Public should have a say

I think your readers may be interested to know that the Matlock Town Council has expressed concern, to the Derbyshire Dales District Council, regarding the various possible schemes that potential developers have submitted to the district council for the Bakewell Road and Imperial Road sites. This is set to be the next big change to the town, and will, rightly, be the subject of much interest, and possible controversy.

The town council were given a presentation on the various proposals that have been received by Derbyshire Dales District Council, by the district council’s Mike Hase, at the town council meeting on April 2.

At the Matlock Town Council meeting on Monday, April 16, the following resolution was passed, by a majority (i.e. not unanimous) vote:

The town council notes that there are significant differences between the various possible schemes that have been proposed by possible development partners for the Bakewell Road and Imperial Road sites.

The town council believes, on the basis of the information that has been presented to the town council by the district council, that none of the schemes that have been proposed adequately satisfies the Matlock town centre SPD (Nov 2008).

The town council requests that, before any selection of development partner is made by the DDDC, the public of Matlock should be asked to give their views on the various shortlisted schemes, and the public’s view must be given influence in the decision making, including on whether any of the proposals satisfies the SPD sufficiently for it to be permitted.

Matlock Town Council also suggested that a further meeting by the district council with the town council may help to resolve the issues raised.

Hopefully, such a meeting can explore how the public’s views can be sought on the options that the various schemes have presented.

While this may sound like a ‘dry’ subject, it will become a very real issue for the people of Matlock, when the demolition teams start work on the development sites, and even more of a ‘real’ issue when the developments actually take place.

My concern, which is part of what caused us to pass the above resolution, is that all the important decisions will be made before the people of Matlock get the chance to see what’s being proposed, or to have any further input on what happens. The town council was presented with information on the possible schemes (one from each potential developer) in confidence, so I can’t mention any possible developers by name, but I can say that there are many differences between the possible schemes; enough major differences that the Matlock townspeople need to be give some real say on the options that these schemes present.

My other big concern is that none of these proposed schemes delivers enough of what is set out in the Supplementary Planning Document (Matlock Town Centre SPD, Nov 2008) for the town centre. There was a lot of public consultation in the development of that document, and a lot of work by the district council.

The SPD is the yardstick against which the possible schemes should be measured, and judging from what was presented to the Matlock town council, they all fall significantly short. I don’t think anyone expects 100% of what’s in the SPD can be achieved, but what we’ve seen is, I believe, much less than what we should get.

In my opinion, all the possible developers should be asked to come back with something better, that properly satisfies the SPD. Whether the DDDC are going to do this, I don’t know.

The kinds of questions (examples – there are many more) that I think people in Matlock might be interested in are ones like:

Do we want the development to blend in with the current and traditional appearance of Matlock town centre, or do we want a construction of steel, glass and concrete? The SPD makes demands on developers in this respect, but none of the ‘renderings’ presented to the town council showed anything other than a very modern-style, development that would completely change the character of the town centre.

Should there be a car park all over the roof of the new developments? Should the car park be at a lower level, or covered?

This makes a big difference to the visual impact of the development on the town and the valley as a whole.

Should there be open public spaces created within the new development? What ‘public realm’ works should be insisted on as a minimum for the development?

My view is that the current proposals are all deficient in this area; this development is a major opportunity to get Matlock improved public facilities, and it must not be missed.

What should be permitted or insisted on at the riverside? Only one of the schemes seems to make any real attempt to ‘create a high quality ‘riverside quarter’ as is stated as the first of the guiding principles of the SPD’s remit for the Bakewell Road locations

Again, these questions may sound ‘dry’ now, but they certainly won’t do when the work’s happening.

It seems inevitable that the choice of development partner will also be, to a large extent, a choice of scheme.

The development partners will be selected by the District Council, largely on the basis of the scheme that they have proposed. After that, while there may be plenty of argument on the details, the big decisions will inevitably have been taken.

The DDDC is not currently planning to make further consultation with the public, of any kind, before choosing the development partner. I believe that will be too late, and this view was taken by the Matlock town council, hence the motion being passed on April 16.

I believe that the DDDC needs to find a way to let the public have their say, again, on what’s going to happen to our town centre, and to give some real weight to what they hear.

Cllr David Jones,

Matlock Town Council