Further update: a Conservative leaflet now being delivered (their first since last May) makes several false attacks on Pam and myself, include one about the possible Tatton land-swap. I have the evidence to prove the claims are false here.
Going around Gatley, Pam and I have noticed someone has posted anonymous notices on the Tatton and some noticeboards complaining of the lack of progress on sorting out the Tatton site.
The notice suggests you give your councillors a call to ask what’s being done. Pam and I are more than happy for you to call us about that – or any other issues.
The Council is still today investigating options that might be of interest to the owners to get something done, but it remains a privately owned site. We can put suggestions to the owners and we can work with them, but forcing anything to happen is a lot harder.
We also work with the Council and the owners to improve the current look of the site – for example by getting graffiti painted out and the area at the back maintained. The Council has limited legal powers for that, but is pursuing them.
I’d like to go over the history of the site, because the anonymous notice says something which is simply untrue: it claims that the Council have rejected all previous planning applications for the site.
When the cinema closed down the site was sold on at the top of the market and a series of developers have struggled to find a way to make a profit from it.
In 2002 a planning application was granted for one scheme, but the developer never proceeded. In 2008 another application was withdrawn by the developers. Only one application has been rejected by the Council as far as I know, and that was in 2009.
As you probably remember there was a big local campaign against the proposal to convert the site into a large convenience store with a care home to the rear. Council officers proposed granting it, but councillors – including my predecessor Brian Millard – came to the view that it wasn’t the right development for the village.
We were aware at the time that there was a risk in rejecting the proposal – that another might not be along for a while, but we have worked hard since to find one.
In late 2009 and early 2010 we worked with Council officers to investigate a “land swap”. The idea was for the land behind the Tatton cinema to be swapped for some land the Council currently owns – and for the land behind the Tatton to become a public car park. A lot of work was done searching for suitable land across Stockport – with all the local councillors being involved – but unfortunately we weren’t able to find the right location.
People also mention compulsory purchase – it remains a possibility. This is when the Council finds an alternative owner for the site with a plan to develop it and can force the sale to that owner. It’s not an easy option. There are lots of legal issues and get-out clauses around it..
We’ve also looked at the possibility of the Council purchasing the site for community use (many people have told us they’d like it to be a library, community centre or similar). We think that’s a great idea and we’d love to see it happen, but the money just isn’t there at the moment and there’s no sign that it will be in the near future.
So that’s where we are at the moment. The site is privately owned by Dickens Property Group who, very reasonably, want to make a decent return on their investment. The two proposals they’ve come up with in recent years have met with strong local opposition and they have the option of sitting on their investment and waiting for property prices to rise again.
Pam and I will continue to actively look for opportunities to sort out the site and get a development that works for Gatley, but there are no quick wins or easy answers.