MP: Lack of vi­sion sti­fles Skem

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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 ad­ver­ or mes­sage us via the Visiter page on Fa­cenook.

Skelmers­dale’s sta­tion was shut in the early 1960s The half-mile round­about in Skelmers­dale, above, is one of Europe’s big­gest Rosie Cooper, right, told fel­low MPs of the chal­lenges the town faces

The Con­course

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