In a day’s time, the council’s Executive will be deciding whether to make the latest Authority Monitoring Report available on the council website. The AMR is an annual document which the council is obliged to produce, but which – we guess – virtually no-one reads.
The latest AMR – which is for the year ending March 2020 – covers the whole borough. Two points have a bearing on the town centre:
A number of offices in the centre are being converted into flats. Even though this – unlike many other developments – can be done without providing any affordable accommodation, new housing created in the borough overall during the year still met the target of providing 35% affordable accommodation
Based on consultants’ retail studies of a dozen years or so ago, current council plans anticipate a significant increase in retail floorspace in the town. Of course, this has been unrealistic for ages, but we have never seen the council formally acknowledge the situation before. But now, and we quote, “it is unlikely that significant amounts of new retail floorspace will be delivered”
However, we wonder whether we and the council are on quite the same planet. The AMR records that a new Local Plan is being produced to cover the period up to 2032. The stated NEXT stage will be “Public consultation in June 2018 in preparation for Pre-submission consultation in June 2019.” OK, that might be what the original timescale said – but to state it without any comment in 2020 might be considered to be a little ‘careless’. What’s more, we seem to recall that the yet-to-emerge Local Plan was originally intended to cover the period 2016 – 2032. Maybe the Executive might be tempted to ask why progress has been so slow. It can’t all be blamed on ‘the virus’.