Cirencester town centre regeneration plans "can't be turned down"
PLANS for a new Market Place for Cirencester must go ahead because the town council cannot afford to pull out now, it has been revealed.
Local residents have raised concerns over the regeneration scheme, which has crept upwards in estimated costs from around £1million to potentially £1.4m.
The project will see the town's centre transformed into a "shared space" where pedestrians have priority. Main issues raised relate to traffic plans, with reduced car parking spaces, re-routed buses and a new one-way system at Castle Street causing alarm.
At this month’s Cirencester Town Council meeting, deputy mayor Cllr Joe Harris called for a referendum on the scheme to ensure it had public support before plans went any further.
But he was told that the town council could not afford for the public to vote against it.
CTC’s chief executive officer Andrew Tubb said if a referendum determined the scheme should be scrapped, the council would need to pay back around £60,000 in funding.
"This council does not have that level of reserves," he said. "That will put this council in a seriously dangerous financial position."
It was agreed at the meeting to spend a further £15,000 on the project, bringing the running total to date to £75,000.
Jonathan Davies, who runs Lock Stock and Barrel in Market Place, said he had fears over the financial viability of the scheme.
"The council is worried about £60,000, but it's nothing compared to the £1.4m they plan to spend," he said. "That's a phenomenal amount; it will change Cirencester forever."
Mr Davies asked councillors to consider another round of public consultation and was told that would happen through the usual planning process.
CDC has agreed to give a £100,000 grant to the project, but will not have to hand over the money until it grants planning consent.
At the CTC meeting, town councillors were asked to decide whether a planning application should be submitted to CDC.
Cllr Gary Selwyn said: "I don’t see any way that this can be turned down."
Councillors agreed that a planning application should not be submitted until after the scheme was discussed again at the next full town council meeting on February 12.