On Monday 1st December, nine campaigners from Lancaster travelled to London to protest at the offices of Centros, the development company behind the plans for the canal corridor shopping centre. The protesters were not acting in the name of the Carnival of Culture, It’s our City or any other campaigning group.
Contrary to reports appearing in the Bay and the Citizen, protesters did not
enter the Centros offices by force, nor did they enter shouting and screaming.
Whilst some protesters quietly held up a banner and handed out fliers, four
protesters locked themselves to one another, so that they could not be moved.
They then proceeded to read out a list of questions to engage Centros’ members
of staff in a dialogue.
After having sat through the pretence of a council planning meeting, where most
councillors (excepting the Greens) happily swallowed the often absurd claims
made by Centros, these protesters felt utterly disempowered. Why had most
councillors failed to ask any challenging questions, such as: if this
development isn’t going to increase traffic, as Centros claims, why is there
going to be a four-fold increase in car parking spaces? Why did they let
Centros claim this development would be good for the environment, because it
would reduce shopping trips from Lancaster to Preston, whilst simultaneously
claiming that the development would be economically viable because people from
Preston, Blackpool and Kendal would be coming to shop here? Why did they not
challenge Centros’ plans by pointing out how big developments like this
threaten the viability of independent local business?
Nothing Centros said was challenged by any councillors other than the Greens,
and nothing that those speaking in opposition had to say was given
consideration. Petitions and letters and the biggest march in Lancaster for a
very long time did not make most councillors see that this development faces
massive opposition; not even the removal of Ian Barker – clearly a protest
against this development – was acknowledged for what it was. Voting Barker out
was the clearest way possible for those most directly affected by these plans
to say Stop. They were ignored, leaving many people — including those who took
part in Monday’s action — feeling that there was no other alternative but to
take a more direct approach.
Taking direct action has a long and, though we often forget it, successful and
valued history. From Gandhi to the Suffragettes to the civil rights movement to
the anti-roads campaigners, direct action has brought change when petitions and
letters were not enough.
As well as having a local impact, the protesters believe that, in the face of
catastrophic climate change, developments like this which rely on unsustainable
transport patterns and a continuation of over consumption are nothing short of
madness; in fact, they go against the government’s own proposals to drastically
cut CO2 emissions.
Articles in the press this week have called the protest an anti-development
campaign; but the people involved would love to see this area developed in a
genuinely sustainable way, restoring existing historic buildings, building
sustainable and affordable housing, providing real green spaces, and ensuring
that the existing city centre and its many small, independent shops remain
Below is the text of the leaflet handed out to office workers and other people
in the building.
For further info, please contact: 383012 and leave a message, or email
Centros…at the heart of urban degeneration…
Why are we here?
We’ve come to the offices of Centros today to peacefully demonstrate against the
planned invasion of our town and our community by this development company.
Just as Centros has come to Lancaster and forced itself on our community, so we
are now coming to Centros directly, to let them know we cannot allow them to
destroy the environment and soul of our town.
The development that is planned for Lancaster is almost half the size of the
existing town centre.That means that either Lancaster town centre will grow by
fifty percent, or that the old town, with many small independent shops, will
rapidly turn into a ghost town. Neither option is acceptable.
Hundreds of people have taken part in protests against this development, and
thousands more have signed petitions and voiced their opposition. But a debt
ridden council and a company based in London have decided they have the right
to decide Lancaster’s fate.We’re here to tell them they don’t.
Centros & Climate Change…
The reality of climate change is no longer being denied – the international
community has recognised we need to act now to prevent massive and
unprecedented world-wide destruction. If we take this threat seriously,
developments like that proposed by Centros simply cannot happen.
It is inconceivable that developments that encourage car journeys and
unsustainable consumption habits can continue in the face of global climate
chaos.We need to start changing the way we live, work and consume, and the
plans laid out by Centros epitomise everything we need to stop doing.
Many other individuals and groups have offered their own visions of a truly
sustainable and community centred regeneration for the same site. Real green
spaces – not trees in tubs; local shops – not multinationals; sustainable
transport solutions – not an almost three-fold increase in parking spaces and
the destruction of existing cycle routes.
Centros needs this development to go ahead, because that’s how it makes its
money. Lancaster, and the planet, need this development to stop right now…and
a truly sustainable alternative to be chosen instead.
Something’s got to give…
The lives, jobs, health and well-being of the thousands of local people who
would be directly affected by this proposal, not to mention the state of the
planet, must take precedence over the short term interests of Centros.
Utlimately, we believe we have not only a moral, but also a legal right to
prevent this development from going ahead; if we’re going to stop climate
change, we’re going to have to stop developments like this.
Please visit the following sites for more information about other campaigns
against Centros, the threat of climate change and the economic and social
impacts of such developments:
www.timetolead.eu www.neweconomics.org www.carnivalofculture.org.uk