BOROUGH Councillors have been falling over themselves to emphasise ‘nothing has been decided’ on the planned demolition of the district centres in Winyates and Matchborough.
Back in January the Redditch Standard revealed options being mooted include just one single centre being built to serve both areas.
And at Tuesday night’s council executive meeting Councillor Greg Chance (Lab, Central) told Conservative councillors ‘the cat’s out of the bag’ as he waved our front page in the air detailing that story.
Planning officer Paul Spooner had earlier told the meeting that four developers had responded positively to creating a partnership with the council to revamp Matchborough and Winyates centres.
He said: “Some of the developers suggest that the two local centres could be replaced within an overall development but others indicate this may be less viable than developing a single new district centre serving both areas.”
However he told members several developers had acknowledged retaining two centres would be more costly.
He suggested specific proposals for scheme – which could also see more than 400 news homes built – could be ready by June with a contract for the work being put out to tender in July.
Labour group leader Coun Bill Hartnett (Church Hill) emphasised his party’s support for keeping both centres separate and urged members to start consulting with the public now, if only to explain the position of the authority.
“The situation is very unclear and we should do something to dispel the myths that are circulating around this,” he said.
He also hit out at the number of private meetings which have already been held on the issue without input from local ward members.
He called for ‘meaningful consultation’ with those councillors and ‘consistent consultation’ with local residents and stakeholders ‘from this point forward’.
However Coun Brandon Clayton (Con, Astwood Bank and Feckenham) said: “All we are doing at the moment is asking companies out there if they can work with us on a project – there is no option on the table.”
Coun Tom Baker-Price (Con, Headless Cross and Oakenshaw) added: “It’s really important that the public are included as much as possible.
“It’s really important to emphasise that no decision has been taken and there is the potential to have two centres or to have one and I would like this decision to rest with the public.”
However Coun Chance said: “The cat’s out of the bag. People are aware there are plans for those centres. We recognise they need to be redeveloped as for one centre or two centres people will have views on that, what we want is a consistent approach.”
Coun Hartnett’s amendment was lost but members backed a second amendment from council leader Matt Dormer (Con, West) which inserted the word ‘shape’ in asking members of the local community, among others ‘to develop, shape and agree a comprehensive regeneration scheme for Matchborough and Winyates’ when officers report back with specific proposals.