More restaurants, bars and independent shops will be opened in Rugby town centre as part of a massive regeneration programme.
And the council leader went as far as to say that the plans offer the town "a once in a generation, if not once in a century, opportunity" to regenerate and transform the town centre.
But the strategy, which was voted through at the latest full council meeting [Dec 14) of Rugby Borough Council, has been criticised by opposition groups who said the document lacked ambition and imagination and did nothing to bolster the town’s appeal to tourists.
Presenting the document, Cllr Ian Picker (Con, Hillmorton), the council’s portfolio holder for growth and investment, said that the plan addresses future trends for the town centre, adding: “This strategy takes a long-term view of the opportunities and challenges facing town centres throughout the country and across the world.
“It looks at a number of key sites that can be developed. We cannot turn back the clock. I remember when I was much younger walking up the High Street and going to shops like Woolworth’s and Marks & Spencer but town centres have changed, are changing and will continue to change so we need to look at what the future trends are going to be and what the future shape of town centres is going to be.
"It is clear they are going to be a mix of retail - primarily independent - leisure and residential. People will come to town centres for an experience not simply to do their shopping. That’s what we need to encourage and that’s what this strategy will be.”
Leader Cllr Seb Low (Con, Coton and Boughton) added: “It is no exaggeration to say that this offers us a once in a generation, if not once in a century, opportunity to deliver a truly transformative regeneration programme for our town centre. This is a vitally important step on our journey.”
A Liberal Democrat amendment, tweaked by the Labour group, calling for a cross-party approach failed to gain enough votes.
Cllr Tim Douglas (Lib Dem, Paddox) commented that the strategy failed to build on the town’s links with the sport of rugby.
He said: “We are not creating a visitor economy, a reason to come here. There are not many cities or towns anywhere in the world that boast such a clear, distinctive direct link to a unique marketing opportunity.”
And Cllr Michael Moran (Lab, Admirals and Cawston), a chief operating officer for a regeneration company, added: “This strategy document is far from exciting. There is no ambition, there is no imagination and where is the learnt case study from other towns. If we have had to wait 20 years for this document at least make it a good one.
“There is no big idea here at all, it doesn’t fundamentally change what Rugby town centre is about. There is no big theme, no short-term wins to demonstrate credibility to gain traction from the investment and commercial community.”