Town Deal Truths and Half-Truths
Guest Author Stormin’ Norman Murphy writes to disentangle the Gordian knot.
Much has been said recently, and indeed written about, with regard to the £22 million Scarborough has been awarded from the Town Deal Fund (TDF) and about the purpose of the award and what it might be used for. Some, especially those who have their own personal agendas, or those who consider themselves to be in the “WE KNOW BEST” camp, consider that the schemes they are intending to fund from the award are perfectly acceptable to residents and have pushed to have their plans adopted.
Obviously, as virtually none of these schemes has been put out to public consultation, and the Town Deal Fund Board (TDFB) has not bothered to ask anyone if they like their ideas, some of the schemes, probably all the schemes, have not found favour with a significant number of residents.
Many residents and businesses have argued that several projects that the TDF board are pushing, West Pier development, and the art installations at the Castle (a concrete acropod) and on Vincent Pier (a bladderack seaweed sculpture), for example, are not appropriate uses for money specifically allocated to help and support our Town Centre.
Indeed, the West Pier proposals:
“have angered and worried businesses who say this will divert people away from current shops and is also not what Town Deal Funding should be used for.”
The South Bay Traders Association (SBTA) held an extraordinary meeting recently to discuss the proposals and said they had the highest attendance in their history.
The TDB’s West Pier proposals, many considered, would:
“be in direct competition with the rest of the town and with the existing seafront community.”
“add dramatically to the existing traffic chaos, frustration and confrontation with visitors and residents having nowhere to park”.
The spokesman continued:
“The Government dictates Town Deal Funding can only be used for reviving struggling town centres. The West Pier is evidently not in the town centre nor is the seafront struggling.”
And indeed, when one reads the government’s own specific instruction on what TDF’s monies should be used for, it is impossible to understand how these schemes gained the supported of the TDFB. Their support is all the more difficult to understand when one considers that although clarity of purpose from government, and of course local authorities is (as most people, I think, will agree) difficult to establish with any certainty at any time, in the case of the Town Deal Fund (TDF) the governing body responsible for establishing the TDF has made it abundantly clear what they expect TDFBs to deliver.
Towns Fund Purpose 12. The overarching aim of the Towns Fund is to drive the sustainable economic regeneration of towns to deliver long term economic and productivity growth. 13. There are three themes for investment: Urban regeneration Ensuring towns are thriving places for people to live and work, including by: · Increasing density in town centres; · Strengthening local economic assets including local cultural assets; · Site acquisition, preparation, remediation, and/or development; and · Making full use of planning tools to bring strategic direction and change.
Clearly, on any reading of the rules on what TDFs should be used for, it is quite obvious that none of the three schemes highlighted above should have qualified for TDFs.
Indeed, I feel it is relevant to ask: how can the West Pier project, situated as it is on the seafront, half a mile from the Town Centre, contribute to “increasing density in the Town Centre”?
How can an art work, depicting sea weed, situated even further away from the Town Centre on the Vincent Pier, bring about “Urban regeneration” to the Town Centre?
As for the acropod sculpture destined for the Castle grounds, over a mile away from the Town Centre, how can this be expected to “deliver long term economic productivity and growth” to the Town Centre?
Well, as I see it (and how, I would suggest, most people see it), none of these projects will contribute in any way to increasing Town Centre density or the regeneration of Scarborough’s High Street or indeed, help productivity and growth in any way.
So why, it might fairly be asked, would anyone in their right mind put these projects forward when it is obvious that they will not contribute to enhancing economic activity or increase footfall in the Town Centre, which are, after all, the primary objectives of the TDF?
Unfortunately, as usual, the responsibility for these ridiculous decisions lies with a small minority of people who have a vested interest in pushing such schemes forward. In the case of the so called art works, a crafty band of brothers and sisters (who will gain massive financial reward from creating the art works and have their base, it might be added, at the publicly-funded old Woodend Museum site) are pushing the art works projects.
This group of parasites seem to have virtually hi-jacked the TDB. It looks as though this group can induce the members of the TDB into funding any old rubbish they put forward and to date they have managed to screw out of the TDF £1.4 million.
However, by far the biggest drain on the TDFs was the old SBC. The previous (and incompetent) Scarborough Borough Council, led by Steve (“It’s a Dog’s Breakfast”) Siddons, a leader who did not have a clue what he was doing but could sniff out money like a gun dog, proposed the West Pier project.
A project that is so hated by both businesses and residents alike that has prompted a spokesman for the Scarborough Seafront Community Action Group to declare that:
“The council has stirred up a hornets’ nest of resentment, anger and disbelief in what they are doing”.
Not that Siddons or indeed the TDB cared about the views of the resident community all they cared about was getting hold of £6.5 million of public funds.
If the projects proposed by the TDB, and backed by vested interests and incompetent politicians, move forward they will, as I see it, divert much needed funds away from our Town Centre and into the pockets of some rather dubious characters.
These schemes should be stopped now. The money could then be used to fund schemes that would directly benefit the Town Centre and improve the life and financial well-being of many residents, not just a few scroungers and chancers.
However, can this be done? In the next article in this series we will explore an alternative scenario and counter the arguments put forward by those who wish to spend our money on art work and the hated West Pier project.
Watch this space!
Meanwhile . . .
Long Eaton Council: “It was agreed at the meeting that the £6.93 million would be reallocated to other projects to help offset rising inflation and other cost pressures. Richard Ledger, chair of the Long Eaton Town Deal, says:
“Unfortunately there has been no alternative but to cancel the Derby Road Junctions project. Costs accelerated at a rate where we could no longer deliver this as a viable project, however we can now make the best use of the remaining funding by enhancing other Town Deal projects. These developments will benefit the residents of the town and deliver value for money”.