“You, and many others, have written to me regarding the unexpected revision to the Town Centre part of the Aberystwyth Masterplan. I will, therefore, outline for you my position on these new proposals:
1) I knew nothing of the proposed changes to the Masterplan until I read about them in the Cambrian News.2) They are very significant changes and a public consultation is, in my opinion, completely necessary before such changes can be adopted into the Masterplan.3) I am not persuaded that town centre architectural character or small independent business should be sacrificed for the needs of one UK-wide retailer. However, if town centre traders and the local community felt this was worth doing, following a widespread public consultation, then I would consider those views at that time.4) I have been told that Council officials and some councillors are suggesting in meetings held to discuss this Plan that this project is being led by the Assembly Government and that the Council is almost powerless to resist. There is no political Assembly Government decision to support and promote this change. It is probably the case that local Assembly Government officers are working with the County Council to develop proposals. I have now taken the matter up with the Assembly Government’s Minister for Economy, Ieuan Wyn Jones AM. The Assembly Government would not release major funding for projects unless they are advocated by the local County Council – and to suggest otherwise is misleading on the part of any Council official and politically expedient on the part of the councillor.
It is too easy sometimes to say ‘No’ to change, but on this occasion, there is so obviously too little information, confidence and consultation for local businesses and people to say anything but ‘No’ at this time. There is a value to local independent traders and to original town centre architecture. I do not think that should be sacrificed lightly – Aberystwyth should seek to be different and better to other places – not the same, but smaller.
Thank you for drawing your concerns to my attention on this and I’d be happy to meet to discuss further if you wish.
Elin Jones, AM”
Monthly Archives: March 2009
This evening a group of us from Cadw Calon Aberystwyth attended a full town council meeting down at the County Buildings on the seafront, where we heard representatives from both Ceredigion County Council (CCC) and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) regarding the new and revised plans.
Allan Lewis, Asst Chief Executive of the county council commenced the presentation, and was obviously somewhat ruffled by public opposition to the new plans as he urged everyone to ‘calm down’ and pledged that the county council is committed to being ‘inclusive and transparent’ with regard to the proposed development. Lewis admitted that there was some ‘difference’ between the retail site plans presented in the Masterplan and the new, extended development, but claimed that the new plans apparently ‘appeal to the Assembly. He also conceded that contrary to popular opinion, no deals have been made with either the developer, retailers or WAG.
Lewis was followed by Jason Jones, Development Manager for CCC who claimed that whilst no deals have been struck as yet, Debenhams had expressed an ‘in principle interest’ in the proposed development. Jones went on to quote from various surveys that have been carried out (the results of which he claimed would be made public in three weeks’ time), using the information gathered to suggest that the vast amount of respondents were in favour of the new development. Martin Morgan, from the Department of Economy & Transport concluded the presentation by briefly stressing that WAG sees Aberystwyth as ‘ a centre of national importance’ and that the town should offer a ‘quality element of retail provision.’
Following inspired and inspiring speeches from various town councillors – including Alun Williams, who pointed out, to great public hilarity, that whereas most towns were trying to preserve their historic buildings, Aberystwyth seemed committed to retaining the ugly ones! – the town council debated and then voted unanimously on the following motion:
Last Night Aberystwyth Town Council received a presentation from County Council and Assembly officials on the new plans. Following the presentation the Town Council debated and then unanimously passed the following motion:
“Aberystwyth Town Council declares its total opposition to any potential development which involves the loss of fundamental parts of our precious streetscape.
Aberystwyth Town Council supports the original Masterplan proposal for the development of the old Royal Mail sorting office site.
However, whilst we understand the need to work with developers, we are profoundly unhappy about the latest proposals which entail the demolition of so many small shops and we cannot give our support to such a scheme, no matter what the supposed economic benefits. We believe the economic benefits of maintaining the character of the town are very substantial also.
We call upon the County Council to develop a scheme which maintains the majority of these small shops and to abandon preparations for Compulsory Purchase Orders.
We also call upon the County Council to conduct a full public consultation, similar to that carried out in November and December, on any new plans before any final decision is taken.
Council resolves to communicate this to:
The Cabinet of Cyngor Sir Ceredigion and all Ceredigion County Councillors
Economic development officials of the National Assembly
Our Assembly Members
The Deputy Assembly Minister for Regeneration
Council also resolves to engage with the Transition Town Group, Cyngor Sir Ceredigion and the wider community to explore alternative approaches to the economic future of the town centre which does not involve a ‘clone town’ economic model.”
Cafodd Cyngor Tref Aberystwyth gyflwyniad gan swyddogion o’r Cyngor Sir a’r Cynulliad Cenedlaethol ynglŷn â’r cynlluniau newydd. Yn dilyn y cyflwyniad fe drafodwyd y cynnig canlynol ac fe’i derbyniwyd yn unfrydol gan y Cyngor Tref:
“Mae Cyngor Tref Aberystwyth yn datgan ei wrthwynebiad llwyr i unrhyw ddatblygiad a fydd yn golygu colli darnau sylfaenol o’n tirwedd stryd werthfawr.
Mae Cyngor Tref Aberystwyth yn cefnogi cynllun gwreiddiol y Cynllun Mawr ar gyfer datblygu safle hen swyddfa ddosbarthu’r Post Brenhinol.
Ond, er ein bod yn deall yr angen i gydweithio gyda datblygwyr, yr ydym yn anhapus iawn ynglŷn â’r cynlluniau diweddaraf fydd yn golygu dymchwel cynifer o siopau bychain ac felly nid ydym yn medru cefnogi cynllun o’r fath, waeth beth yw’r buddion economaidd tybiedig. Credwn hefyd fod y buddion economaidd o gynnal cymeriad y dref yn rhai sylweddol.
Galwn ar y Cyngor Sir i ddatblygu cynllun sy’n gwarchod y mwyafrif o’r siopau bychain hyn ac i roi’r gorau i baratoi ar gyfer Gorchmynion Pwrcasu Gorfodol.
Galwn hefyd ar y Cyngor Sir i ymgymryd â phroses o ymgynghoriad llawn ar unrhyw gynlluniau newydd, yn debyg i’r hyn a ddigwyddodd fis Tachwedd a Rhagfyr, cyn gwneud unrhyw benderfyniad terfynol.
Mae’r Cyngor yn penderfynu rhoi gwybod i’r canlynol am ei benderfyniad: Cabinet ag holl eilodau Cyngor Sir Ceredigion, swyddogion datblygu economaidd Llywodraeth y Cynulliad, aelodau’r cynulliad yr ardal, a’r dirprwy weinidog dros Adfywio.
Mae’r Cyngor yn penderfynu hefyd i weithio gyda Grŵp Tref Drawsnewid Aberystwyth, Cyngor Sir Ceredigion a’r gymuned yn ehangach i ddod o hyd i ddynesiadau gwahanol tuag at ddyfodol economaidd canol y dref nad yw’n golygu dilyn model economaidd “trefi unffurf”.”
“ABERYSTWYTH traders would welcome a major national retailer in the town, but not at the expense of local stores, the town’s Chamber of Commerce has warned.Members of the Chamber heard from council officers about the controversial plans for a major new shopping development which could see 15 current shop premises taken over.And chairman Cyril Baker said although the principle of a national retailer coming to town would be welcomed, there are concerns about what it would mean for local businesses who could be forced out of their shops on Great Darkgate Street and Chalybeate Street.
He said: “Following a show of hands at the end of the meeting, it’s fair to say that the business community welcomes a redevelopment of the town centre, including a major quality retail chain opening at Aberystwyth, but it was clear that this should not be at the cost of the individual shops that give the town its character.
The bulk of the people at the meeting were very much in favour of the original proposal. We weren’t against it being expanded as such, but on the principle that it is done with the co-operation of existing businesses.”Mr Baker said traders also supported the idea of development in the centre of town rather than allowing more stores in out-of-town locations.
He said: “if we are left with a choice whether it is out of the town centre or say by the football club, or at the centre of town it would be better to see the development in the town centre rather than on the fringes.“As far as the Chamber goes, as developments come with quality retailers in place that would be acceptable, but not at the expense of knocking everything down.”
Mr Baker said the meeting was vital to let businesspeople in the town give their opinion to the council. He said: “it was important. I think the council attended it as a fact-finding mission. I think they were hoping to get an impression of what businesses think and want.”
Meanwhile, a Facebook group set up to support the local businesses that could be forced out of their premises to make way for a national retailer has attracted over 1,500 members.
Emma Lloyd who started the group, said most people supported retail development, but didn’t want to see the current businesses affected. She said: “I started the Facebook group on a whim having witnessesd many of my friends and acquantances reading about the new, more expansive retail development plans in the Cambrian News a few weeks ago. Within three days we had over 700 members and the total now stands at over 1,500.
“Group membership encompasses a wide demographic, from local businesspeople to tourists and students to pensioners. Most members seem to accept that sensitive and sympathetic development is necessary in Aberystwyth, especially in the currently empty Woolworths and sorting office sites.
“However, there is unanimous distaste regarding the threat of Compulsory Purchase orders to remove existing businesses from their premises, a threat which the majority of members feel is unfair and heavy-handed. However, if the situation did reach that point, the council would be obliged to present a com-pelling case in the public interest before such powers could be exercised.”
Ms Lloyd said members were also surprised that the plans being put forward now were so radically different to the original development proposals that went out to consultation.She said: “Concerns have also been expressed that the Aberystwyth Retail Action Plan is vastly different to the retail development plans depicted in the Masterplan which received public consultation. Questions are being asked about how the county council is acting on this matter and whether or not the democratic process is as transparent as it could be, bearing in mind the lack of consultation sur-rounding the new plans.
“One of the main feelings being expressed is that Aberystwyth is a special and unique town and that unsympathetic, heavy-handed development has the potential to destroy the individuality and character of the town.
“Whilst the original Masterplan acknowledges Aberystwyth’s stunning environment, its history and its rich bilingual heritage, the new retail plans reduce Aberystwyth to nothing more than a shopping centre and its people to nothing but sources of revenue for the corporate retailers.”
Ceredigion Council said that positive feed-back was received at the meeting. The spokesperson said: “The response was positive and virtually unanimous in supporting the development, subject to retaining the buildings and the niche retail shops which want to remain in Chalybeate Street.”