Cash earmarked for town centre improvements delayed AGAIN

Coun. Kevin Horkin is disappointed with the funding delay
Coun. Kevin Horkin is disappointed with the funding delay

A scheme to breathe new life into Clitheroe town centre is unlikely to start until next year – much to the dismay of local folk.

In 2015 it was announced that £115,000 would form part of an investment in the town by the end of 2018. Under the plan, the Clitheroe “townscape” project would see the money given for work to improve shop fronts, streets and public features.

However, no work was carried out during the 2015/2016 financial year and Lancashire County Council, which had agreed to contribute £60,000, withdrew from the scheme.

Now, Ribble Valley Borough Council has said the remaining £55,000 in the budget will not be used until a decision on the proposed Clitheroe Market development has been made.

A decision to move the £55,000 to 2017/1018 was discussed by councillors at this week's Policy and Finance meeting.

News that the funding has been delayed another year has prompted a backlash from traders and councillors who believe regular investment is crucial for the vitality of the town. Ribble Valley businessman and chairman of The Clitheroe Town Team, Mr Kevin Horkin said: “It’s very disappointing that yet again the historic market town of Clitheroe has its funds delayed. It seems all too easy for the council to do this time and time again.

“For the past four years we have been promised increasing amount of money – in fact Lancashire County Council said they would match the funding. It isn’t fair on Clitheroe that has to compete with similar small-sized towns. We should have been given that money to spend last year.”

He added: “I want Ribble Valley folk to get behind this and show a united front and to speak up for what is ours.

“The funding for the market redevelopment is a private initiative – it has nothing to do with this. This money was earmarked to be spent on Castle Street and there are no shortage of ideas.”Similar views were expressed by Ribble Valley councillor and member of town team, Coun. Ged Mirfin. He said: “We are once again presented by enormous problems of rapidly deteriorating pavements around Clitheroe Town Centre. In fact, myself, Kevin and Coun. Ian Brown walked around the town the other week and although Lancashire County Council has resurfaced some of the junctions, a lot of the town’s pavements are in a terrible condition. We desperately need to hang onto this money to repair the pavements now rather than allow them to deteriorate further.”

Meanwhile, president of Clitheroe Chamber of Trade, Daniel Williams, believes regular investment is crucial for the success of the town. He added: “It seems astonishing that the council have identified the need to improve certain aspects of the town centre and even have the funds in place to do this but here we are, months, even years later and despite several meetings and suggestions nothing has been done yet. Clitheroe is a bustling little market town at the moment, but the only way to ensure the long term success is with continued investment. We welcome the allocated funds and appreciate the right scheme needs to be chosen, but passing numbers from balance sheet to balance sheet isn’t actually doing any good for anyone except the accountants.”

In the report was discussed on Tuesday, the council’s director of resources, Mr Andrew Cook, stated: “The Clitheroe Townscape Scheme is in abeyance awaiting further consideration in relation to the wider Clitheroe Market Development scheme, so there is no further progress on plans to spend the budget at this stage and there is expected to be no expenditure on the scheme in 2016/2017.

“A report will be brought to a future meeting of this committee when plans are drawn up.

“It is recommended that the revised estimate is reduced to nil and the £55,000 budget is moved to 2017/2018.”