Time to take back control of Cavendish Square
Media release Parks & East Walcot Community Forum
Parks & East Walcot Community Forum is organising a demonstration calling for the council to take responsibility for resolving the long standing problems which Cavendish Square has suffered from.
Before the regeneration took place David Renard said that the “The Cavendish Square scheme is an amazing project…the end result will be a fabulous regeneration project to benefit the whole community”. The scheme would “serve the entire community for generations to come.”
Unfortunately far from being a “fabulous regeneration project” Cavendish Square has been a failed regeneration. The problems the local community has had to live with are the direct result of the council giving away publicly owned land to the developers and allowing them to get away without delivering what they promised.
1) The shopping centre was to have a roof built and would be locked up at night. On that basis the developer did not bother to put in drainage and the paving stones were laid on sand. The result has been that the square is prone to flooding when it rains heavily (see enclosed photo) and the paving stones were subject to sinking and breaking up. The developer left the old Co-op site derelict as well.
2) Since part of the land was given away neither the council nor local people had any control over the situation. Local organisations had to struggle to deal with private companies which had not the least concern for the interests of local people. We did eventually get the owner to mend the paving stones and make them safe, though they are beginning to deteriorate again.
3) The lights on one of the walkways have been out for a long time and the square is not sufficiently lighted at night.
4) The floor of the square and the shops on the Post Office side were sold by the developer to the Local Shopping REIT which subsequently went belly up and sold it on to a mystery owner. Their representative refused to tell us who the company was. “They don’t wish to be known.” Eventually we were able to find out that the owner is Lytton Rd Ltd, though they are shown at Companies House as a “dormant” company.
Having given away some of the land for free local people were somewhat astonished to learn that the council had spent more than £3 million buying back land they have given away. They bought the land on which sits the Co-op, the adjoining car park and the pharmacy. They have taken this action for “commercial” reasons ; the rent income of nearly £200,000. So is their only interest in the square a financial one?
In the light of this development Parks & East Walcot Community Forum is calling on the council to accept their responsibility for resolving the problems at Cavendish Square. We want
The square to be relaid and drainage installed.
Fencing to separate the cars on the car park on the Whitbourne Avenue side from pedestrians.
Lighting sufficient to make the square safer at night.
When the regeneration took place there was a £120,000 bond set aside to pay for a roof. When it became clear that the roof would not be built local organisations persuaded the council to use some of the money to pay for the derelict Co-op site to be tarmacked, making a second car park. The remaining money, nearly £90,000 remains to be used for the square. Efforts to persuade the Local Shopping REIT to hand over the floor of the square so that this work could be done, came to nothing.
What we are proposing now is that the council, which has bought back some of the land (and already owns all the shops on the George Hall Court side) should take back control. We think that they should try to get Lytton Rd Ltd to gift them the floor of the square, which is an “asset” which cannot be realised. If this fails then we think there is an argument for them to buy back the shops and the square; it cost £1.25 million. At the very least, if needs be, the council should buy back the floor of the square in order to use the remaining money to re-lay it and put in drainage.
The council owes local people recompense for the failure of the regeneration scheme since it is responsible for the problems at Cavendish Square. They deserve a decent and safe environment at the square.
Secretary, Parks & East Walcot Community Forum
Download a poster/leaflet here: cavidemoposter