Preston Vision Board's Ltd Vision
Preston City Council has announced that it wants to recruit a senior figure to overhaul the much criticised Preston Vision Board (LEP 29/8/08 Search for think tank supremo ).
Councillors have been asked to back making the Board a limited company known as Preston Vision Ltd to give it more clout and make it more accountable.
Local residents have frequently expressed concerns about the Vision Board's lack of accountability and failure to represent the views and aspirations of the local community. And this failure to consider the needs of the local community and environment has resulted in the Board limiting its Vision to plans which serve the needs of developers and simply further the oft repeated but fundamentally un-ambitious mantra of Preston achieving “Third City” status.
It was the Preston Vision Board which came up with the plan to barrage the Ribble, develop the River corridor and build homes and offices on our Green Belt and flood plain. Plans which were opposed by 74% of local people. 74% of residents say NO to Ribble Barrage
More recently the Vision Board's plans for the historic Winckley Square in Preston have caused a storm of protests amongst local residents.
While plans to barrage the Ribble were shelved as a result of the opposition of local residents and environmental organisations the Preston Vision Board continues to view the Ribble as a “tremendous asset” and wants to press ahead with plans to develop the river corridor with cafes, restaurants and homes alongside the river (see Revitalised river or developer's dream? ) But the Vision Board's “dream” for the River, as espoused by its chair Malcom McVicar, continues to betray a lack knowledge and lack of respect for the River Ribble, the riverside area, local communities, and all of the environmental strategies directly connected to the River Ribble itself as well as to broader biodiversity and flood management issues.
Unfortunately, turning the board into a limited company is unlikely to do anything to encourage a change in its direction or its already limited vision.
Opposition leaders on the Council have expressed concerns that the Preston Vision Board would be led by an “unelected” supremo if it is turned into a limited company and could become a “self-satisfying group for old boys networking” (Concern over unelected think tank boss).
It is unclear exactly how turning the Preston Vision Board into a limited company will increase its accountability to local residents.
And other than the requirement to submit audited accounts to Companies House it won’t be subject to any increased public scrutiny either.
Neither should we expect the newly appointed (and no doubt highly paid) executive to have the views and aspirations of local people or protection of our local environment as his/her priority.
Indeed, the City Council is clear that they want a new high profile executive “who can relate well to the private sector and negotiate with potential developers with the aim of attracting entrepreneurs into the city.” (see LEP Search for think tank supremo ).
As long as Preston Vision Ltd continues to address the needs and interests of private sector developers before considering the aspirations of local residents and the needs of our local environment it will continue to deliver more of the same limited vision for the future of our community.
We were amused to read Barry Freeman's 'View from Here' in the LEP on 4/9/08 in which he pours scorn on the latest attempts to revamp the Vision Board by "shovelling more public brass into an executive salary trough", saying that calling it Preston Vision Ltd is "an unwittingly great name which explains an awful lot". He says that there is "something increasingly Alan Partridge" about Preston City leaders' aspirations to achieve Third City status. We tend to agree.
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