Meale slams district council over Queen’s Place build

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Mansfield MP Sir Alan Meale has accused council chiefs of squandering public money over the ‘iconic’ Queen’s Place development, which the authority has struggled to fill.

Last week, Chad revealed that a range of businesses were now moving into the eco-friendly space, close to the town’s new bus station, and has sat empty since it was officially opened in November.

Alan Meale MP  Who has been awarded a knighthood

Alan Meale MP Who has been awarded a knighthood

Sir Alan has also accused Mansfield District Council of ignoring his recommendations, after he issued a 50 point blueprint aimed at revitalising the town centre last year.

Speaking to Chad, Sir Alan said: “Nine months after my report into ways to improve the town centre, little has been achieved with the council’s multi-million pound iconic investment in the new Queen’s Place development which is about to become, yet another coffee shop in the area.

“Indeed rumours persist that they have only been able to let the property for that purpose by offering tenants a wide range of financial inducements to occupy the site.

“The scandal is that the building cost millions of pounds of public monies. It was developed newly built, considerably late, and since has been completely empty for the last 10 months. Its ‘iconic’ claim comes from its grassed roof designed to give the impression of its architectural approach to the environment.

“The problems remain many fold. The grass roofs on the other iconic buildings in the area remain untouched. The Co-op buildings - so important to the town centre – are in a disgraceful state with no apparent effort by the council to complete any structural repairs.

“In the Four Seasons Shopping Centre, units remain empty as do others in the various town centre thoroughfares.

“To yet again allow the opening of another food operator in this area epitomises the waste of public funds for the project and put at risk the many other food outlets currently operating in the town.

“Instead of taking the easy way as a landlord, Mansfield District Council should listen to the views of local businesses and the general public who have indicated they need a more serious response.”

In the report unveiled exclusively by Chad last November, Sir Alan voiced concerns that recovery would only be possible if immediate action was taken to revive the centre of the town - and especially its market - as the hub of community life.

He spent three months drawing up the blueprint following research, which included a survey of local businesses and shoppers.

Sir Alan set out 50 recommendations aimed at breathing new life into the Market Place and surrounding area and called for urgent measures to tackle the ‘blight’ of empty shops and to provide cheaper or free parking to boost trade.

He also said that regeneration needed to go beyond reviving the high street with improvements to the social, cultural, community and leisure uses of the town centre.

With the help of a researcher, Sir Alan wrote to all town centre businesses and surveyed shoppers daily over a two-week period.

The findings showed empty shops were the biggest issue for businesses and shoppers with 95 per cent and 79 per cent highlighting them as one of the most important issues respectively. A total of 71 per cent of businesses and 64 per cent of shoppers felt a declining market was one of the most important issues.

More stalls and a bigger range of goods were felt to be the way forward by members of the public, while over half of those surveyed support the idea of specialist markets.

Sir Alan wants to see council services transfer back from the Civic Centre, on the outskirts of town, to the central Old Town Hall building which he describes as a ‘largely run-down and redundant feature’.

The MP has called for an emergency ‘task force’ to be set up involving BID, Nottinghamshire County Council and Mansfield District Council to drive change and apply for funding for regeneration.

Pictured: Mansfield’s Queen’s Place development and Sir Alan Meale.