EXCLUSIVE: Cinema dropped from ESG plans

There is strong speculation tonight that one of the key components of Herefordshire Council’s hare-brained ESG project will now not go ahead.

Documents leaked to the Heckler from high inside the council show that the proposed multi-screen cinema – seen by many as an incentive to bring skeptical Herefordians on side – is very likely to be struck out of the deal at next Thursday’s secret cabinet meeting.

It means that the scaled down ESG will now offer only retail and no entertainment, civic quarter or housing as originally planned.

And barely even that. It seems that apart from a Debenhams – still only a ‘maybe’ – and a supermarket – another ‘maybe’ – there will be precious little other building activity for some time.

Herefordshire Council will become joint development partners with Stanhope and British Land, but all that the council will get out of the deal will be £1.5m ‘in kind’ towards the refurbishment of the multi-storey car park.

Stanhope are said to be no longer interested in Garrick House as it now falls outside the newly redrafted development area, meaning the council are lumbered with an empty building after moving its information centre down the road to the old Franklin Barnes.

Other details released show that, despite the recently revised completion date of 2014, there will be no need to have work finished before 2057, which means Hereford could potentially be stuck with a city centre building site for near 45 years.

There will be no sale of the old cattle market until 2017 when British Land will be given an option to purchase the site at prevailing land values (which will doubtless be haggled over by opposing surveyors). All restrictions against existing city centre multinationals being offered rental inducements to move to the site will be scrapped.

Stanhope and Herefordshire Council are expected to encourage shops such as Marks & Spencer, Boots and other big names already established in High Town and around across the ring road with rent-free holidays and business rate-free periods.

Herefordshire Council’s cabinet meeting will agree these proposals next Thursday, 5th April at 2.00pm (at Brockington, Hafod Road). Their website currently states that this meeting will be open to the public but that certain details will be agreed behind closed doors, away from both public and press.

One-day events put ESG back one whole year

Sitting in the boardroom, sipping the obligatory ‘locally-produced’ drinks, the Hereford Futures PR team leaf through George Osborne’s Big Book of Excuses to try and find a reason why the ESG won’t be ready for when they said it would (it doesn’t look good to admit good old-fashioned incompetence you know).

"Uh, because someone tripped in Widemarsh Street? No? Ok, because the Queen's coming?"

“Hmm, well we can’t blame the weather because it’s not been too bad lately. And the royal wedding’s been and gone,” says Jonathan Bretherton, chief blagger at Hereford Futures.

“We need something good … something really good. Ah, ‘Something Really Good’, page 254. Hey, ‘A Royal Engagement’! Yes, that’ll do. Hang on, we’ve got ‘An Olympic Engagement’ here too; we might as well have that one as well. Makes it more believable dunit?”

And with that, feeling very satisfied and only just slightly tipsy from the wonderful Chase vodka (hic), Jonathan Bretherton stumbles out of the boardroom and into the press conference.

“You do the talking, John.”

So leader of the council, John Jarvis, tries to keep a straight face as he tells the assembled audience of, err, Bill Tanner and some guy in sandals that the Edgar Street Grid project will now take another year to complete because of two one day events that don’t even visit the cattle market site.

“We don’t want Her Majesty walking on a building site or traffic delays when the torch comes through the city,” says John, smirking.

No, no, god forbid we should have any traffic problems in Hereford. And it would look so much more professional to show her maj round the dilapidated cattle market site instead. “One day, Ma’am, this’ll all be empty shops,” the guide will tell her. “Here, come and have a look round High Town, I’ll give you a sneak peak. Should only take half an hour to get there in your snazzy motor.”

Seriously, another year’s delay blamed on two one-day events? Do they think we’re all simple inbreds? (Well, yes, I think they do actually.)

Giving away the cattle market

“Wouldn’t you just love playing poker with Jarvis Cockup,” says What I Heard About Herefordshire Council of council leader John Jarvis.

“British Land have told Hereford Futures that the ESG scheme as set up by Stanhope is a load of rubbish, with a shortfall of £30m. So the only way they will stay at the table is if the council gift them the 100 acre market site (estimated value £80m) and remove the tiresome conditions such as not poaching High Town shops through reduced rent initiatives.

“All but the very best poker players have a ‘tell’, something that gives away what they are thinking. In Jarvis’s case it is a gormless stare and rolling over onto his tummy whenever big businessmen come into the room.”

The Highway-To-Nowhere is going nowhere

Our man in the know gives further insight into the ESG link road and plans to relocate businesses.

Back in November 2003 (even before ESG – let alone Hereford Futures – had been thought of), Geoff Hughes gave a presentation to Hereford Civic Society about the Edgar Street Grid masterplan.

Someone in the audience asked: “Since the council doesn’t own all the 100 acres, how do you propose to acquire the sites/buildings not in your ownership?” His answer: “By Compulsory Purchase Orders.”  Supplementary question: “How many would that involve?” Answer: “Between 100 and 110.”

Last month Hughes was sent an e-mail asking him in the ensuing eight years, a) how many CPOs had been issued and b) how many businesses had been re-located.  Answers (after considerable shilly-shallying): a) no CPOs had been issued b) only 15.

For more than eight years it has been obvious even to a twat like the otter-loving Pickles that Royal Mail and Rockfield DIY lie in the path of their wretched Highway-To-Nowhere.

Posties give ESG road the middle finger

Posties give ESG road the middle finger

Hats off to the Royal Mail who have this week issued Hereford Futures an ultimatum they can’t ignore: pay for us to move or we’re staying put.

Royal Mail, who have premises on Station Approach, have said they will not be moving to make way for the ESG link road unless Herefordshire Council coughs up the cash to move them.

They say they want the council to pay for a feasibility test with a view of moving onto the nearby Jewson site or a complete move to another city location.

Royal Mail says it would only agree to a land swap if it came at no cost to them and they could guarantee no loss of service. If this is not met they say they will use their position of “enhanced powers” to resist the move. And good on them too!

For too long business in the line of the prospective link road have given in one by one to the council’s demands, despite the fact that funding is yet to be secured.

Herefordshire Council has consistently offered sub-standard compensation (if any) and bullied many small businesses into moving to new locations, often unsuitable for their needs.

With the ultimatum from the Royal Mail Group of ‘pay up or we’re staying put’, Herefordshire Council now has a serious dilemma on their hands: with both the ESG link road and shopping district yet to secure funding can they really afford to be paying out further millions to move Royal Mail, and is it all worth it given that so few retailers have officially signed up to the ESG scheme?

Royal Mail deserve to have their costs met, as should every other business that is being forced to move for the council’s barmy plans. But all this raises one further question for us taxpayers too: is this increased cost really all worth it when the council could be attracting retailers to the existing city centre instead, and could the extra money be better spent to help ease budget cuts elsewhere across the local authority?

One thing for certain is that Herefordshire Council and Hereford Futures have lost the plot and, if they had any sense, would abandon these insane plans in an instant.

We hope this marks a turning point and gives other businesses some back bone to refuse the move too!

The Highway-To-Nowhere is going nowhere