MP rejects ‘olive branch’ offered by council leader over plans for regeneration of Stevenage town centre
- Credit: Archant
MP Stephen McPartland is still dismissing a £1 billion blueprint to overhaul Stevenage town centre as ‘ridiculous’ – despite offers of an olive branch from borough council leader Sharon Taylor who has offered him a chance to sit round the table with the group behind it.
Stevenage First – a partnership between Stevenage Borough Council, Herts Chamber of Commerce, Herts County Council and Herts Local Enterprise Partnership – is pushing ahead with plans to transform the town with new flats, shops and attractions backed by £1bn largely in private investment, but Mr McPartland has long favoured an alternative government backed scheme which involves setting up an urban development corporation.
This week Stevenage Borough Council’s Labour leader, Mrs Taylor, whose challenge to take Conservative Mr McPartland’s job was comfortably defeated at last year’s general election, extended the offer to Stevenage’s man at Westminster, but warned he needs to get on board soon before the first deals are signed, or Stevenage First will press ahead without him.
She said: “We’re still very happy to do it in the way he wanted us to in 2014, but if we’re going to set up a UDC, that requires legislation and the only person that can do that is Stephen.
“I would really encourage him to meet with SF and explain what he wants us to do.”
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But Mr McPartland rejected the offer, saying: “We are almost 12 months on since the launch of this ridiculous plan, which is a billion pound joke on local people.
“The framework is not a regeneration plan, it is not an investment vehicle, it has not been costed, it has no access to funding and does not have my support.
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“In fact, it is a barrier to any future regeneration of the town centre and will need to be torn up before we can get any developers or banks to take us seriously.”
He says his offer to push ahead with the Stevenage Development Corporation option, which will have its own planning powers and ability to compulsory purchase the property needed, is on the table – but only if Stevenage Borough Council gives up its “addiction to over £3.5 million in car parking charges”, which he says acts as a barrier to any future regeneration.