Controversial planning blueprint for Oadby and Wigston council gets approval
A planning inspector has approved a controversial blueprint for development in Oadby and Wigston.
Oadby and Wigston Borough Council's proposals set out what the authority would like to see happen in the towns over the next 15 years.
The approved plans include a new health centre in Wigston, along with 150 homes, the pedestrianisation of Bell Street, a multi-storey car park and shops.
In Oadby, the revamp would include 75 homes, hundreds of parking spaces and offices and shops.
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Protests and a petition signed by hundreds of people were organised against the plans after the council agreed in principle to release its six central car parks to developers to build on.
Despite this opposition, the inspector approved the plans, which the council hopes will be implemented by private developers.
Leader of the council John Boyce said: "I know some elements of this have been very controversial and many people are still concerned.
"I want to reassure everybody the plans approved by the Government are only one way any future development could look.
"I know it sounds odd but we had to simply show our town centres are capable of being developed.
"This was our way to get the Government to give us control over our own future. In reality, we will ensure developers put their ideas to residents and the council.
"Together, we will then decide if these plans meet our mutual objectives."
The council has said there would be no overall reduction in parking spaces, with new ones created to replace any which are built upon.
Councillor Boyce said before the council decided whether to adopt the approved plans, he would meet with residents and that due to the economic climate he did not expect any serious proposals to come from developers until 2017.
The planning inspector made some changes to the plans submitted by the council, including a small reduction in proposed office and commercial space in both towns.
David Fletcher, chairman of Oadby Town Centre Association, runs Oadby DIY, in East Street.
He said: "We are extremely disappointed the inspector has seen fit to ignore the arguments put forward by Oadby retailers' and residents' groups and decided virtually all the contentious points in the council's favour.
"He has obviously taken the safe route and accepted the council's reassurances that 'all will be well – trust us'.
"While welcoming this faith in local democracy, our experience doesn't suggest confidence in the council's ability to make rational and inclusive decisions."
Coun Boyce will attend public meetings on:
December 12, from 6.30pm, St Paul's Church, Oadby
December 13, 7.30pm, Fairfield Primary, Cheshire Drive, Wigston.
December 17, 7pm, Oadby and Wigston Borough Council offices, Station Road, Wigston.