We stumbled across a copy of a borough council press release recently. The notice was embargoed until today, so we’ve not published it before. But now, here is the text in full.
“Embargoed until April 1st”
“Town Centre Regeneration Gets Underway”
“The council is pleased to announce that it is taking the next important step in turning the borough’s principal town into a foremost regional destination, and into one of the top one hundred retail towns in the UK. This involves redeveloping the tired northern part of the town centre into residential homes for older people. When completed, the complex will guarantee peace and security, as it will be surrounded by razor wire in keeping with the nearby road scene.
“To meet the special needs of the inhabitants, the development will be pedestrian-friendly, with priority given to through-traffic. This will provide the occupants with a familiar environment; reproducing the conditions that they previously knew and loved in the town’s High Street. In the longer term, traffic will be discouraged, so, in a decade or two’s time, the council may consider establishing a working party to review the situation. A similar approach is being followed to improve the pedestrian experience in the High Street.
“Consistent with the council’s long-standing policy to restrict the height of new town centre buildings to four storeys, the development will be limited to six floors (as already agreed for the site). Numerous lifts will provide good access, although it is likely that some will be quietly decommissioned permanently, as practised elsewhere in the town.
“The council recognised many years ago that click and collect, and internet sales, would make any significant expansion of retail facilities in the town unwarranted. However, commercial confidentiality means that this policy could not be acknowledged publicly until now. But the point has been reached where the council can confirm that the interest that it apparently showed in increasing the town’s retail space was purely to provide a fall-back option, it being good practice to maintain a ‘Plan B’. In reality there has never been any intention of delivering the aims in the published Town Area Action Plan; the council’s key priority, albeit unwritten, has always been to turn the town into one dedicated to elderly people and their needs.
“The benefits of this policy have, of course, been fully assessed. Account has been taken of the probability that younger and mobile people will move to more dynamic towns in the neighbourhood. This will reduce the demand on the council’s leisure centre, so the study groups that have been looking at its replacement for the last ten years will draw their work to a close. The intention is that the existing building will remain in use until it becomes too dangerous to enter. A considerable financial saving should be achieved in this way.
“Full information about the development will be updated when appropriate on the council website. Interested residents are advised to visit the website to learn more.
“Note for editors: No timescale or detailed action plan has yet been put in place, and no progress report will be issued for the foreseeable future.”
We spoke to a councillor about the development. We were informed, off-the-record, that, as elderly people tend to vote Conservative, most councillors strongly support the scheme. It will help to maintain the borough council’s one-party tradition.
We sought further information from an official spokesman. However, we were told that the council’s policy was not to respond to enquiries about town centre matters. This leaves residents free to question whether the council is in control of events.