Launch a proper public consultation into Friarsgate proposals
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The Friarsgate Development.
Whilst I am sad to see the development has been unable to attract private investment I am very concerned about the possibility of the district council gambling almost £50million of our money on a development which private investors have walked away from.
Given that the district council’s own accounts show that £450,457 had to be extracted from reserves to continue operating this year, and that it has had to introduce a hugely unpopular and deeply unfair tax on brown bin collections, I question the prudence of sinking more than 4 times the council’s annual receipts into an investment which relies so heavily on retail during a nationwide contraction in the high street retail market.
Furthermore, the latest ONS data lists wholesale, retail, and motor repair as the largest employment sector in the district, accounting for 16% of all jobs already. Whilst most residents would like to see an improvement in the retail offer available in the district, surely the council should not be mortgaging its future on an industry which already forms such a large part of the local economy.
Finally, I am very concerned about the very clear democratic deficit in any decision on this matter. Only 42% of councillors were present at this initial meeting meaning that the views of half the district’s wards were completely absent, and I believe that the final decision will be made by just six members of the cabinet who are all male, ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of retail decisions are made by women. There is also a total absence of political mandate, indeed our most recent by-election in the city was less than four months a go and no mention was made of this vast additional spending in any communication from the Conservative candidate.
I cannot see how the district council can continue to press ahead with this scheme without extensive public consultation on this issue.
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