Fenland District lies within the Fens National Character Area which is a distinctive, historic and human influenced wetland landscape. The large-scale open landscape with huge panoramas and enormous skies gives a strong sense of place, tranquillity and inspiration.
Much of the land is below sea level and since the mid-17th century, has relied on pumped drainage and control of sluices at high and low tides to maintain its agricultural viability. The resultant open fields, bounded by a network of drains, ditches, rivers or dykes, have a strong influence on the geometric/rectilinear landscape pattern and this is mirrored in the settlement pattern and road networks.
Our most historic market towns and villages then are those which are on islands of higher ground which were raised above the historic wetland and each has a unique characteristic. Whittlesey predominately 17th, 18th and 19th century development on an Anglo-Saxon irregular on an irregular grid street pattern of development, with some stone built and some thatched properties as well as the iconic mud walls; Chatteris has more of a traditional medieval settlement pattern with a linear centre, street fronting properties and long burgage plots, yards or orchards to the rear; Wisbech is famed for its Georgian architecture and planned Crescent development, built on its wealth as an inland port; March is different again, with its 20th century expansion arising from its role as a major railway employer and junction of national importance.
Elsewhere, villages tend to be dispersed ribbon settlements along the main arterial routes through the settled fens, and scattered farms remain as tangible links to earlier agricultural settlements. Domestic architecture predominately dates from circa 1750, through to the early 20th century, typically of local brick and tile, with some earlier stone buildings, some thatch and slate (arriving with the railways) and some key examples of exceptional architectural quality and character.
There is currently no list of locally important structures within Fenland (although NDHA's are identified through other Supplementary Planning Documents such as Conservation Area Appraisals and Neighbourhood Plans) It is an ambition in the Fenland District Local Plan to adopt a Local List of Heritage Assets. The Cambridgeshire Local Heritage List Project has enabled the District to pilot the process of putting forward candidates for local listing. It is aimed that the District's formal adoption process will be confirmed by the end of this project in order to formally adopt the candidates that have come forward.
It is anticipated that each District list will remain an open and active document. They are not exhaustive and further candidates for Local listing will continually come forward. They will allow for change and loss to be recorded and for new assets to be discovered, or existing assets reassessed, should more information come to light. These will not include everything that could be potentially listed, and new candidates for local listing are likely to come forward in the development management process. We actively encourage members of the public to continue to put forward candidates.