Thursday, 03 September 2015

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City council purchase of Rickergate homes fuels rumours of area revamp

Carlisle City Council has bought two more properties in Warwick Street, Rickergate, for £320,000.

But council leader Mike Mitchelson has denied claims from Save Our Streets campaigners that it has secret plans to redevelop the area.

Rickergate was identified for wholesale redevelopment under the Carlisle Renaissance initiative.

The plans involved demolition of homes, the police and fire stations, magistrates court and the Civic Centre to make way for a plaza with shops, offices, apartments and a hotel and conference centre.

The council began buying property in 2008, acquiring Adriano’s Restaurant for £775,000 and 8 Warwick Street for £125,000 in readiness for the bulldozers to move in.

However, the scheme was shelved in the face of vociferous opposition from the Save Our Street residents’ group. Now the council has bought 4 Warwick Street for £120,000 and surplus county council offices for £200,000, fuelling rumours that it is about to revive the scheme.

But Conservative Mr Mitchelson said: “This is part of our asset review for strategic property purchases.

“There is no hidden scheme to redevelop Rickergate but we want to be in a position in the future to take advantage of any opportunities that may arise.

“If we don’t buy property when it becomes available then anything that happens would be out of our control.

“We want to assemble a site so that anything that happens is under our control rather than a private developer.

“I can assure the residents that there is no scheme on the blocks.”

He added that the council was interested in making more purchases if property becomes available.

It is expected that Cumbria County Council will dispose of the fire station in Warwick Street once the city’s new fire station in Eastern Way is operational.

Mr Mitchelson’s comments have done nothing to pacify Save Our Streets.

The group used Freedom of Information legislation to obtain a council report on Rickergate only to find that whole pages, including a map, had been blacked out for “reasons of commercial confidentiality”.

Spokeswoman Julie Templeton said: “We find it difficult to believe that they’re not working to some plan.

“We have heard that the Carlisle Economic Partnership is meeting regularly but there are no minutes published. We find it very strange.

“The council makes much of community involvement but we are not being told the truth.

“Why would they spend money buying up private houses if there’s no real set plan for developing the area?”

She added: “We’ve seen people walking around taking photographs as if they are surveying the area and when we ask what they’re doing they just walk away. They look like developers.”



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