MP: Lack of vision stifles Skem
SKELMERSDALE is a town “failed by a lack of foresight”, with local residents being left behind, its local MP told the House of Commons.
West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper spoke during a debate in Parliament about the challenges that designated New Towns face.
She said that Skelmersdale had been failed by poor decision-making in the past – such as closing the town’s railway station just two years after it was designated a New Town in 1961 – and criticised the Concourse shopping centre that “pretends to be the town centre”.
The debate took place in Westminster Hall and was raised by fellow MP Lucy Allan.
Ms Cooper said: “Building new towns was a good idea – it was a necessity of the time, in both economic and population terms – but they failed to deliver their promise, which leaves my constituents in despair even today.
“We need to find a way to deliver that promise in a manner that befits the 21st century.
“The new town of Skelmersdale was designated in 1961, with a target population of 80,000. Some 60 years on, it has a population of almost half that and little or no local facilities, amenities, transport links or adequate housing.
“It is a town built around the car, where people are driven underground and forced to use underpasses. The roads mostly have no pavements, but cars move about freely. It is a town famous for its roundabouts.
“Skelmersdale residents are proud of their town and work hard to put the best of themselves in the shop window. Only last year, local football coach Carl Eaton was nominated for a BBC sports personality award for his work with Skem Men-Aces, a football team that he founded for people with learning disabilities.
‘‘The club has won countless trophies, and some of its players represent us at international level.
“There are many such impressive stories, and they are all the more impressive given that the town is deprived of an adequate town centre, a railway station, sports facilities, education opportunities and so much more.
“We have a shopping centre that pretends to be the town centre, but it is just a building.
“When the local council attempted to build a genuine town centre and a modern high street, the owners of the Concourse took out High Court injunctions and made appeals to block it.
“Skelmersdale is a town failed by narrow commercial interests. People are forced to spend their money elsewhere.”
The MP was also highly critical of transport links in the town.
She said: “Although Skelmersdale became a designated new town in 1961 and a bright new future was projected, its tracks were pulled up and its train line was shut two years later. It is a town failed by a lack of foresight and that is desperately fighting to get a railway station.
“Skelmersdale is so poorly served by bus services that, were it not for a planned rescue by the county council, an area of Ashurst would be without any bus service whatsoever.”
The Labour MP then led an attack on Labour-controlled West Lancs Borough Council.
She said: “It is a town where, rather than fixing the roof of a local sports centre, which was well used and generated an income, the council shut it down and it eventually burned down.
“It is a town failed by the council.
“The promised local hospital never materialised, and even education did not fare well — one high school was forced to close and its students had to relocate elsewhere.
“The recently built college withdrew its offer of A-level studies, forcing any student with an aspiration to progress at that level or further to study outside the town. That is an obvious difficulty considering what I said about rail connectivity and the lack of buses.
“What can I say about housing? After 60 years, thousands of people still live in what was referred to as ‘temporary’ housing. The planned development of 20,000 houses still has not happened. It is a town failed by planning authorities and developers.
“We still have not seen improvements and investments that were promised more than half a century ago. All the infrastructure has decayed at the same time and needs massive investment.
“Before we move forward and build new towns and villages, we must ensure that we leave no-one behind and we must invest in the towns that we have.”
WHAT do you think? Email us at: newsdesk@ormskirk advertiser.co.uk or message us via the Visiter page on Facenook.