3:10pm Friday 13th April 2012
WORRIES over the impact Hereford’s multi-million pound retail development will have on the city’s independent shops have dominated a four-hour council debate today.
Councillors on the authority’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee called in last week’s cabinet decision to press ahead with a number of amendments to the planned £90 million scheme off Edgar Street.
Cross-party members gathering at the council’s Brockington headquarters agreed to refer five recommendations to cabinet when they meet again on Monday.
Other suggestions included further examination into whether the scheme offers real value for money, clarity on quoted retail figures and demands for an assessment of the approved variations.
It’s Our County leader Councillor Mark Hubbard said afterwards he was pleased with the outcome.
“A vibrant meeting has put five key recommendations to cabinet that get to the very heart of concerns about this development,” he said.
Part of the meeting was heard in private because it was said to contain sensitive information.
But this decision was challenged by Lib Dem leader Coun Terry James who said everyone knew the details anyway because they had been published in the Hereford Times last week.
“It makes a nonsense that people can discuss the details in the back bar of their local pub but it cannot be heard here.”
Scrutiny cited nine reasons for ‘calling in’ the variations which Coun Hubbard said would effectively ‘sell out’ the current High Town area.
The reasons included a lack of consultation with ward members, the feared impact on High Town and the speed with which the amendments came before cabinet.
Conservative member Coun Andrew Atkinson said the debate was too political and voiced concern that some members were allowed too long to question those behind the multi-million pound scheme.
Alan Harris of consultants Montagu Evans said the city could regret not going ahead with the scheme.
“There will be long-term damage (if you wait) as tenants will either move to Holmer Road or out of the city,” he said.
“They (retailers) will move away unless there is some reason for them to stay.”
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