THE CONSERVATIVES HAVE FAILED OUR TOWN CENTRE
Yesterday’s press statement released by the Leader of Dartford Borough Council demonstrates the astonishing failure of Dartford’s Conservative administration to deliver on its promises to regenerate Lowfield Street and our town centre.
We all recognise that Tesco have let Dartford down badly. However, there can be little doubt that the Conservatives have been complicit in the twelve years of delays and excuses that have left Dartford with a decaying town centre and a derelict site scarring the landscape of Lowfield Street.
- It was the Conservatives who stubbornly pursued their road through the park scheme – delaying progress on the Lowfield St site for years
- It was the Conservatives who failed to deliver a credible plan for regeneration –instead trusting the future of the town centre to the fortunes of a supermarket
- It was the Conservatives who have refused to consider a Plan B – even when it became clear that Tesco were not delivering on their promises.
What we need now is action and a plan for the future – not empty words and idle threats.
It is nothing short of astonishing that the council leader now sees fit to announce a lack of faith in Tesco when as recently as August he told residents that he and Tesco had “cleared the last hurdle” to the development starting. We can only speculate as to what has provoked his sudden change of heart, especially since there today appears to be an increase in activity on Lowfield St. Did the Council know this work was due to be carried out?
What we do know is that Labour has consistently challenged the Conservatives to get tough on Tesco and be clear with residents on the plans for the town centre. His sudden conversion, seven months away from an election, to the view shared by Labour and many residents will not do anything to restore trust in the ability of the Conservatives to show the leadership the town needs.
The Conservatives have failed to influence the management of Tesco, failed to prepare a plan B and failed to deliver a long term strategy for regenerating our town centre. They’ve also failed to listen to the people of Dartford. We desperately need a different approach.
Dartford needs to move on from this sorry episode. Labour have sought the views of residents in Dartford and the results of our recent town centre survey show that residents have huge hopes and ambitions for our town, despite their despair at the way the Conservatives have neglected it over the last decade.
A Labour Council will deliver what the Conservatives have refused to do- a plan that recognises that our town centre can only thrive again with the community at its heart. Labour will put residents on the Town Team and ensure we have a plan for rejuvenating the town centre that includes the voice of everyone in Dartford – Business, residents, charities and our artistic and volunteer communities.
A Labour government will empower councils to tell big developers to ‘Use it or lose it”, preventing them sitting on land without building.
The Conservatives cannot build a better future for our town centre as they have no strategy, no alternative to Tesco and no trust from the people of Dartford. A decade ago, it was Labour, working with the community, who made the Conservatives see common sense and abandon their disastrous road through the park scheme. A decade later, confronted with a stubborn Tory council without a strategy and a completely silent MP it will again be Labour who will work with residents to build a better future for our town. We can’t go on like this and we need change.
We are determined to help our community realise its ambitions for our town and determined to work alongside our residents, businesses and community groups to rebuild and repair the pride in our town centre that has been so badly damaged by this sorry episode. Dartford can be so much better than this – together we will make it happen.
Geoff Prout – Leader, Labour Group and Shadow Leader of Dartford Borough Council
Simon Thomson – Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford