VETERANS have blasted plans to move Crewe's historic war memorial as part of a £3m town centre revamp, saying it is an insult to those who died for their country.
Council chiefs unveiled six schemes - three for the Market Square and three for the Municipal Square - which aim to pull in more shoppers to the aging town centre.
In two of the schemes the 80-year-old statue, which honours those who died in conflict, will be lifted from its historic home and re-sited outside the Municipal Buildings.
But veterans' leaders and representatives of South Cheshire ex-service groups have reacted angrily, branding the schemes 'insulting' and called for them to be shelved.
Jim Davies, 86, a key figure in the Combined Service Association, said the statue should be treated as sacred and vowed to fight the plans.
He said: 'There's no way the memorial should be moved. It's a memorial to all those who went to war but lost their lives and didn't come back.
'If it wasn't for them we would be in chains.Anumber ofpeopleagreewith me and we will do all we can to stop these plans going through.'
Mr Davies also claimed the renovation project, which could see the war memorial replaced by a 'bubble fountain' controlled by text messages, was 'ridiculous'.
Options to renovate the Market Square, outside Marks and Spencer's, also include a broken wall of giant glass shards to fence off an outdoor stage.
The project's designers, architect firm Gillespies, say the scheme will enhance the shopping centre, making it a place of 'fun, relaxation and retail therapy'.
They say the war memorial belongs in a civic setting, and believe the Municipal Square, close to the library and law courts, will create a more dignified location.
But Mr Davies said he fears fewer people will see the memorial which would be away from the pedestrian centre and closer to a busy road junction.
His comments were echoed by Arthur Fisher, 83, chairman of the Crewe and Nantwich branch of the RAF Association, who said the memorial should 'lie undisturbed'.
Speaking at a public meeting in the Lyceum Theatre on Monday night he said: 'Moving it is wrong. The people honoured on it gave their lives for people's freedom.'
The plans will now be on display at the Heath Street theatre until the end of the month along with questionnaires asking people to give their views on which plan they prefer.
It is hoped the consultation period will result in a final set of plans for the project by September, with work being completed as early as Autumn 2005.
Derek Cook, chief planning officer of Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council, said improving the town centre is vital for the health of the local economy.
He commented: 'Shopping is seen as a leisure activity and we need to attract shoppers into the town centre by making it a lively and exciting place to be.'
Jim Gibson, project manager for Gillespies, added: 'We are not here to make enemies and we are incredibly sensitive to the wishes of the ex-serviceman.
'We have been asked to design squares to help Crewe to move forward and flourish as a pleasant and popular town centre.'