Monday, 7 May 2007

Centros Miller in action

Report by John Freeman: We thought you might be interested in these pictures from Bury St Edmunds courtesy of Bury Free Press, where developers have ridden rough shod over local opposition and let Centros Miller redevelop the old cattle Market.

Some locals there were so upset by the plans they even put a curse on CM, which must surely still be banned under never-repealed witchcraft laws.

Work on the development has already met with criticism from locals after the builders put up two-storey huts next to homes - which, because they are temporary structures, do not require planning permission.

Following local elections here in Lancaster a peculiar coalition of councillors of every political hue looks set to take control of the City Council, in a desperate bid to remove the Greens, who have taken even more seats at the expense of Labour and Liberals, from getting more power over local decision making.

Council leader and Labour councillor Ian Barker lost his seat to the Greens in the election and told local press he was in no doubt that those elected are against development and progress in the City. (The Greens have of course put forward their own plans for development on the controversial canal corridor area, but Barker seems to have ignored those).

His backing of the much-hated Northern Bypass scheme proposed by the County Council probably didn't do him any favours, either with Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe quite sure it played a part in his downfall.

“We have long known from our campaigning that the Northern Route is detested by most local voters, and Lancaster’s traffic congestion is not helped by either scheme,” says chair of the group David Gate, referring to both the Northern proposal and the long-since-dropped Western Bypass plan, which local lorry hauliers are trying to get back on the agenda .

“TSLM is not a political organisation, but our supporters are voters, and they are not going to stand for the destruction of the district by a massive road that only increases traffic. The Northern Route has backfired on the Council leader, and has been shown to be a massive vote loser.

"The councillors who listened to the people and opposed this unpopular road - the Independents and the Greens - have seen their vote increase. Those who ignored the people have lost seats. Surely it's time for Lancaster City Councillors to follow local MP Geraldine Smith and ditch this unpopular and underperforming scheme."

Cal Giles, one of the co-ordinators of the Lancaster pressure group It's Our City, which opposes the Centros Miller vision for the town, says elected councillors, as well as newly elected councillors, now need to be reminded that should this development go ahead, what is happening now in Bury St. Edmunds is what our city will have to put up with during a build.

"Four years may seem a long time from now," she says, "but by the next election this is what we will be living with. Voters get very angry when their lives are so disrupted and as we have proved, vote with their feet."

Of course, while councillors may appear to listen, they have to be watch like a hawk in case they pull some dirty tricks. Last night, this VL contributor was reminded that after 34,000 local people signed a petition back in the 1980s opposing plans for a two tier market to replace the Victorian one that burnt down (and could not simply be rebuilt because the Conservative council at the time did not have it sufficiently ensured, according to a local Labour activist), the petition mysteriously vanished.

The two tier market went ahead and remains half empty of stalls to this day...