Action long overdue on Clitheroe Market plan says local businessman
A local businessman says he is "exasperated" by the lack of action taken to revamp Clitheroe's historic market.
Kevin Horkin was speaking to the Clitheroe Advertiser ahead of a meeting of Ribble Valley Borough Council’s policy and finance committee tomorrow evening at which members will decide whether to scrap current £9m proposals to revamp Clitheroe Market.
At the meeting, there will be two options on the table - whether to continue working with Barnfield Construction on the redevelopment of the market or whether to terminate the contract and apply for government funding to develop a vision for the wider town centre with the market site forming one element of the improvements.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday night's meeting, Mr Horkin said: "I'm exasperated!"
He added: "The Clitheroe town master plan is now 10 years old and its original focus was to redevelop the market.
"While we've all been talking about it for the past 10 years it begs the question what have our elected councillors on the town and borough councils been doing and what are they doing? It seems they are unable to make a decision.
"We need leadership. Everyone knows that our high streets are in crisis up and down the country, but we're trapped in a time warp. The chamber of trade and key business people in the town all say RVBC get your act together. What are we paying these highly paid individuals for? They're good at talking but it's about time we saw some action."
Ribble Valley Lib. Dem. Coun. Allan Knox, said that he welcomed the report and the chance to put an expression of interest in for government funding.
However, he added: "It’s a pity the previous administration did not ditch the Barnfield plan last summer when they had the chance.”
The £9 million market plan was put on hold in September when councillors voted to take a breather from plans for the redevelopment.
In September 2017 the borough ditched plans for a new hotel as part of the redevelopment of the market in the face of public opposition.
The original scheme, unveiled in July 2016, also included a three-storey market hall, new retail units and a 56-space car park on the historic town centre site. Despite scaling back the scheme to remove the hotel and provide a two-storey market building with an open-air top-floor space for stalls and and ground-floor food court, opposition remained strong.
In December, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published a call for expressions of interest to bid for part of the £675m Future High Streets fund. This fund is intended to renew and reshape town centres and high streets in a way that improves experience, drives growth and ensures future sustainability. Expressions of interest in the fund must be submitted by March with places subsequently being shortlisted.
The proposed u-turn on the plans for Clitheroe Market have been welcomed by the former leader of RVBC, Conservative Coun. Ken Hind.
He said: "From my point of view I will argue that the council should consider applying for a grant from the Government's £672 million fund created to improve market centres into which the project for Clitheroe centre would ideally fit.
"The project can attract funding for a wider development than just the market which can include improvement of access to the market area by creating a new opening from Castle Street as well as secure the access for future generations."
He added: "The issue of whether we continue with Barnfield Development will have to be decided at this meeting. From my perspective I see major problems with the Barnfield project as it is at present. Access has not been properly secured for market traders or the public.The design has not been finalised. The idea that we give the site to the developers on a 999 year lease means we lose control of the site and this is an important concern as Barnfield can sell a major part of the site to a third party and the council will lose control.
"Too much retail provision in this day and age rather than restaurants, wine bars, offices and leisure will undermine the project. Our first focus should be on a new market and public open space linked into the rest of Castle Street with other new facilities added in.
"We can consider fixing a budget for the new development, and follow Councillor Sue Hind's idea of inviting local architects to compete for the design and utilise the Government grant to build it. The idea will be to create something which is attractive, will increase footfall and a development with which we can be justly proud.
"By retaining control of the site we will not be selling the family silver and secure additional income for the council to be poured into services to the public."