Visit to Newport & Newport refute Councils claims

Cllr Sahota will be holding a Conversation with Kuldip session on the 12th December at 10.00am in Newport Library.

In addition and in response to Cllr McLements claims within recent press articles please read:

NEWPORT REFUTES COUNCIL CLAIMS ABOUT SUPERMARKET COSTS

Save Newport Campaign’s (SNC) Response to ‘Council’s £1.35m Store Plan Costs’ & ‘Supermarket Saga Became Political’ press reports
Issued by SNC November 23
The Save Newport Campaign (SNC) a partnership between the Newport Town Council, Chamber of Trade and Newport Regeneration Partnership, responds to the comments made by Cllr Bill McClements (Shropshire Star 18/11/14) in seeking to justify the Council’s actions and expenditure on all the proposed supermarket developments on the edge of Newport. They state the following:

1. The suggestion that the Council needed to defend its decision to develop a huge hypermarket on a greenfield site (Station Rd) and repeatedly challenge rival supermarket proposals on brown field sites (Audley Avenue and Mere Park) in order ‘to protect the public purse’ is clearly disingenuous. Whilst they recognise the Council’s duty is to get best value from its assets for the benefit of all residents across the Borough, this should not be at any cost and where it will impact adversely on a local community, particularly where that community exercises its democratic right to object strongly to its proposals. Indeed Cllr McClements’ public disapproval of that democratic right is very disturbing. It is worth noting that Newport’s Town Council, Chamber of Commerce, Civic Society, Regeneration Partnership and numerous other voluntary sector groups ALL objected as well as individual businesses and residents.

2. The actions taken by the SNC and its many supporters in resisting the planned joint venture by the Council and St Modwens to build a Sainsburys superstore on Station Rd can in no possible way be described as ‘more political than practical’ and ‘an attempt to damage the finances of the Council’. The SNC as a campaigning group, comprising Town Council, Chamber and Regeneration Partnership, has, from its inception in 2011, been avowedly apolitical, and whilst it has lobbied and secured support from a number of local Conservative Borough Councillors, who have been representing the views of their constituents, it must be remembered that it was a Conservative-led administration that first commissioned the developer St Modwens to procure a supermarket operator for the Station Rd greenfield site, albeit with an intention to take the proposals to a local referendum.

3. The costs incurred by the Council, both as joint developer and planning authority, a distinction that has been and continues to be very blurred, both in pursuing a Sainsburys’ superstore on council-owned land at Station Rd and ensuring it faced no opposition from competing developments at Audley Avenue and Mere Park, cannot be blamed on the Secretary of State nor on ‘someone local’ as Cllr McClements suggests. It was the Council’s own decision to delay processing the planning application for a supermarket on the brownfield site at Audley Avenue, whilst it worked up its own rival scheme on its own land with St Modwens in 2011, which led to the applicant securing a planning inquiry, due to non-determination from the Secretary of State.

This decision was then compounded by the Council’s decision to challenge the outcome of that Inquiry both in the High Court and subsequently the Court of Appeal, thus incurring considerable and spiralling costs. As regards the decision by the Secretary of State to call-in for public examination the Station Rd superstore application, this was not because of the actions of ‘someone local’: naturally the SNC and its supporters lobbied the Secretary of State (SoS), which is their democratic right, but it was called in because the Council as the planning authority registered the application as a departure from the current Local Plan, and so triggered the possibility of the SoS asking for it to be called-in for public inquiry. To try and lay the blame for the costs incurred by the Council, which SNC believe to be well in excess of the latest estimate from the Council of £1.35m, on any one local individual is clearly both preposterous and desperate. Clearly it has been the decisions of the Council as both joint developer and planning authority, and the expensive and questionable legal advice it has received, which have resulted in this loss to the local public purse.

4. The attempt by the Council as land owner to mitigate what Cllr McClements describes as the ‘permanent devaluation’ of the Station Rd site, by granting planning permission to St Modwens for a further 120 houses, in addition to the 350 already approved, on the Station Rd site, would suggest that a decision has already been made? This could again lay the Council open to a charge of predetermination and this will need to be drawn to the attention of the SoS.

5. There should now be a proper debate about the future of the site, taking into account the proposals coming forward as part of the Newport Development Plan, being led by the Town Council, within the context of the emerging new Borough-wide Local Plan (Shaping Places). However, the delay by the Council in progressing the new Local Plan and its reluctance to admit that it does now have a 5 year housing land supply will mean that any decision made now on the use of the Station Rd site will be premature and continue to allow speculative housing developers to circumvent the normal planning process and drive through supposedly ‘sustainable developments’ in the face of increasing local community opposition.

6. Cllr McClements concluded that ‘politics got in the way of making rational decisions’. On the basis of the real facts, SNC must agree. They will continue the dialogue with the Council’s external auditors in an attempt to seek further clarity as to whether the Council’s decisions and actions represented good value for local taxpayers money. Telford & Wrekin Council prides itself on being a “Co-operative Council” which works for and listens to its residents. It also has a duty of care towards its residents in terms of their health and well being and it is time for it to recognise that the Station Road greenfields are the only greenfields now left in Newport, which already had the lowest publicly accessible green spaces in the Borough. Ironically, Hutchison Way wends its way across them, named after the late lamented David Hutchison, keen walker and former CEO of Telford & Wrekin Council.

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