Stevenage MP criticises lack of funding and permission for town centre regeneration plans
PUBLISHED: 06:56 20 March 2019
The Stevenage MP has rubbished the borough council's signing of a contract with developer Mace Group Ltd for the town centre redevelopment because planning permission and funding have not been secured.
Last week the Comet reported that Stevenage Borough Council has signed a contract with Mace – which built London’s The Shard – for the regeneration of Stevenage’s town centre, with work set to begin in 2020.
The regeneration is a £1 billion 20-year plan which includes £350 million to revamp the western side of the town centre, where The Plaza, bus station, council offices and several car parks are currently located.
The council says projects already completed as part of the regeneration programme include Market Place and Vista Tower, with preliminary works also under way for a £50 million revamp of Queensway North.
But following the contract signing with Mace, Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland, who has a long history of warring with SBC, said: “The council has no plans submitted and no planning permission granted. It does not own the sites and some sites, including NHS facilities, may need compulsory purchasing.
“They do not have the finances in place and the contract is merely an option that was announced two years ago and took this long to sign! It has been reannounced constantly.
“The council has been announcing regeneration plans for 25 years and never delivered any of them.”
Mr McPartland has now sent a survey to residents, asking what they want from a town centre regeneration – and people have taken to social media to express their frustration.
Referring to the government’s holding direction put on the council’s Local Plan in November 2017 at Mr McPartland’s request, which is still in place, one resident said: “Maybe he should stop blocking the regeneration of the town that is already under way.” Another said: “He is costing us money through the legal challenge to unblock his hold on the regeneration. That’s how much he cares about residents.” But Mr McPartland said: “I will continue fighting for what people want, which they tell me is a real regeneration scheme that can be delivered, with new shops at the heart of it and three hours free parking.”
A council spokesman said: “Both the council and the Stevenage First partnership have opened the opportunity to discuss regeneration with Mr McPartland.
“Our regeneration schemes are designed to improve Stevenage and to deliver upgraded services, facilities and amenities to residents as they have requested.
“If Mr McPartland does still wish to engage in discussions over the regeneration plans, we encourage him to take up our invitations and work together with us to make an even better Stevenage.”