Town Council Leader Cllr Simon Yates spoke yesterday (12th September) at the Cheshire East Cabinet meeting setting out the Town Council's response to the key decisions being made about the future of Crewe Town Centre. The statement is reproduced below.
Thank you, Leader, for giving me the opportunity to speak at Cabinet regarding the Crewe Town Centre regeneration and History Centre proposals. I hope that you will receive my comments as a positive contribution to the debate.
The current consultation taking place regarding HS2 and the Crewe Hub station recognises the central importance of Crewe to the economic success of Cheshire and North Staffordshire and the government has supported a vision for Crewe`s place in HS2 which is dependent on the success of the local economy around Crewe.
For people, businesses and employers to be attracted to Crewe we not only need the HS2 infrastructure but crucially we need to have a thriving, developing and entertaining town which meets the needs of the current residents but which is also a place where people want to live and work in the future. We need to be HS2 ready but not dependent on HS2.
For too long Crewe has not been that place with the result that the town`s residents have been depressed about the place where they live and people living in the surrounding towns and villages who would normally look to their nearest large town to provide them with services and facilities, have turned their noses up when Crewe is mentioned with the frequent comment; “I never go to Crewe, why would I want to go to Crewe”. Indeed, the paper for consideration today recognises that the CW postcode is not well served by the condition of the town at the centre of it.
For too long there has been insufficient interest in Crewe despite its heritage and potential for the future. I have even heard it said; “Why bother investing in Crewe there are no votes in it for us” and it is also true to say that political differences which exist between the residents of Crewe and much of the rest of the Borough has resulted in a lack of consideration being given to the needs and aspirations of the town of Crewe leading to a decline in the condition of the place.
I am really pleased therefore that the underlying vision behind the proposals you will be considering today reflect the fact that it is a recognised feature of economic development that a region or sub region can only develop to its full potential if the major urban settlement in the area is thriving, exciting and inspirational. This model is seen both in Europe and increasingly in the UK with our major cities in the north now at the centre of economic regeneration for their city regions. In a smaller way this is also true of the relationship between Crewe and Cheshire East.
Despite the cynicism and scepticism of those who have seen all this before I and Crewe Town Council are positive that the package of investments by Local Government and the private sector that Cheshire East has succeeded in bringing together in these proposals is an excellent step forward and offers a real future for the people of Crewe and the surrounding area. The Town Council has long argued that given the change in shopping habits and the nature of retail in the UK that the success of the Grand Junction retail park should be acknowledged and that the Town Centre should be developed around a leisure and night time economy, encouraging people to come into Crewe and to stay longer.
A demonstration of how our two organisations have been able to work more effectively together can be seen in these proposals and the Town Council has already shown its commitment and determination to take responsibility, manage and assist with some of the difficult issues which are a consequence of these proposals. I would describe the Town Council`s role in this as being a partner rather than a collaborator and I would hope that the distinction would be more appreciated. Being a collaborator has connotations and is not something I am comfortable with, being a partner is. But partnership is not just what the dominant partner believes it to be but it is how other parties experience it in practice.
I am, however, disappointed that the initiative by Crewe Town Council to establish with Cheshire East Council, a Partnership Board to supervise the work which has resulted in the Markets proposal before you has not been recognised and that the future decisions on options and actions does not recognise the Partnership Board.
In supporting the proposals and welcoming the innovation and vision which has resulted in this package I want to bring to your consideration a few issues:
- Defeat the cynicism by being open and transparent in the implementation of these proposals
- Create a continuous flow of information about progress on each of the elements of the package so that local people can be kept aware of progress and feel positive about it. The package has separate elements to it which can each be shouted from the roof tops.
- Establish a momentum and a drive of support in and faith with the project by involving local voices rather than allowing the view that things are done to people rather than with them to continue
- Engage with local Town Councillors representatives of business and community interests in developing the package and overseeing delivery of the proposals
- Be brave and bring other local interests into the decision making as Crewe Town Council has been brave by supporting these proposals in the face of the cynicism and scepticism endemic in the town.
- Support the businesses which are adversely affected by the closure of their sites to enable them to obtain alternatives
- Develop with the Town Council a plan for the management of the town centre after completion of this impressive investment
- The town centre needs affordable housing for families and young people that will bring energy and movement into the town
- The Town centre regeneration will be warmly welcomed but will undoubtedly result in more questions about the Masterplan for Crewe and the infrastructure improvements which are so desperately needed to bring about a smooth flow of people and vehicles from the station to the town centre.
In conclusion Leader, there will no doubt be a robust exchange of views as this proposal is developed, however what is important is that these investments proceed and that we create Crewe as a town which is young, vibrant and attractive capable of retaining our young people and attracting new people into the area. Crewe Town Council will be an active participant doing what it can to inspire and develop confidence.
Thank you for your consideration