A few weeks ago I wrote on my blog about the land south of LB High Street. In that post, I made what I considered to be a realistic assessment of the likely future use of the site and the timescales.
At the same time, I urged residents to be wary of promises of community facilities and other non-residential use that were being promoted by some of my colleagues.
Unfortunately, my comments have been misinterpreted by some as meaning that I do not support the use of the site for anything other than residential – indeed, it was even suggested there might be some maleficence going on. It was also suggested that my comments amounted to me ‘pre-determining’ the use of the site.
Since making these comments, the view that there will be no development of the site in the short term (at least 5 years) has been reiterated by both CBC Officers and the responsible Portfolio Holder at CBC. This is not a deliberate policy decision, but a realistic assessment of the economic climate both now and for the foreseeable future. I would be delighted to be proved wrong!
Furthermore, the suggestion that I actually favour residential use for this land could not be further from the truth – I would support just about any proposal that meant it did not go for housing. I do not want to see housing on that site. I would much prefer to see it used for a combination of leisure, community and retail. And if a viable proposal were to be on the table it would have my full support.
Which brings me to my second point, and this is where there has been a misunderstanding on my part. At Thursday’s meeting of CBC’s Full Council, a number of local residents spoke of their proposals to put an ‘arts facility’ on part of the site. However, what was described was so much more – meeting rooms, performance spaces, a heritage centre, a café. And it was also clear these proposals were quite advanced – the supporters of this scheme have engaged an architect to develop the plans, and funding sources are being explored, and if I understood correctly, they also have the support of one of the private landowners who still own a parcel of land on the site.
With the one caveat that neither CBC or LLTC have money to fund this project in its entirety (I am not ruling out the possibility of grants or other contributions, or S106 contributions), this proposal would be a great asset to the town and something that I would support.
Not unrelated to this is the question that Cllr Victoria Harvey asked at Full Council regarding free short-term parking. She made a very strong and convincing case for CBC to offer 30 minutes of free parking.
I had raised a similar question a few months ago, suggesting that some of the unused land owned by CBC south of the High Street could be used to provide additional (free) parking.
With many short-term spaces having been lost since the closure of the High Street to traffic, there are only limited spaces available in Lake Street and Church Square. If someone wants to pop into town to pick up a prescription or go to the bank, they do not want to pay for a full hour’s parking. The availability of short-term parking is crucial to the viability of the High Street.
I support Victoria’s proposal and will do everything I can to see this move forward – except the part of her proposal where she suggests increasing the cost of longer-term parking (this would simply push all-day parkers into surrounding roads).
Cllr Amanda Dodwell