Statement from Councillor Geoff Prout – Leader, Labour Group, Shadow Leader of Dartford Borough Council
The news that Tesco have today announced they will now not be building a store in Lowfield Street will surprise few people in Dartford. The saga of Lowfield Street has been a well documented story of delay, frustration and a failure to deliver for local people.
The Conservative Council chose to ignore our warnings not to gamble the future of our town centre on the fortunes on a supermarket. There can now be little doubt that local business owners and residents have been badly let down by both the actions of Tesco and the council’s misjudgement and failure to manage the project effectively. Both owe Dartford a huge apology for how this has been handled over the last few years.
Labour have repeatedly asked the council what their ‘Plan B’ was should Tesco pull out. That day has now arrived, but residents are no closer to understanding what the intentions of Tesco or the council now are. Residents should be kept informed and that’s why Labour is today requesting that the Mayor convene an emergency council debate so that everyone is able to hear how we will work together to move forward from here.
What’s important now is that we are able to rescue something from this sorry state of affairs.
Labour will be offering its full support and co-operation to the council in order to find a new solution for Lowfield Street that puts the needs of our community before short term private profit. We should never accept that the interests of a supermarket should come before what’s best for our town and we need to keep up the pressure on Tesco to use the Lowfield Street site in a way that will benefit Dartford. We also desperately need legislation to stop developers sitting on land and inflicting such huge damage on our communities.
Ultimately, we can only achieve a better future of our town centre with the involvement of residents – their voice needs to be heard. Labour are committed to working directly with local people, businesses, council officers and developers to create a new vision for our town.
This has been a hugely frustrating experience for everyone in Dartford and the boarded up properties on Lowfield Street demonstrate the price of Tesco and the Council’s failure. 2015 can be the year when Dartford makes a fresh start. Together, we can all make it happen.