Multi-million pound plans to redevelop Clitheroe’s historic market were given the green light behind closed doors despite a vote calling to have the meeting heard in public.
Councillors gathered at the Ribble Valley Borough Council chamber to discuss the controversial proposals for the town’s £9m market redevelopment, after opposition councillors made the decision to use the “call-in” procedure following a policy and finance committee meeting.
Despite calls from councillors to hold the meeting in public, a vote against the proposal resulted in the market plans remaining in “part two” of the meeting and heard in secret.
Lib Dem councillor Allan Knox slammed members of the ruling Tory Group for deciding to “gag” councillors and take decisions about Clitheroe Market behind closed doors.
However, the main reason for this, explained the Conservative leader of the council Ken Hind, was down to “commercial sensitivities”.
He explained: “On the fourth attempt in 20 years to regenerate the centre of Clitheroe, Ribble Valley Borough Council approved a decision to progress the Clitheroe Market Quarter Development with Barnfield Construction the approved tenderers.
“The debate took place in camera due to advice from the officers as a lot of the matters under consideration was commercially sensitive. The design, which is the property of Barnfield, could be subject to detailed alteration. The negotiations of the final design and next steps in the process with Barnfield should take place in private and the council wish to keep confidential their negotiating position.”
Coun. Knox has reacted with anger: “The way the decision has been taken means the public, rightly or wrongly, believe the council have something to hide about the market development and do not trust the council to do the right thing about this much-loved and historic part of town..”
Members of the Clitheroe Residents Action Group have also hit: “Recent decisions made by councillors have not done Clitheroe any favours. They have flooded our town with houses, without providing adequate infrastructure and demolished a piece of local history on the site of the old hospital. Hands up anyone who thinks they will make the right decision about our town and market this time? Something is not quite right here and if Clitheroe is to have a future we need to stand up for ourselves.”
CRAG asked shoppers to complete a survey outlining what they wanted to see on the market site. Of the 503 people surveyed, 88% agreed that the market should stay outdoors.