Rosie Cooper raises questions in the House
Following the recent delivery of the planning inspectors report to the Secretary of State, Rosie Cooper appears to have fired a warning shot across the bows of Mr John Denham, the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): I appreciate the Secretary of State's position, but will a Minister please comment on the fact that my constituents view with great suspicion the fact that Tesco has begun to buy up property in the centre of Kirkby ahead of the determination of a recent planning appeal? If this disastrous scheme were to go ahead, it would be seen by my constituents purely as legalised bribery.
Mr. Denham: I can understand why my hon. Friend, who represents her constituency so assiduously, wishes to raise this issue, but she will understand, given where things are in the planning process, that no Ministers can respond in public on this matter—but we do hear what she says.
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend accept that my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper) ought to spend more time worrying about the development of her own town centre rather than, as she seems to be doing, preventing £400 million of investment from going into Kirkby?
Mr. Denham: You will understand, Mr. Speaker, why this is a matter on which I did not wish to comment in public.
Rosie Cooper subsequently said:
"I am all in favour of regenerating Kirkby, but this cannot come to the detriment of neighbouring towns. A development of such huge proportions would essentially ruin the chances of any future development in Skelmersdale or other nearby towns such as St. Helen's, Southport, Liverpool and Wigan.
"It was reported recently that Knowsley Borough Council and Tesco are already buying up all of the land in Kirkby Town Centre to make it easier to shove their plans through, but they must have some sort of crystal ball because a decision is not expected from the Secretary of State for another four months.
"Such brazen action by Knowsley Council in collusion with Tesco is appalling. I strongly urge the Secretary of State to send the plans back to the drawing board so that a more sensible development can be proposed, one that is complimentary to the regeneration schemes in Skelmersdale and other nearby towns. If the scheme goes ahead in its current form it would be seen by my constituents as legalised bribery.
"We have the potential to vastly improve the quality of life of communities in both towns. I will be working hard to ensure that a fair deal is reached for all sides."