Will there be time for consultation?

A phrase that kept recurring from the Councillors and Planners like a pre-prepared mantra during and since the September 13th Council vote which seems to have sealed the Town’s fate for the Bakewell Road re-development, was ‘Trust Us!’.

The feeling at the time was that this was an obvious ploy to try and justify the Council’s decision to totally exclude the public from any form of consultation or debate on the development until it was too far down the line for us to have the chance for any meaningful influence.

Having now viewed the proposals in the Council offices for what looks like being a new mega Morrisons store (40,000 square foot – one and a half times the size of Sainsbury’s), 60 bed hotel, an additional 25,000 square foot of general retail space and a huge car park, I now see why the Council have excluded us.

Thankfully though, I’m savvy enough to be able to see through the glossy developers submissions.

What is more of a concern though is the time-lines outlined in the document, namely to be on-site with the start of the works summer of next year, the works then all completing by December of the following year.

Having been promised by the leader of the council the opportunity for the public to have ample say on the development, the whole process again seems to be geared around delivering this proposal in the shortest possible time and with the least opportunity for the pesky public to have their voices hears.

Indeed, having secretly presided over these plans for the past two years, all we have been allocated accordingly to the timescales set out, is a one-week slot in the Planning process - a week which I’m sure the Council will do all they can to keep quiet and then only allow pre-booked five minute slots for the public to speak (with the Councillors not obliged to answer any questions).

With the Council being the land owner / seller for this site and the developer insisting on a fast-tracked planning process, the question arises to me as to just how thorough the planners will be in ensuring due and diligent process is followed and also how critical they will be of the design proposals, given that their main criteria seems to be to deliver the project in the shortest timescales they can get away with, and thereby get the council’s coffers ringing as soon as they can.

Surely also there’s a conflict of interest here?.

As a final note, I implore the public to get as involved as they can (even at this late stage) in ensuring their councillors and planners deliver this seemingly unstoppable development in a manner which we are entitled to, and is as sensitive to the town as it can be – do we really just want to be seen as a supermarket hub for the surrounding districts?.

If we don’t make our feelings known, we will be left with another planning debacle like the ones recently delivered to us on the edge of town with the ugly residential flats, the insensitive railway bridge design, the barren moon-scape around Sainsbury’s and the botched Sherwood Hall debacle.

This time though, we will be left with an unsightly eye-sore of a scheme right in the middle of our town, but this time on a gargantuan scale.

Trust youc ouncillors? I think not!.

Martyn Cater

Imperial Road