Feature: Garstang under threat?

Coun Peter Murphy
Coun Peter Murphy
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With large developments proposed for Nateby, Catterall, Forton – not to mention the highly controversial plan to replace the town’s community centre with retirement homes – Garstang feels under threat.

These developments would lead to a significant increase in the population with some residents becoming increasingly worried Garstang doesn’t have the public amenities to cope.

The more alarmist predict that in a future not so distant, Garstang could lose its unique character and become nothing more than a suburb of Preston.

There have been some choice words, especially on social media, against Wyre Council for decisions regarding developments and especially surrounding the proposed decision to turn Garstang Community Centre into retirement flats.

With no local plan in place until roughly 2017, The Courier spoke to Wyre Council’s Peter Murphy about Wyre’s vision for the town, as well as addressing some concerns of the local people.

Mr Murphy is the planning and economic development portfolio holder for Wyre Council and although he does not sit on the planning panel, it is his signature which will send the final local plan to the Government.

He said: “I’ve lived in Garstang since 1982 and I absolutely love the place.

“When we first started the process of putting the local plan together we met with Garstang Town Council and said ‘this is your chance to tell us what you really need in the town’.

“The two answers they came back with were more retirement homes and more affordable houses for younger people, so that’s exactly what we’ve tried to deliver.

“In terms of the community centre, the building is just not fit for purpose.

“The decision to turn it into retirement flats is nowhere near a done deal, but people shouldn’t look at it as losing anything.

“The new community hub which is being built at St Thomas’ Church will be fantastic and could easily replace the community centre.

“Any loss of car parking would be a sacrifice unfortunately but we would push for a similar deal to Booths, where people can park all day.

“Hypothetically, if they were retirement homes, it would mean those people could walk into the town with no need for transport and contribute to the shops in the town centre.

“As for the view, it is great but looking at the plans I don’t think it would be restricted.”

Mr Murphy also says some money left over from the potential sale of the community centre could be offered to the councils which make up Garstang and District.

Each council would come up with ideas with how the money could be used and bid for it with their plans. He maintains that Wyre has no plans to change Garstang or any of its character.

“Living in the town for over 20 years, I have seen it change and grow considerably,” he said.

“The town has some great schools and some brilliant facilities but many of its young people move away because there isn’t any housing in the area for them.

“Barton Grange is set to build a cinema and a bowling alley next year, meaning people won’t have to travel out of the area to do those sort of things, giving them more reason to stay in the area long term.

“This in turn will create jobs and with more people coming into the town, it means more money for local businesses.

“I understand concerns about amenities for a growing population but bringing more money in means more money to use to accommodate for those growing numbers.

“The one thing that won’t be happening is changing the character of Garstang because it is a wonderful place to live and work.

“West Wyre has seen much more development than areas like Garstang but we need places for our children to live and to keep them in the area and that’s something we want to deliver.”

Mr Murphy was very honest about the financial constraints Wyre Council face.

With budgets being sliced he maintained every decision undertaken is done with the best interests of Garstang at heart and he believes Garstang will be a very exciting place to be over the coming years.

He said: “The local plan we are working on won’t just prepare us for four or five years, it will set the future of Garstang for the next 15 or 20 years. It’s a huge deal and we want to make sure we get it right and that’s why it isn’t being rushed.

“Although we are currently working under the Government’s plan, we will always make sure to look at every proposal from every angle and make a decision which suits everyone. Feedback is always welcome and we make sure to go through every one to make sure we have a feel of what the community is thinking and to use that in making our decisions.

“Garstang and the surrounding areas are wonderful places to live and work and one part of our plan that will never change is we want to keep that.”