The Musings Of An Independent Councillor

“If the community aren’t involved in drawing up town centre development plans don’t be surprised when they get a big thumbs down”.

Adrian Owens of OWL writes “There is something drastically wrong with the way the Borough Council plans new projects for Ormskirk Town Centre. Yet again this week, there has been a large public outcry to proposals to remove the ‘pagoda’ in Wheatsheaf Walk. If this was a one-off then my opening paragraph is contestable, but it’s part of a pattern.

“Last year, the council worked closely with a Developer and put out plans, as part of a planning application for a new 4 storey re-development of Ormskirk Bus Station. The public were outraged as this was the first any of them had heard of the proposal. There are two Our West Lancashire councillors in the ward covered by the Bus Station. We knew nothing until the plans were published either. The plans were later dropped.

“Prior to that, stone slab seating which is cold and hard and unpopular was installed in the town centre without even the courtesy of my being informed, never mind being consulted.

“The truth is that these projects for ‘pagoda’ removal; bus station re-development; and the like are dreamed up in a small office in the council buildings by ‘one head’ or at best, very few. As they are not subject to the scrutiny of ‘many heads’ including the many residents with talents and professional skills who reside in West Lancashire, they land half-baked and the reaction of the public is a matter of luck.

“It’s time we started to approach these projects in a more inclusive way. There is the old idiom that ‘a camel is a horse designed by committee’, but this has always struck me as a silly phrase. If I was in the desert, I’d much rather be riding a camel. I prefer ‘many heads are better than one’.

“A new process needs to be devised by the council to include a wider range of views at an earlier stage when concepts for new developments in our centres (this applies to Skelmersdale and Burscough as much as Ormskirk). For changes in Conservation Areas, the council ran an Advisory Panel for many years. It wasn’t perfect, but such a panel looking at concepts for Developments in our town centres might be worth considering.

“One thing’s for sure. The residents of Ormskirk care passionately about what the council proposes in the town centre. Residents still raise the demolition of the King’s Arms more than a half-century later. Council officers and the current powers-that-be would do well to remember that memories last a long time with these matters and adopt a less high-handed approach in future”.

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