Ask community what it wants

I WAS intrigued by the letter from Coun Crowther (News Guardian, September 15) giving his support to a scheme by Hammersons that is still the subject of public consultation as presumably Hammersons wish to heed the community views.

There is comment the scheme may not be as extensive as previous plans, which is a polite way of advising it bears little resemblance to the package as originally hyped and which the same councillor told everyone last year was soon to be expected.

What he tries to explain by saying we are in austere times is that the scheme will (assuming of course it even gets under way) skew what is the old and the new town centre and will only happen if operators can be found for leisure uses.

National commentary on shopping centres and mall development paints the picture that any new development is bleak and Hammersons has already cut back on other schemes, and has done nothing for some years now at Manor Walks.

So there are issues of credibility, viability and sustainability besides the separate issue of planning consents. So not all plain sailing.

Another aspect of the councillor’s letter airs the point of what are called s.106 funds.

At various meetings of the town council, members of the community raised the whereabouts of these funds, which were earmarked for Cramlington, not just the town centre.

As his party is the county council administration one would have thought the whereabouts of such funds would be known, but, apparently not.

Yet it is being suggested by Coun Crowther these unspecified sums could be spent on a fountain, a notice board or a lawn to lie on.

Perhaps he can recall the failure of Blyth Valley and now the county council to get the fountain in Blyth Market Place to even work, a lawn already exists outside Concordia and a notice board is already sited inside for council business.

So don’t think for a moment there are some great public works that money held by the county council could be used for in tarting up what is primarily a private sector run and funded shopping mall.

Would it not be better to ask in the Community Plan what the community wants to have?

Just a thought in case folks get too carried away as the community has no idea what the newly built Yourlink office block will be used for long term as the town council is not involved in that.