fathers were well-respected, councillors, and we should listen to them."
Councillors also quibbled over the scope of consultation on the project and of their discussion, being repeatedly reminded that they should only debate moving the fountain - not the entire regeneration scheme.
But, as they pointed out, the one would almost certainly not be happening without the other.
After an hour and a half of debate, a majority of councillors voted to approve the application despite the vocal opposition.
They also approved a separate application to demolish a toilet block at the other end of the street to pave the way for the same scheme.