A member of Parliament has taken his concerns surrounding the ‘lack of consultation’ regarding a project to revamp a Moorlands town to the House of Commons. The concerns raised by MP Bill Cash last week surrounded the controversial Cheadle Town Centre Projects initiative which is being implemented by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.
A member of Parliament has taken his concerns surrounding the ‘lack of consultation’ regarding a project to revamp a Moorlands town to the House of Commons.
The concerns raised by MP Bill Cash last week surrounded the controversial Cheadle Town Centre Projects initiative which is being implemented by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.
At the House of Commons on Thursday (December 11), MP Kelly Tolhurst, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, began a debate about the future of the great British high street.
Within the debate, MP for Stone (which includes Cheadle) Sir Bill Cash said: “My constituency is extremely grateful for the moneys that have been provided for the high street, but does my hon. Friend agree that when consultations are taking place and project developments are being created, people in the high street in places like Cheadle in my constituency require proper consultation and should get proper consultation before matters are taken any further?”
And then he further made the following speech: “Cheadle, in my constituency, also falls within Staffordshire Moorlands District Council. I asked for Cheadle to be included in the Government high street project, and I am glad that was agreed.
“However, SMDC has decided to package an additional set of contentious objectives into the mix outlined in its Cheadle Town Centre Projects report to its cabinet on 6 October. This includes many of our main community assets, with the prospective closure of the South Moorlands Leisure Centre and of the community Cheadle Hospital, and prospective housing on our town centre car parks.
“I asked before the cabinet meeting for proper consultation, but my request to have a statement read out was refused. I proposed a local referendum on all this.
“The district council commissioned two sets of consultants in 2016, without discussion or engagement with the affected community. The lack of transparency on the brief and objectives used to commission these reports and on the full reports themselves is of great concern.
“What is clear is that a plan from 2016, predating the reports, does not align with Cheadle’s community aspirations. The reports have cost £60,000, without proper consultation, and it is taxpayers’ and my voters’ money that has paid for them.
“The cabinet at SMDC has produced a stakeholder panel and delivery board within the prescribed set of limited options. The reports prescribe a stakeholder panel that omits key users of the facilities and is subservient to the delivery board; it contains only one member of the stakeholder panel, so the outnumbering is at least three to one. The delivery board has priority over the stakeholders.
“There is a set of prescribed options extracted from the yet-to-be-seen full reports. There is no assessment of the costs or environmental impact of demolition. There is already a petition of 4,400 signatures for the retention of the leisure centre.
“I ask the Minister to take appropriate steps to ensure and guarantee proper consultation for my constituents, and to hold SMDC to account. It is part of my constituency. I have two other councils in my area, Stafford Borough and Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, and I have not had difficulty with them in this respect.
“I ask the Minister to take note and ensure that value for taxpayers’ money is properly achieved and that we have proper consultation. That is what we are asking for, because if we can have proper consultation, these projects – this levelling up – will all work, because people will know that they are getting the results that they have expected.
“It is terribly simple; it is just called proper consultation. Can we make sure we get it?”
Many other MPs made speeches on High Street matters, and then within her closing address on the debate, MP Kelly Tolhurst said: “I am happy to meet with my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), and other interested MPs, to discuss some of the issues that he has raised in today’s debate.
“We are absolutely ready and prepared, and will continue to work with stakeholders, businesses and local representatives, to ensure that our high streets and our economy can bounce back as soon as we can move out of restrictions, which is something the Government are working very hard to deliver.”
She also added: “We will survive this pandemic, and our high streets will survive with the determination and dedication of all the men and women who are working in our businesses and shops.”
Following the debate at the House of Commons, Sir Bill Cash told the Times & Echo: “This situation is serious. I have called for a local referendum and I have had enormous amount of support from the people of Cheadle and the town council, and also from Conservative councillors in the area.
“Basically we now have to seek to find a solution to this problem.
“The necessity is proper consultation – not consultation after decisions have been made – but before.
“I want to see them (SMDC) say that they will be willing to take proper consultation.
“I insist on proper consultation.
“I am very dissatisfied for the people of Cheadle. There is tax payers money involved.
“The people who are paying for these reports need to have proper consultation and stakeholder arrangements.”
Sir Cash added of MP Kelly Tolhurst’s agreement to speak to him about the matter: “She recognised this as a very serious problem. She said that she will talk to me.
“We have not made any arrangements as yet but will be doing so as soon as a mutual time can be arranged.
“The Government are paying a huge amount of money for levelling up.
“That is why I have intervened. They (SMDC) have rammed it through. It needs to be rectified.”
The Times & Echo contacted Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) for a response regarding Sir Bill Cash taking the matter to the Houses of Parliament.
In response they issued the following press release:
A council spokesman said: “Council chiefs have reaffirmed their commitment to investing in and regenerating Cheadle – and to doing so in full partnership with the local community and the town’s organisations.
“SMDC is committed to creating safer and healthier environments for communities to live and work in and to creating a strong economy by regenerating towns and villages – with plans for Cheadle a high priority.
“In October, the council considered a report prepared by consultants setting out some of the possible options for a masterplan and investment strategy and agreed to the setting up of a Town Centre Delivery Board supported by a Stakeholder Panel to oversee and guide this significant project.
“Since then, misunderstandings and misinformation about the project have become commonplace so the council has set out to clarify the position and reassure the community that no decisions on a preferred option have been taken.”
Councillor Sybil Ralphs, leader of SMDC and Cabinet member for regeneration, said: “Our vision for Cheadle to return the vibrancy to the high street and provide the community health, leisure and well-being facilities, and housing has not changed – and neither has our commitment to involving the community in delivering this vision.
“There has been much debate in recent weeks about what may or not happen in the town but let me clear – nothing has been decided and no preferred option has been agreed.
“The recent dialogue in Cheadle has demonstrated the significant interest residents and organisations in the town have in its future development and that is to be welcomed.
“It is apparent that we all want to see investment to regenerate the town so what we do have is a shared ambition. I can assure everyone that we will honour our pledge to full public consultation so that all those voices can be properly heard and taken into account before any decisions are made.”
The council spokesman added: “Representatives from the district and county councils, Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the Stoke on Trent Clinical Commissioning Group and the Chair of the Stakeholder Panel will sit on the Board whilst the Stakeholder Panel will comprise members from the town, district and county councils, CCG and health representatives, a business representative, a Home Link officer, a Team Cheadle representative and community representatives including members from the Church, and a representative from the youth, education and leisure sector.
“It has always been the council’s intention that the Stakeholder Panel will be tasked with overseeing public consultation and a survey to seek views on all the regeneration issues and opportunities for the town centre.”
Cllr Ralphs added: “I hope this reassures people that their views are critical to shaping the town’s future and that what they tell us during the consultation will inform the priorities for the regeneration projects we ultimately take forward and deliver.”
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