'Quango' should not be allowed to put forward Northampton masterplan without council's backing says Labour

Among the proposals being put by Northampton Forward as part of a Government funding bid is a plan for a large park at Greyfriars. But Labour says the process by which the plans are being drawn up is not democratic.
Among the proposals being put by Northampton Forward as part of a Government funding bid is a plan for a large park at Greyfriars. But Labour says the process by which the plans are being drawn up is not democratic.

Opposition groups should be given a say in the formulation of the new town-wide masterplan, Labour's Parliamentary candidate has argued, in accusing a newly formed improvement board of being 'undemocratic'.

Over the past fortnight, the Chronicle and Echo has revealed a series of proposals put forward by the Northampton Forward board as part of its submission to the Government's Future High Streets fund.

Councillor Gareth Eales.

Councillor Gareth Eales.

If its masterplan for the town is succesful, it could attract some £25 million worth of funding to improve the centre.

Northampton Forward, which includes the Grosvenor Centre manager James Roberts, borough council leader Jonathan Nunn and the county's chamber of commerce chief executive Paul Griffiths, has suggested that the £25 million could go towards a new food hall in Market Square and a linear park at Greyfriars among a host of proposals.

But the borough Labour group believes the board has ploughed ahead with the submission without considering its views - or those of the elected Liberal Democrat councillors on the borough.

Spencer councillor Gareth Eales, also the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Northampton South, said: "There is, of course, a role for stakeholders and partners, but it is imperative that Northampton Borough Council and elected members play a role in what should be a positive process, as is our elected responsibilities.

"The Town Centre Masterplan and the grouping that drives it should not be something that operates in a veil of secrecy with a huge whiff of cronyism, this town has suffered enough of that."

Labour is set to submit a motion to the June 3 full council asking for two Labour and one Liberal Democrat councillors to sit on the Northampton Forward board alongside three Conservatives.

It will also ask that any final masterplan put forward by the board is subject to a vote of approval from the borough council - which is set to remain in existence for just two more years before it is replaced with a new unitary authority.

"What we cannot have is an unelected and unaccountable quango to take control of our town's future," added Councillor Eales. "Or for this Conservative council to outsource our democracy and accountability."