Ceredigion County Council cabinet members were left in no doubt yesterday that public support for the original Aberystwyth Masterplan should not be misconstrued as support for the revised plans announced in February. In his report to the Council*, Allan Lewis, Deputy Chief Executive, said:
“It should be made clear that the support expressed for the original draft Development Brief proposals, centered [sic] on the former Royal Mail site only, should not be taken as support for the current revised and significantly enlarged proposals.”
The report includes comments from several significant stakeholders. Regeneration partnership, Menter, are in favour of what they describe as ‘strategic regeneration’ but warn
“… developers seeking to ride roughshod over local businesses is not the way forward towards engendering a cohesive and welcomed centre of town development.”
Comments from Aberystwyth Town Council reiterated the statement they released earlier this year:
“…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.”
The ongoing ‘blight’ of the threat of compulsory purchase continues to affect homes and businesses in the affected areas of Great Darkgate Street, Chalybeate Street and Queen Street. The empty Woolworths store remains unlet and its owner has allegedly stated that the County Council ‘don’t know what they’re doing.’ Empty business properties are still liable for business rates, so the expenses being incurred by the owners who can not find tenants must surely be substantial – a situation, ironically, that the private developer who owns the Sorting Office site must be contemplating facing too.
At least one family have watched the sale of their property fall through, and are now faced with the real prospect that until the threat is lifted their property will be unsaleable. Properties adjoining and adjacent to the buildings under threat are also seeing their values fall as prospective buyers consider the prospect of living next to a demolition site.
Regeneration and redevelopment has plenty of fans but comments on Facebook groups – both supporting and opposing the revised plans – observe that some shops in the town look shabby and ill-kempt. High street chain stores with absentee landlords are inevitably the biggest culprits but the blight posed by the threat of CPOs is now likely to dissuade local business owners from investing further in the upkeep of their properties. One says, “Why should I spend a couple of thousand pounds painting my property when this time next year it might have been demolished?”
Despite this damning evidence, at yesterday’s meeting, Eurfyl Evans – Cabinet Member for Economic Development, denied the existence of any blight whatsoever. When asked for reassurance that CPOs would not be used, Council leader, Keith Evans, replied, “I can’t give a guarantee that CPOs won’t be used in the future.”
Apparently work on new plans that will take into consideration the concerns raised by stakeholders are well under way and can be anticipated -according to Council Economic Development Officers – in “weeks rather than months.” Hopefully the people of Aberystwyth – especially those currently affected by the threats posed by February’s ‘plans’ – won’t have too long to wait before their questions about the future of the town centre are answered…* [Available for download here – click ‘Swyddfa Bost/ Post Office’]