Garden Street leak: Action Group condemns flawed financial deal and how officers ignored public rejection of scheme
Monday, 12 January 2009
Responding to the secret October 2005 report to the Calderdale Council's Cabinet - that authorised the Garden Street development project to proceed – which has now been leaked to the press, Anthony Rae for the Garden Street Action Group has told the Hebden Bridge Web:
“This report reveals how the Calderdale Council officers managed to set aside the overwhelmingly negative response of the public consultation about the Garden Street scheme in February-March 2005; and also what a really bad and risky financial deal they were prepared to recommend to councillors. No wonder they have kept this all secret!
“They were prepared to sell the site, valued at approaching £1/2 million on the open market, for just £1 upfront, in the hope or expectation that right at the end of the development process that they might just pick up a substantial capital receipt for the Council as part of a profit share. But looking at the details of this arrangement, it seems quite possible that the Council might never have received a penny. They also identified the scheme as 'high risk'. If councillors on the Planning Committee had not had the good sense to reject planning permission in September then, in the current market conditions, the development if it had started would have gone bankrupt, the Council would have lost control of its own site – also the major car park for the town - maybe for an indefinite period and no financial return, and the centre of Hebden Bridge and its hard pressed shops and businesses would have been blighted for years. It's all incredibly irresponsible!
“We believe the officers also did not provide councillors with a balanced assessment of the outcome of the public consultation. Although proposed schemes from three possible developers were all rejected, by very large majorities on all 5 assessment criteria, and even though an appendix to the report contains more than 20 pages of strongly expressed criticism about the inappropriateness and scale of the development, the officers nonetheless continued to recommend to councillors that the scheme should proceed. Instead they passed the buck of continued public consultation over to the chosen developers, who then failed to meet this responsibility whilst Calderdale officers looked the other way.
“This shows a real lack of competence on the part of the Council, and justifies the scepticism about this development that the overwhelming majority of people in Hebden Bridge, the Hebden Royd Town Council, and finally Calderdale Council's own Planning Committee properly demonstrated.
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