Anger at proposals for community site

Photo Neil Cross'Protesters outside the Keyworker Homes drop in event
Photo Neil Cross'Protesters outside the Keyworker Homes drop in event
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Shocked Garstang residents have vowed to fight proposals to build 34 riverside sheltered retirement apartments on the town’s public car park.

Keyworker Homes held three public consultation sessions to air its initial proposals to build retirement apartments and retail units on the Garstang Community and Business Centre site.

The site, which also comprises the riverside car park at the top of the High Street, was put up for sale by Wyre Council earlier this year.

Residents at the consultation were furious that they look set to lose their community centre, 36 of the 124 public car parking spaces and their view of the river from the car park.

Keyworker Homes stressed this was a first stage discussion and changes will be made to the scheme “to reflect any suggestions, where possible, prior to a planning application being lodged.”

One idea raised is that community space could be provided on the top floor of the retail unit and Keyworker Managing Director Eian Bailey confirmed: “We have asked the Town Council to provide details of what community space is required so we can investigate it further”

The proposals include:

l Building 34 tiered retirement apartments with 14 car parking spaces at the bottom of the car park, by the the riverside walk area

l Creating 10,000 sq feet of retail space replacing the current community and business centre, fronted on High Street by a café.

l 88 car park spaces retained for public use

l Public toilets relocated and improved

l A pedestrian zone to connect the car park to the High Street

l Retain the public garden area fronting high street, but relocate the millennium garden

Newly created campaign group Action Garstang is planning to hold a public meeting about the proposals.

Members leafleted those attending the consultation events which were attended by more than 250 people,

Action Garstang spokeswoman Mary Randles said: “We don’t think the design is appropriate in a conservation area. We’re losing a lot of car parking spaces. Tourists and visitors to the town won’t be able to park.

“We really don’t need any more retirement flats.”

Garstang County Councillor and Town Councillor Sandra Perkins dubbed the proposals “an abomination” .

She said: “It’s dire – it’s going to decimate the town if they are allowed to go ahead with what they want.

“I have contacted MP Ben Wallace and I will be actively helping the action group.

“I will be supporting them wholeheartedly because I believe we have to stand up and fight for this.”

Action Garstang member newsagent Richard Whyman said: “This public space is owned by Wyre Borough Council...in this case they have invited this development.This council should have been acting on behalf of the community, not against it.”

Representatives from Keyworker Homes, C4 Consulting and De Pol Associates were available to answer queries about the scheme.

Eian Bailey, Managing Director at Keyworker Homes, said in a press statement that there was “high demand for new open floor plan retail space this close to the High Street.” He said High Street development would be welcomed over out of town developments which did not necessarily bring new shoppers to the street.

He reported interest had been shown by both food and nonfood retailers: “We can confirm interest has been very high which is great news for Garstang retailing.”

Comments submitted by the public about the scheme during the three day consultation will be submitted to Wyre Council with any planning application.

Keyworker said it acknowledged the importance of the car park for shoppers and visitors and this was reflected in the number of spaces retained. Its statement continued: “In addition the important role the site plays within the aspirations of Garstang In Bloom was a large consideration.”

It added it would engage with stakeholders to retain and enhance as much of the current gardens and green space as possible: “Keyworker recognises there is always concern with a development of this scale and is committed to delivering a high quality and balanced scheme.”

Wyre Council leader Coun Peter Gibson said the council was pleased at the good turnout at the consultation and defended the sale of the site. Once a planning application was made residents could then send their views to the council’s planning department: “It’s not our application it’s their (Keyworker Homes’) application and that will be determined by the planning committee”,

He stressed again that Garstang was not the only area hit by cutbacks in council spending and a new community centre would cost millions: “Of course everyone likes us to keep Council Tax down. We’ll have lost 54% of our government grant by the end of 2015/6 and perhaps even more by 2020. To think we can just sit here and not do anything to address that issue is just not acceptable.”