Bitter arguments mar start of town centre project

Published date: 16 March 2017 |
Published by: Emily Davies 
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A revitalisation project for Oswestry town centre got off to a bumpy start as one councillor criticised previous efforts.

As the Advertizer reported last week, the town council and Shropshire Council have agreed to work in partnership to take action on the number of empty shops and buildings that are falling into disrepair.

The initiative will see the resurrection of the Oswestry Joint Economic Board (OJEB) which was established for the same purpose in 2012.

But following an initial meeting last week, Councillor Duncan Kerr launched an attack on those behind the previous efforts and questioned some of the aspects of the new partnership, including who would lead it, why meetings have not been open to the public and voiced criticisms that, he said, people had passed on to him.

He also said he did not think the council had made “much progress” in the past and added: “I fear it will become a talking shop.”

But furious councillors hit back, explaining that in the past the meetings were closed because of “commercially sensitive” information and that the group had failed when the funding it was awarded ran out.

Councillor Sandy Best said: “The problem is there is only so much we can do because we don’t own the buildings.”

She told Cllr Kerr: “The people you know never came in here when they had the chance and they think they know best.

“I am tired of you banging this drum, trying to make yourself heard.

“You act like you are the only one with the answer and are isolating the people in this very room.”

Councillor Cynthia Hawksley said it was “not a talking shop” and that it was “sad it ebbed away”, while Councillor John Price added: “I feel like I’ve just been told I’m a bad councillor.”

The initial meeting was followed by a first gathering of the reformed OJEB on Wednesday.

Pressing to progress the initiative, Councillor Vince Hunt said: “Let’s push this forward. We have a good opportunity but we could sit here and argue until we are blue in the face.”

Town mayor Councillor Paul Milner added: “I think it is sad the owners of these buildings have let them come to such a state. I think that’s the sad bit.

“If I owned them I wouldn’t be able to live with myself with the impact they are having on the town.”

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