The appearance of Ellesmere Port town centre has had a distinct thumbs down.
But development chief Chris Farrow and MP Justin Madders (Lab) have a more positive take.
The criticism comes from resident W Carrington who contacted the Pioneer to say: “When the old Ellesmere Port & Neston Council (EPNC) merged with other towns in the area to form the Cheshire West & Chester Council (CWaC) I, for one, thought it was a huge mistake.
“Given the more affluent towns that surround us and the close proximity to Chester I thought the lion’s share of service finances would be allocated to the obviously more popular tourist towns, in particular Chester, and Ellesmere Port would, inevitably, end up the begging bowl neighbour.
“Sadly, I think I have been proved right.”
He continued: “Shortly after the CWaC was formed there was a heavy snowfall and severe frost. A councillor praised the diligence and hard work of the Chester street scene staff for keeping Chester’s pavements clear. Meanwhile, the forgotten residents of Ellesmere Port had not even had their main roads cleared, never mind the pavements.
“The old EPNC certainly had its faults but at least it made some effort to improve the town.
“Although not to my taste, we have them to thank for the indoor shopping centre, bus station and sports centre (EPIC). Controversially, in an effort to bring some new life into a town centre going to seed, they spent £2.8m on repaving all the town centre pedestrian areas. I, for one, applauded them.
“Now, under CWaC, look what we are left with. The town centre is an eyesore. The £2.8m pavement is strewn with chewing gum and tyre tracks, broken flags have been hastily filled in with large splodges of ugly, black, Tarmac.
“Canal barge murals, so lovingly designed by local school children, depicting the towns heritage of canal building now, sadly, mostly broken, the remnants filled in with crude concrete.
“It’s rather like buying a very expensive carpet and not bothering to vacuum it.
“Imagine the public outcry of Chester residents if their pristine city centre had been allowed to deteriorate to such a level!”
He added; “Under the old EPNC at least we had one saving grace, the much admired Parks & Gardens Department.
Blot on the landscape
“Every year they brought new life into a rapidly dilapidating town. Flower beds were dug over and bedding plants planted, not once but renewed several times throughout the summer.
“Now, take a look around you, flowers lay wilted and dying, grass verges, once neatly cut, now completely overgrown and, perhaps the most poignant reminder of the rapidly, deteriorating, public finances the once delightful Sutton Way roundabout, now, alas, an overgrown, weed infested, blot on the landscape.
“Recently, I saw photographs of the town as it was in the sixties and what a delightful place it appeared to be. A modern, clean, vibrant place to live.
“Believe me, I take no pleasure in, probably, being proved right or from the comments made. It is simply an attempt to improve the town in which we all live.
“It would be a step in the right direction if, perhaps the Lord Mayor, councillors or even our new MP would care to comment on the points raised? Unfortunately, I will not be holding my breath waiting for a reply.”
The Lord Mayor of Chester, St Paul’s ward councillor Cllr Angela Claydon, declined due to her office but Mr Madders was happy to comment.
“I am hopeful that now we have more representation at the top table in CWAC we will see a rebalancing of where spending takes place in the local authority,” said the MP.
“The sad reality though is that CWAC along with every other council in the country has had its funding dramatically reduced over the last few years from central government. I want to see a vibrant, clean and prosperous town centre and I know that CWAC share that vision.
“There are plans in the pipeline and I hope they come to fruition shortly.”
New chairman of the Ellesmere Port Development Board Chris Farrow emphasised: “Over the last five years the Ellesmere Port Development Board has thanks to strong support from Cheshire West and Chester Council and the Government, managed to secure major reinvestment in the landscape of the gateways to the town centre as well as industrial areas.
“Companies located here have in turn had a positive impact on the town’s economic well being, unemployment in Ellesmere Port is now below the national average.
“Stanney Lane has also been tidied up and now accommodates major new recreation developments.
“The council are now consulting on extending this landscape upgrade along Sutton Lane. Many of the older, independent shops fronting Whitby Road have been spruced up and nearby derelict industrial premises cleared for new homes.
“Not everything in the Ellesmere Port garden is rosy. As in many other parts of the UK for both the town centre’s public and private sector services and businesses, these are challenging times.
“For the Ellesmere Port Development Board maintaining this economic uplift and securing the future of these town centre businesses and services is a top priority. “This won’t be resolved overnight but we are working to agree solutions soon.
“Nevertheless, two major new secondary education facilities and hundreds of new homes in the town centre are a sign of a town on the up.”
Whitby ward councillor Karen Shore (Lab), cabinet member for environment, said resources in Ellesmere Port ‘have not been reduced since the formation of Cheshire West and Chester Council’ and there had been ‘considerable investment’ in the town including the newly opened Sports Village.
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She added: “Gritting of the roadways is carried out on a priority basis, for example major commuting/transport routes first which includes Ellesmere Port.
“Our Streetscene teams support highways in terms of gritting footways so they can concentrate on the highway network, they prioritise high footfall areas, local shopping routes and outside hospitals.
“Ellesmere Port town centre receives footway gritting. Urban areas across the borough are also gritted after the priority routes.
“In relation to grass verges, there have been issues this year due to the wet start to the year, delaying some grass cutting due to ground conditions, followed by high temperatures and growth spurts. These issues are currently being addressed. This is a challenging situation across the borough.
“The Sutton Way roundabout is in the process of being restored to a high standard.”