Writing as a former chief officer and director of industry at Corby Council, I would say that, rather than being “let down”, the people of Corby have benefited enormously from Chris Mallender’s time as chief executive of that council.
Mr Mallender is one of the top regeneration experts in the country and you only have to look around Corby to see the sheer scale of his accomplishments in the past nine years; project after project, any one of which would stand as a crowning achievement in most towns.
To produce a regeneration scheme of the type that now graces Kingswood, while also showing a significant return for the borough council, is a near miracle.
Before we started, property professionals told us that house builders would not touch the estate with a bargepole but, with the help and involvement of the people of Kingswood, a developer was secured to build quality homes to an agreed high specification.
Then the housing market collapsed nationally and the project was in jeopardy.
Undeterred, Mr Mallender secured millions of pounds of private and public sector funding to resurrect the scheme; the regeneration of Kingswood commenced – the houses are now sold and the council also has a stock of new homes of its own, ready for tenancy on the estate.
The Tesco site is on an area of land part of which was known as “the Sootbanks” – where the soot from the steel-making furnaces was deposited.
Some years ago a Government Derelict Land Grant was used to clear the site but some land remained contaminated.
There was also a large slag ingot which could not be removed easily.
When such a site is offered for sale, the full commercial value is reduced by the cost of necessary reclamation – very significant in this case.
There is also the question of clawback of the original grant by the Government to take into account.
Therefore the concept that this piece of land was “given away” is risible.
There was a period when we believed that only a very soft-end use for the ex-Sootbanks would be possible.
Regeneration comes with a cost. Developers are reluctant to take on challenges in difficult areas, and certainly not if they also have to pay top dollar for land.
Those towns which are ruled by fear of their auditors and wait for high returns wait forever and their people lose out.
Councils are not there to make money; their job is to spend it for the benefit of the community.
That is what Corby Council, spearheaded by an outstanding chief executive who really cares for the people of Corby, has done.
Mr Mallender should be commended, rather than vilified, for his exceptional efforts on their behalf.
Formerly director of industry at Corby Council
Bad decisions over 50 years
Kettering Council argued at the public inquiry that the Rushden Lakes project will adversely affect its own town centre plans.
Undoubtedly, Kettering is currently suffering from a prevailing national decline in traditional town centres.
However, traditional centres can be successful if they provide a unique and attractive offer – Market Harborough for example.
Sadly Kettering’s decline mainly has been its own making over five decades of bad policy making, stemming from the already outmoded late 1960s concept of “comprehensive town centre redevelopment”.
This resulted in the loss of many outstanding historical buildings including the Old Grammar School, which was demolished to make way for the banal development in Lower Street.
Then the old Post Office buildings in Gold Street were removed to make way for what is now known as the Newlands.
These buildings had a central arcade which could have been retained as part of the new development. Those who criticised the council back then, including the civic society, were ignored.
There followed the closure of the bus station in Northampton Road, thus removing most of the traditional footfall from the southern end of the town.
Consequently the market declined and the historic Market Square was abandoned as the council allowed retail development to progress at the northern end – in particular permission for Sainsbury’s to develop its site in Northall Street.
At the 2011 public examination of its town centre plan, when invited by the Government inspector to reconsider its “ambition” to relocate its offices to a remote site on the periphery of the town beyond the A14, the council refused to do so.
Thereby it drove another nail into the town centre coffin by not recognising the benefit to the southern end of the town centre by its presence and the footfall of its many staff.
Although the council has pumped millions of pounds into creating the new Market Square, improving Market Street and the Horsemarket, the southern end of the town centre is dead and, save for a few skateboarders, unpopulated.
An ever-increasing number of shops and other premises at the southern end of the High Street and in Market Street are closing.
If Kettering Council was to immediately declare the abandonment of its relocation plans in favour of enhancing and developing the buildings on its existing site it would boost the credibility and viability of its own town centre pan, possibly to the extent that it need not fear Rushden Lakes.
Sadly, history has demonstrated the council’s reluctance to change its mind in response to better advice.
It is only decades later that the predicted dire consequences are proved to be correct.
Perhaps this time it could be different?
Proof we are not all in it together
I wrote to you and you published my letter under My Opinion on December 20, 2012, following the publication of the draft county council budget for the coming year.
I have now had an opportunity to compare payments made to councillors year on year.
Bearing in mind according to the Government we are all in it together, I see that the payments made to the 73 county council members – all volunteers, remember, with other incomes – for 2012-13 was £1,004,605.
This is compared to £1,024,838 for 2011-12.
This is a “saving” of £20,233 or, put another way, a reduction of 1.97 per cent.
This must please those 200 or so council employee who lost their jobs.
It’s good to know, and I am sure those who lost their jobs realise, that this 1.97 per cent reduction in the councillors “pocket money” is an indication of the councillors’ dedication and commitment to saving council taxpayers money and “being in it together”.
Time for Stones to stop rock ‘n’ rolling
The Rolling Stones have no need to justify themselves – they are music industry legend.
It is quite remarkable that not only have they been together for 50 years but they have all survived for that long given their reported lifestyles.
However, their appearance at Glastonbury, although greeted rapturously by the audience, was surely a swansong.
The music was OK, even if it was a little muted, but as a visual experience it really was Last of the Summer Wine – The Musical.
God bless you all chaps, you have been brilliant, but it’s time to let it go, I think.