24/01/2012

Mill Street - The Debate


There are many different strands to the debate about the development of Mill Street car park in Aberystwyth. The plans by Ceredigion Council entail building a multi-storey car park alongside Tesco and Marks & Spencer shops. The scheme entails the demolition of Park Avenue Day Centre - to be replaced by a much smaller Day Centre in the Town Hall - plus the Drill Hall and the 13 houses in Glyndwr Road. Below are all arguments I’ve heard from different people, which just happen to fit into ten on either side.

 No to the development

1/  There was no consultation with either the general public or Day Centre users before the decision on Mill Street was made. The Council has no right to make a far reaching decision like this without public consultation.

2/  Tesco rips off farmers and is a Trojan horse that is destroying towns around the country. There are 450 local campaigns against Tesco listed on the Tescopoly website, including 37 in Wales. They should be opposed everywhere.

3/  Aberystwyth doesn’t need any more supermarkets - we’ve got too many already (Co-op, Morrison’s, CK’s, Lidl, Iceland, Spar)

4/  More chain stores will turn Aber into a clone town, the same as everywhere else, and take business from our small traders that give the town its character.

5/  A multi-storey car park will look ugly and will bring more cars to the town when we should be trying to cut traffic and encouraging public transport instead.

6/  The new Day Centre in the Town Hall is much smaller and less inviting than the current one. If they have to pull the old one down they should replace like for like, which they are clearly not. No to moving until they do.

7/  Glyndwr Road and the Drill Hall should not be included in the scheme. They are part of Aberystwyth’s heritage and character which itself has an unacknowledged economic value that helps to attract visitors.

8/  A potential Compulsory Purchase Order on someone’s home (in Glyndwr Road) that they don’t agree to leave is morally wrong. That principle should not be broken. If sticking to it results in the scheme collapsing then that is the Council’s own fault.

9/  Aberystwyth isn’t central to Ceredigion and it’s unfair that the Council concentrates so much development there. More money should be spent in the south of the county [point made by people in the South of the County].

10/  We don’t want Aberystwyth to become bigger. We like it the size it is.


Yes to the development

1/  Rightly or wrongly, Ceredigion Council is now legally committed to the Mill Street development under European Procurement Regulations. Attempting to get out of it, or alter it, would lead to the Council being sued at huge cost which the taxpayer would have to bear.

2/  Those who want Aberystwyth to stay the same are deluding themselves. Nothing stays the same. The town will either grow or shrink. We have to choose which we want.

3/  Aberystwyth cannot keep saying no to development. If it keeps saying no it will get nothing and the town will go into decline. In practical terms, that means fewer jobs and opportunities in the future and less all-round vibrancy.

4/  Aberystwyth Chamber of Commerce, which represents small shops in the town, supports the development because it’s close enough to the town centre to draw more people in and benefit everyone. The anti-supermarket protestors say they care about the small traders. Why don’t they listen to them?

5/  Those people who oppose supermarkets are being elitist. Many people don’t have the luxury of being able to shop in more expensive small shops. They have to buy what they can afford.

6/  Tesco is a higher standard of supermarket than currently exists in Aberystwyth whilst Marks & Spencer will take us into the next league in terms of attracting shoppers. Both will take the town in the right direction.

7/  The right number of supermarkets for a town is decided by market forces, not by imposing some sort of ‘supermarket quota’. When there are too many, the least attractive will go out of business.

8/  Working mothers don’t have the time to wander from shop to shop. They need to get their shopping in one hit and that means a supermarket [point made by some working mothers].

9/  Improving the shopping experience in Aberystwyth could actually save carbon because fewer people from the area will drive to Carmarthen or Shrewsbury for their shopping.

10/  In the summer Aberystwyth’s current car parks regularly become completely full and the town’s streets are crammed with cars, meaning the town is effectively closed to further visitors. We need a multi-storey to cater for this welcome demand.

26 comments:

  1. these pro arguments are terrible, or outright false and strawman based.

    ReplyDelete
  2. ASERIAH SHADRACHJanuary 24, 2012

    Disagree with Andrew Tindall. I thought the pro arguments were were balanced and sensible.

    Anyway, 10 out of 10 to Alun for a most informative blog.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Alun - I'd like to know what Plaid and other Ceredigion councillors are going to do about a real issue facing Aberystwyth which is that some hotel owners, landlords, Tai Cantref (and the County Council) with no word from Plaid, are turning the county into a dumping ground for people unwanted in the big English cities.

    I don't remember when I last heard a Welsh accent from a Tai Cantref occupier. The owner of a large well-known hotel on the Promenade at Aberystwyth adverstises her rooms for former criminals and prison services. But nothing is said by the Plaid Left Wing because it's not politically correct.

    Our town, your town, and Wales is being given great problems which effects our hospitals (you rarely find a Welsh accent at Bronglais A&E or magistrates court), schools and other services.

    I'm in agreement with Jac O' the North blog. What's Plaid's view?

    http://jacothenorth.blogspot.com/2012/01/houses-of-multiple-occupation.html

    One reason why so much is spent on helath issues in Wales is because we're actively advertising people with health and social issues to come here to live! It's a big cartel where the 'Third Sector' who look after people with problems want more of these people here so that they can continue to receive their grants; the landlords and some female hotel owners we could name in Aberystwyth want them for the high rent they pay (or rather idiots like me pay) and the policians want them here because they're used to justify keeping hospitals and other services here.

    Aber Voter

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good to put both sides. People interested in Mill Street plans can go to a Public Meeting, non-party political, Thur 26th Jan, 7pm, Morlan Centre Aberystwyth.

    One 'against' you may have forgotten (or left out to keep it a round 10) is that demolishing a street of houses seems a little rash when Aber is known to have housing issues.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous 1
    You're way off topic of course, but here's Plaid's view on the housing situation in Ceredigion:

    "Whilst it is right that the most seriously disadvantaged should receive priority in social housing allocations, current Council policy fails to ensure that there is sufficient housing for local people and has conducted no needs analysis. The current local housing waiting list for the county is 1,246. We want to get to grips with this with a firm plan to provide decent housing for all local people, defined as someone who has lived in the area for five years.

    "There has been an average of 748 empty homes in Ceredigion over the last four years, not including second homes. We will instigate a policy of buying empty properties to let as social housing.

    "A Plaid-run Council would set up a First-Time Buyers Scheme to help young people access the deposit to release a mortgage.

    "We would also implement a Local Lettings Policy for new social housing in rural areas for people who have lived in the area for five years."


    Anonymous 2
    "...demolishing a street of houses seems a little rash when Aber is known to have housing issues." - Fair point.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very fair and balanced item.

    One other point that I did not spot in the list concerns "green" issues. How much CO2 is already "tied up" in the Day Centre, Drill Hall and Glyndwr Road? All this will be lost if these are demolished.

    Why not use empty premises first - like MFI and Focus before you build more? While they remain empty they are deteriorating. Let's hope B&Q take over the old Focus warehouse.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. B & Q are taking the old Focus, they are already advertising for staff.

      Delete
  7. Just saw a tweet from Simon Thomas that's sort of related, "Minister confirms to me that he will launch national empty property prog for landlords giving interest-free loans to get homes back into use".

    9/ Improving the shopping experience in Aberystwyth could actually save carbon because fewer people from the area will drive to Carmarthen or Shrewsbury for their shopping
    Can't see how this is right, surely with all the building and daily deliveries to all these places and energy it would take to run them, carbon would be higher not lower. Anyway I'm no expert.

    ReplyDelete
  8. In response to Anonymous 1

    "A Plaid-run Council would set up a First-Time Buyers Scheme to help young people access the deposit to release a mortgage.

    The Lib Dems on Ceredigion County Council have already started the ball rolling on this matter. A few months ago two Lib Dem councillors placed a motion before council asking for a study to be undertaken on the introduction of a Local Authority Mortgage Scheme. Such a scheme would assist local people in getting their first steps onto the property ladder. The motion was carried, with cross party support, with the result that the residents of Ceredigion can look forward to the results of that study and the introduction of a LAMS in Ceredigion.

    "We would also implement a Local Lettings Policy for new social housing in rural areas for people who have lived in the area for five years."

    Ceredigion people would welcome a Local Letting Policy but it is both simplistic and naïve to state that one would implement a policy when the implementation of such a policy is dependant on the cooperation and support of those institutions responsible for social housing, namely local housing associations. Plaid have already been wrong footed on this matter, such was their haste to make political capital, that they brought a premature motion before council on the matter despite being advised that it would be illegal at the time to implement what they proposed. As for Local Letting Policy in rural areas, does Plaid not believe that residents living in the towns also deserve to be included in a Local Letting Policy?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Far from making political capital out of a very real need in our communities, Plaid Cymru acted on the advice of the Rural Housing Enabler to draft the original policy put forward. This was following the adoption of a similar policy by the Board of Tai Ceredigion, one of the Registered Social Landlords operating in the county, and following the use of a similar policy by Mid Wales Housing when allocating new houses in Ponterwyd. It also complemented the Section 106 provision attached to the planning consent given to Tai Cantref for a new development in Tregaron.

    Plaid felt that, due to a reticence on the part of the present administration to move on developing housing policies needed in Ceredigion, they group should propose a policy in order to move the matter forward.

    The Council has now received legal advice that confirms Plaid Cymru's original belief and allows us to move forward with a draft rural local lettings policy. It will first proceed to a workshop and then to full Council for ratification.

    Unfortunately, as Plaid was aware, this policy would not be legally acceptable in urban areas as it is an exceptions policy allowed under the present legislation.

    The full lettings policy needs a radical review in order to ensure that local people, both urban and rural, are given fair access to local social housing. However it would seem that new Welsh legislation is needed in order for this to happen.

    ReplyDelete
  10. sorry I have to address some of the points in the opposition section because they are simply ridiculous
    Point 3. Apart from Morrison's only in Aberystwyth would people consider the Co-op,CK’s, Lidl, Iceland and Spar Supermarkets/ Maybe in 1965 but now now!!!!)
    Point 4. Small shops giving character to the town? What aboout Mona Lisa? Is that character??? What about the small business's occupying Burton Chambers with the dreadful boarded upstairs. Character????
    Point 7. Are you seriously suggesting that the houses in Glyndwr road and the drill hall contribute to tourism??? Complete and utter nonsense.
    Point 9. People south of the county think there is too much development here??????? What development?????? Don't Cardigan already have Tesco and B&Q?????? Ceredigion is the poor cousin of Carmarthen and pembrokeshire North and South ANY development should be welcomed.
    Point 10> We don't want Aberystwyth to become bigger???? Why on earth not??????????? The lack of vision and ambition is worrying.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Dear Anonymous 27 Jan
    Bigger isn't necessarily better. What advantages are there to growth? Look at the Republic of Ireland. For 10 years they had the Celtic Tiger economy. Failed to control lending, failed to control housing. Had a building boom. Built houses here,there and everywhere. Now their economy is bust. House prices have dropped 70% in the last 4 years. Empty houses everywhere. Many people in negative equity. What vision and ambition do you have for Aberystwyth?

    We are on the coast with poor road and rail communications to those parts of Wales with all the development that you seem to crave - the South, the North and along the border with England. Aberystwyth is only as big as it is because of the University. What do you want - a town big enough to support bowling alleys, ice rinks, night clubs and multiplex cinemas? Hundreds of shops all selling the same foreign goods? Not for me, thank you.

    Looks like we are getting B&Q to replace Focus. This I applaud.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think you should use Ireland as a comparison, expecially as they were building on borrowed money in euros which they couldn't afford to pay back! Growth is not negative. What would you prefer? That the town becomes a retirement town for the over 70s and all the young people move elsewhere because there is no growth/no jobs/no entertainment? Get real!!!!

      Delete
  12. AnonymousJan 27, 2012 03:33 PM

    Thanks for the name check. Would point out though that Mona Liza is spelt with a Z and has been for the last 22 years. You know what they say any publicity is good publicity as long as they spell your name correctly.

    C Davies

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ok well how about spelling it T A C K Y!!

      Delete
  13. I tried to respond to the above statements, but my reply is far to long winded, if anyone would like to read what I have to say, you can check out the unabridged version here http://iratus-vox.blogspot.com/2012/01/aberystwyth.html
    I just want to pick at this particular point in the pro section 7/ The right number of supermarkets for a town is decided by market forces, not by imposing some sort of ‘supermarket quota’. When there are too many, the least attractive will go out of business.

    So if we do end up having 3 Spars in town, CK Foods, Co-Op, Morrisions, Lidil, Iceland, Sainsburrys, M&S, Tescos I supose the least attractive would be gone then, bye bye CK Foods, the smallest (finincial least secure) shop is dust, for what progress? I think progress should be made in different ways, although massive re-development is needed, perhaps something more dynamic to attract tourists rather then passing trade. I think Aberystwyth would be better off building an IMAX cinema or something like that to have something that isn't available for hundreds of miles. But I know something like that will never happen, not in Aberystwyth thats for sure. I have read so much relating to the towns history that I have an insight into the towns social/econimic evolotion over the past 70 years. Back when Aberystwyth was governed as the Borough of Aberystwyth, which had a hell of a lot more power and could get more done the the council of today. Their was hopes and ambition for the town, but noting really came to fruitition, I have transcribed a document detailing the future development of Aberystwyth dated Jan 4th 1947, written by the Borough Accountant Mr.F.Sharpe, in short it details the concept of extending the prom as far as Tanybwlch Beach and have hotels by Pen Dinas, along with an Amusement park. (could you imagine that, it would have been awesome, Aberystwyth would have been the Welsh Blackpool) Unfortunatly these plans never took off, for reasons which are still unclear to me.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Myth's are:
    - Tesco's is cheap - on price checking Tesco's for basic goods Lidl's was cheaper for every item I checked.
    - that a development at mill street will draw people into the town centre - people will have 3 hours to park and the store proposed will have toilets, a cafe, household and electrical goods as well as food. It may also provide on-line delivery. Will those using the car park have time to go into or want to go into aber town centre - I very much doubt it.
    - the development will help regenerate the centre of aber - more people may come to shop in the two stores concerned - but the development is more likely to take trade away from the town centre and not into it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Aberystwyth will not become bigger by adding a Tesco. If you want it to become bigger, put the development in Penparcau or Rhydefelyn. Knock down the county council building and put the Tesco there. Or, put it in place of the Welsh assembly building, or just beside it. The customers can share the same parking lot, and council workers can shop there in their breaks.

    Tescos is cheaper because they pay people less. Co-op is not too expensive for most people anyway, and looking around at the guts in Aberystwyth, I don't think a lot of people really have a food shortage.

    I doubt fewer people will drive outside. People go to Shrewsbury because they like driving, or because they need a specialist dentist. People who I know who shop in South Wales visit family. No one goes all the way to Carmarthan just to go to Tesco. If they are, they are incredibly bad at math, because the price difference is not great enough to make up for the excess petrol.

    ReplyDelete
  16. And Aberystwyth is too isolated to attract more outside visitors with a Tesco. People won't come here from Shrewsbury or Carmarthan unless it offers something they don't have. The roads get narrower going this way, it's easier to drive out than in.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Dave BradneyJuly 04, 2013

    Alun says he has been told that:

    1/ Rightly or wrongly, Ceredigion Council is now legally committed to the Mill Street development under European Procurement Regulations. Attempting to get out of it, or alter it, would lead to the Council being sued at huge cost which the taxpayer would have to bear.

    Does Alun believe this to be true, or can he take steps to find out?

    If it turns out to be true, would Alun not agree that the person or persons responsible for making such an incredibly rash and anti-democratic commitment of public resources should be reprimanded/fired/removed from office/voted out, as appropriate??

    Will Alun tell us what he intends to do about it, and when? What has he done about it since he posted this appalling idea in January 2012?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Dave:

    1/ It's true that Ceredigion Council is legally committed to the Mill Street Development under European Procurement Regulations. Clearly, reneging on a legal agreement in which companies have invested large sums of money would be likely to have severe financial consequences.

    2/ If you're looking for someone to blame, the politicians originally promoting the scheme were the then Council Leader and the Cabinet Member for Economic Development. As it happens, both lost their seats at the last council elections in 2012. However the Council as an entity remains legally tied to those decisions.

    3/ "Will Alun tell us what he intends to do about it, and when?"

    Phew - you don't expect much do you? Not sure what you mean by "do about it". As I've said, the Council is legally committed to the development. If there was something that could be changed about the worst aspects of it, without losing the whole thing at vast financial cost, then I've no doubt the current administration, elected in May 2012, would do so. Sometimes reality has to be faced.

    4/ "What has he done about it since he posted this appalling idea in January 2012?"

    Well let's see: argued, debated, blogged, facilitated meetings, questioned officers, questioned developers, discussed with activists opposing, explored options, explored other options, spoken in public meetings...It goes on.

    By the way, I make absolutely no apologies for posting this balanced piece giving the views of both sides in what is an important debate for Aberystwyth.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Dave BradneyJuly 04, 2013

    OK Alun, let's accept for now that all the councillors who got CSC into this are now politically defunct. Handy for them. But what about the officers who advised them to sign up to this imprudent madness. Most of them are probably still putting in the hours in that nice new council building. How about reprimand/dismissal/prosecution for them? What progress have you been making on that since Jan 2012?

    And the *existing* councillors, presumably they all know that the council's hands are legally and financially tied, so they could have made it clear that all these debates we thought we were having are actually a pointless charade? Why haven't you blown the whistle on that?

    And how can the council be a fit and proper body to have its planning committee take a decision on the Mill Street planning application, when it clearly has left itself in no position to say No? Why aren't councillors insisting that CSC should be disqualified from taking this decision because of enormous vested interest? Why don't you tell them they must? Why don't you tell us they should? Please respond.


    ReplyDelete
  20. "OK Alun, let's accept for now that all the councillors who got CSC into this are now politically defunct. Handy for them."

    I don't think they thought it was very handy when they lost their seats.

    "But what about the officers who advised them to sign up to this imprudent madness. Most of them are probably still putting in the hours in that nice new council building. How about reprimand/dismissal/prosecution for them? What progress have you been making on that since Jan 2012?"

    How can you reprimand/dismiss/prosecute someone for doing what they're asked to do, perfectly legally, by their employers? Just because you may disagree with a scheme doesn't make it illegal.

    "And the *existing* councillors, presumably they all know that the council's hands are legally and financially tied, so they could have made it clear that all these debates we thought we were having are actually a pointless charade? Why haven't you blown the whistle on that?"

    It's been said over and over again both in public and in private conversations with activists. In fact it was stated clearly at the public meeting your political party hosted on the issue. However those opposed have been reluctant to accept it. I know this because I've discussed it with them dozens of times. I don't blame them for this, because I know they've been operating with the best of intentions, but it doesn't mean they haven't been told.

    "And how can the council be a fit and proper body to have its planning committee take a decision on the Mill Street planning application, when it clearly has left itself in no position to say No? Why aren't councillors insisting that CSC should be disqualified from taking this decision because of enormous vested interest? Why don't you tell them they must? Why don't you tell us they should? Please respond."

    This area is well covered in planning law because it's a very common situation. I think many councillors would much prefer an outside body to make the decision. Unfortunately the Welsh Government, or whoever you think should make the decision, are not going to do this if the law does not require or empower them to do so.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Dave BradneyJuly 04, 2013

    Hi again Alun. I am sure you can demote/sack/prosecute officers for getting you deep into legal and financial doodoo by providing rank and reckless bad advice, or for withholding the good advice that should have been provided instead, which should have been along the lines of "make sure you can keep your options open for as long as you might need to". Letting your employer get painted into a corner like this is wholly incompetent and shows a complete lack of sound judgement, at best.

    If you are saying that all the officers gave good advice but the councillors wouldn't take it, let's hear from you in detail about who did what.

    Secondly, I withdraw what I said about all the councillors being in the clear, because your answer calls for some scrutiny. I wasn't asking who *promoted* the scheme, I was asking which councillors voted in favour in the committee that decided to bind CSC with these EU regulations, and which councillors voted in full council to ratify that committee decision. Quite a few of them must still be sitting councillors. Perhaps you would identify them for us, since you have easier access to that kind of paperwork (minutes etc) than I do?

    Lastly (for now), if you are telling us that despite its obvious prejudice CSC cannot be disqualified from taking the planning decision because no other body can take over the responsibility, then it clearly follows that any decision taken on Mill Street by CSC will be open and highly vulnerable to legal challenge.

    Incidentally, I am not in a political party and haven't been for quite a few years. Just as you are no longer in the party that you started off in.

    Please respond in full.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Sorry Dave. What you’re asking for is several hours work. As I've demonstrated scores of times on this blog, I’m more than happy to engage in discussion or provide information, where I know it, but there are limits.

    I'm sure that, if you went back through the minutes of two, three or four years ago, you’d find people making decisions that you disagreed with. No surprises there (and I’ve certainly disagreed with plenty of them myself). However I'm not sure how someone can be condemned for agreeing to adhere to regulations - it's usually not adhering to regulations that gets people into trouble. In any case, you’re a professional journalist - you can do the research as easily as me. As a starter for you, here’s the link to the last ten years of council minutes:
    http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=10459

    "...then it clearly follows that any decision taken on Mill Street by CSC will be open and highly vulnerable to legal challenge."

    That is entirely a matter for you.

    As I hope you realise, I too am profoundly unhappy with several key aspects of the Mill Street development. However I'm not prepared to fall out any further with you in a public forum so I'm not going to take any more comments along these lines. If you want to get in touch you know my e-mail address.

    Hope you enjoyed the opening of the Gas Gallery.
    Regards
    Alun

    ReplyDelete
  23. Dave BradneyJuly 06, 2013

    Dear Alun, Just to draw this to a close I'd like to thank you for responding three times to my enquiries, and I'm sorry for taking up so much of your time. I don't think we've been falling out, I've just been asking you questions and you've been answering them, as an elected representative of the public should do. I'm sure you set a high standard of communicativeness for your fellow councillors to live up to, and I hope that continues to be the case. I would not want to put you off! I am a *retired* journalist, so I think I will leave the detailed research on who did what to journalists who are still earning a living at it. If they can't manage, and there is any loss or mis-spending of public money due to incompetent or otherwise faulty decision-making, I expect the District Auditors will establish the facts and make use of their powers as appropriate. No need to reply to this, but I'd be grateful if you would allow it to be published on your blog just to round things off.

    ReplyDelete