Green Party City Councillors say that Lancaster City Council has wasted tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money by withdrawing from the inquiry after two weeks (see news story).
"In April we put a motion to Full Council saying that because of Centros' decision not to attend the inquiry, then the City Council should not spend taxpayers money defending the developer," explained Councillor Chris Coates. "However, planning officers were adamant then that the Council should attend the inquiry and pay tens of thousands of pounds for a barrister and expensive retail and traffic consultants.
"Now, having spent the money, the Council is doing what it should have done in the first place. But by withdrawing at this late stage, and blaming Centros' non-appearance, the Council has made itself a laughing stock.
"In my view, the real reason that the Council withdrew was because its case on conservation issues was unravelling," he continued. "The Council has now resorted to playing games to try to keep Centros' development alive, by, for example, asking the Inquiry to agree the principle of the level of retail and car parking on the site, allowing Centros or another developer to tweak the original proposal and re-submit it."
Like other campaigners such as It's Our City, the Greens are not against developing the Canal Corridor site - but do not see a large commercial expansion like Centros proposed as the best use of the area.
"We think there needs to be a very different type of development," argues Chris, "one without the large increase in car parking spaces, that has less retail and which is worked in with the existing buildings - rather than simply bulldozing them."
It's Our City reported yesterday that the Council will not be making closing submissions and will not cross examine the other parties. English Heritage, SAVE, and It's Our City, however, remain anxious to present their evidence before the Inspector reports to the Secretary of State.
SAVE barrister, Andrew Deakin was “extremely keen” that heritage aspects of the Canal Corridor are properly presented. “Request with force” was the way he put his appeal to the Inspector that architects, Ptolemy Dean and Richard Griffiths, have the opportunity to speak at the Inquiry.
It is now hoped that a proposed September extension will be unnecessary and that the Inquiry can be concluded at the end of the planned three week period.
• Read the It's Our City blog of the Inquiry