Reader letter: Plans for town centre are ‘insanity’

Shops around the Market Place in Heanor.
Shops around the Market Place in Heanor.

In last week’s Ripley & Heanor you prominently featured an article containing a claim by Ken Gillott the Labour Party PPC for Amber Valley that both Ripley & Heanor town centres had suffered from neglect and financial starvation in order that resources could be directed at Belper.

This claim was supported by the controlling Labour Party on Amber Valley Borough Council. As a business owner in Ripley, and in the interests of balanced and impartial journalism I believe that your article does require some rebalancing in view of a number of factors.

The photograph of the Latte Lounge which you included in the article, shows a business which has closed and has since been replaced by a bridal shop. The controlling Labour party, despite having been in power since May have not actually implemented any policies which might have improved the situation for businesses in the town centres, indeed with regard to Ripley, Amber Valley Borough Council have submitted through an agent a proposal to convert Market House and 2 - 4 Church Street into ten self contained flats - this proposal includes the conversion of the ground floor commercial areas into residential accommodation.

Such a proposal is insanity. It creates an extended void frontage from the Market Place into Church Street which increases the disconnection between Church Street and the remainder of the town centre and makes it increasingly difficult for the businesses in Church Street to attract customers.

When the Government changed the law to allow and encourage the conversion of redundant commercial premises into residential accommodation, it was proposed that these conversions would be on the edge of towns in secondary locations - not in the main town centre.

The Labour group suggested that they wanted Ripley & Heanor to be future contenders for High Street of the Year as Belper recently achieved, quite how they propose to achieve this is difficult to understand when they are proposing to create even more small flats in Ripley town centre than there already are, and in so doing shrinking back the available commercial premises for businesses.

There are already numerous planning permissions for small flats in Ripley town centre, but this is an issue of balance - there will soon be a glut - and it is a policy which has been shown throughout the country to be flawed as it creates ghettoes in town centres with increased anti social behaviour at night.

I want Ripley and Heanor town centres to prosper, but this can only been done with balanced development and the encouragement of business. A far better usage for the premises would have been an E-business centre for small web based businesses on the upper floors, and retail units on the ground floor. This would have required minimal alteration to the existing building structure, created job opportunities for small entrepreneurs in the town centre, and helped recreate a sense of purpose in Ripley town centre. I agree that I feel Ripley and Heanor town centres have been neglected over the years, but the current state of affairs is the result of bad planning decisions made by both the Labour and Conservative parties.

Neither can claim any glory nor a pro-business agenda regarding town centres. I hope that you take the time to look at this issue and I give you the planning details below.

This issue is vitally important to the future vitality of Ripley town centre as it will become increasingly difficult to stop future developments of this type, and eventually we could face a position where the town centre is no more than a handful of shops. To survive town centres need diversity & vibrancy, they need to be destinations people wish to visit. This proposal doesn’t achieve that as it removes commercial frontages.

A. Spencer

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