Reader letter: Gateway saga was ‘waste of money’

editorial image

I can tell Peter Clay what happened to the Gateway promises (Ripley & Heanor News letters, February 26) they were deeply unpopular, against all planning policies, and the Tory controlled Amber Valley Borough Council were finally forced to admit they would have ruined the town centre.

The first Gateway proposals saw the town losing its only formal recreation ground to Tescos for another out of town centre supermarket.

This created a massive public outcry – there were petitions raised with thousands of signatures, demonstrations at Amber Valley Borough Council meetings, and even the developers own public consultation showed a five to one majority against the plans.

I agree with Peter that the whole saga was a complete waste of money. In thinking the failure of the scheme was down to political back-biting, he is wrong. What was at stake was what is right for

Ripley, as place and as a community.

It was astonishing that the borough backed the scheme as it breached so many of the councils own policies.

Amongst them, the Tories ignored AVBCs Ripley master-plan, the AVBC Local Plan, as well as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). It is ironic that on the very day AVBC gave the go ahead to develop the Gateway scheme back in 2011, it also received a retail study it had commissioned which said that Amber Valley does not need any more supermarkets anywhere, including Ripley!

Later, when a planning application for the proposed Morrisons was submitted, another retail study was supplied by the developer which said that no harm would come to trade in the town centre. AVBC hoped it could to rely on that ‘new’ retail study but the public out-cry continued. About then, the Co-op - the town’s ‘anchor store’ got involved and commissioned a third retail study.

It was no surprise this one concluded that the Co-op would lose a third of its trade and would have to close – a disaster for the town centre.

But AVBC needed to show that the planning authority decision on the planning application was to be made objectively. So AVBC had to be very careful and they commissioned a fourth retail study to review the other three! It concluded that, in line with the NPPF, the proposals were bad news for Ripley town centre and so the planning application had to be rejected.

At some point towards the end of the saga, the Tories offered a £2m bribe for Ripley but it wasn’t clear where the money was coming from, and the ideas put forward were really daft. To explain why would need another letter. But Peter is passionate about Ripley and we agree about many things, but I think his faith in the old Gateway project is badly misplaced. I am proud of Labour’s involvement in a much wider community effort to stop the madness.

Steve Freeborn

Leader of Ripley Town Council