STALYBRIDGE Business Forum is considering reporting Tameside Council to the local government Ombudsman over the sale of the Leech Street/Back Melbourne Street car park to supermarket Aldi.
“Traders and shoppers are infuriated. It was disgusting how the matter was handled,” explained Forum chairman Peter Taylor who raised the issue at the recent meeting of Stalybridge Town Council.
“There was no communication or consultation with the traders. That is why we are looking to take the matter to the Ombudsman.”
Mr Taylor was also critical of the speed in which the sale took place.
He said: “I noticed from the Council’s website that revised plans were submitted on October 19 and subsequently passed the following day on October 20.
“This does not seem to be enough time for interested parties to scrutinise the plans further.
“On November 16 notices were placed on lamp posts around the site referring to the removal of the car park and on the following Monday it was fenced off and construction work commenced on the Tuesday.”
Sixty-eight business owners had signed a petition opposing the sale of the land, but at Tameside planning committee councillors voted 6-5 in favour of the sale.
The traders were informed Stalybridge ward councillors opposed the sale, but east area co-ordinator Cllr David Sweeton voted in favour of selling car park.
Cllr Sweeton was asked at the town council meeting why he voted for the sale, but he declined saying the question was a “low ball”.
Mr Taylor added Stalybridge has lost a long-stay car park and disputed whether shoppers will be able to park free for 90 minutes at Aldi as Tameside Council has claimed.
He said: “I can show you a picture of the sign that says 90 minutes free parking when making a purchase, yet councillors put out a statement that it is still free.
“It is our kids’ inheritance that has been sold with the money to be spent in Ashton. And once these assets are sold, we won’t ever get them back.”
Borough solicitor Sandra Stewart, in a statement of reasons for the sale of the car park, wrote: “The closure of the car park will generate a capital receipt for the Council whilst causing no detriment to the availability of parking facilities and/or effect on congestion in Stalybridge town centre.
“The inclusion of the Melbourne Street car park in the Aldi car park will allow people to park for free up to one and a half hours to access other shops and facilities in Stalybridge, including the time spent in Aldi.”
However, signs posted at Aldi clearly state that the car park is for customers only.
Mr Taylor was further incensed by Tameside Council closing the small Castle Street car park by Phoenix City for three days for resurfacing and to erect a fence.
“That car park has not been touched for 25 years so why was the work done so close to Christmas with again the traders were not consulted,” he added.
Mr Taylor says traders want a three-hour restriction to stop all-day parking and allow visitors to shop.
“There are only 16 bays on that car park that is full by 8.30am with workers from Aldi and on the Summers Quay development,” he explained.
The only alternative parking is the temporary plot on the former site of SIDS with Mr Taylor adding Tameside Council has put this land up for sale.
As it is not a long-term car park, Mr Taylor described it as being in a “disgusting” state.
He told Stalybridge Town Council: “There are no lights, no CCTV, it is under a foot of water when it rains, condoms have been discarded and a girl was raped there two years ago.
“That has 100 car parking spaces. Where will they go when that is sold?”
Cllr Basil Beeley, who represents Stalybridge South, opposed the sale.
He said: “It is unfair to local traders and will cause problems in the future.
“Wetherspoons have spent a lot of money in the town, but their customers have nowhere to park other than for 90 minutes at Aldi.”
Cllr Beeley added the only car parking alternative was Tesco, but it was a lengthy walk. He also feared the repercussions if Tesco in the future reduced their three-hour limit.
And Cllr Kevin Welsh admitted parking issues in Stalybridge would cause “chaos”.