People power looks set to have won the day after a new consultation period to help decide the future of Clitheroe’s 900-year-old market has officially opened.
At Ribble Valley Borough Council’s Policy and Finance meeting on Tuesday, which attracted 18 members of the public, leading Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative councillors gathered to launch the “Council’s Market Working Group” and agreed the extension of the consultation.
The group has been formed allowing members of the public, stall holders and retailers to discuss comprehensive plans detailing Clitheroe Market’s £9m revamp.
The state-of-the-art scheme, which, under the initial plans, was set to boast a 60-bed hotel at the current site and attract big name businesses into the town, has caused a storm of controversy.
As this further extensive consultation period begins, Ribble Valley Borough Council Leader Stuart Hirst is urging members of the public to come forward and say how they would like their market to be redeveloped.
Speaking before the meeting, Coun. Hirst said: “Barnfield Construction is offering us an incredible £9m investment in the economic future of Clitheroe. Significant though this is, we fully recognise that the proposed development must be subject to the widest possible consultation to ensure residents clearly understand the options and are able to take ownership of this huge opportunity.
“The consultation will be as comprehensive as possible and councillors are united in their determination to get it right for the town and the borough.”
Liberal Democrat Leader for the Valley, Coun. Allan Knox has welcomed the decision for a new consultation. He said: “Clitheroe market has been going for 800 years. Ribble Valley Borough Council has been its custodian for just 42 years.
“We are merely the custodians of the market.
“In reality the market belongs to everyone. This means that everyone needs to have a say in a variety of options.
He added: “It was clear to everyone at the meeting that the original plan was seen as being like John Cleese’s parrot - it had ceased to be.
“It is important now to ensure that the new consultation is thorough and meaningful and that it’s outcome commands the support of a majority of residents because they have not only taken part in the process, but it is what they have asked for.”
The decision for a new consultation and the formation of the Council’s Market Working Group follows a series of concerns raised by Clitheroe Market stall holders, who were not happy with the redevelopment plans.
Residents of Edisford and Low Moor, stall holders and retailers gathered at a public meeting last Wednesday to voice their concerns about the “negative impact” Clitheroe Market’s transformation would have on their business.
Chaired by Ribble Valley councillor Sue Hind, who was accompanied by fellow borough councillors, there were wide ranging criticisms for Clitheroe’s £9m. market redevelopment plan.
Those present were keen to point out that they are not Luddites and recognise the need for development, but it has to be “right” and stressed that whatever is to be built will be a legacy for future generations.
Criticisms were also expressed about the process that led to the emergence of a preferred developer Barnfield Construction chosen by Ribble Valley Borough Council. It was felt that there should have been wider involvement of the people of the Ribble Valley before a pre-planning consultation was put before local residents.
After the meeting, Coun. Sue Hind said: “The view was expressed that the current Clitheroe Market site is too small to include a 60-bed hotel. Its height would inappropriately dominate the roofscape.
“The best location for a hotel was considered to be nearer the A59, either next to McDonalds or on the old hospital site. People considered that the calibre of a cheap hotel chain does not reflect the ambience of our small historic town. Its guests and staff would swallow the inadequate parking spaces leaving no room for day visitors or shoppers.
“Representatives of the shopkeepers felt along with many others that the lack of parking would have a detrimental effect on trade reducing footfall throughout the town and reduction of business.
“The parking problem should be addressed prior to the construction of any market development otherwise it would end up as a huge white elephant which would fail.”
She added: “The market stall holders stated they did not want a two-storey closed market hall. They expressed the view the whole point of a successful market is that it is seen with wares on display, with the resulting colour, noise and smells. Market shoppers do not want to walk through a door.
“Ludlow and Skipton were cited as having much-loved open markets. The architectural design was considered to be out of sympathy with a small market town like Clitheroe”