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Former mayor Cllr Lesley Dedman hails Christchurch development promises made by BCP deputy leader Cllr Philip Broadhead

A PLEDGE that Christchurch’s Saxon Square car park will not be demolished and rebuilt as a multi-storey car park has been welcomed by a senior town councillor.

Ex-Christchurch mayor Cllr Lesley Dedman also hailed BCP deputy leader Cllr Philip Broadhead for promising Two Riversmeet Leisure Centre will not be part of any redevelopment of the town’s civic centre.

She revealed the pledges were made at the extraordinary meeting of Christchurch Town Council, which was called after the emergence of secret development ideas for the area.

The plans proposed changes to Christchurch town centre
The plans proposed changes to Christchurch town centre

Anger erupted in the wake of the revelation that Highcliffe and Walkford councillor Nigel Brooks, an Independent who is BCP Council's lead for retail strategy and Christchurch regeneration, had suggested revamping parts of the town centre in the coming years.

His thoughts were revealed in screenshots of an email tweeted by Cllr Andy Martin, chair of the Christchurch Independents group and a Highcliffe and Walkford parish councillor.

It included a masterplan for derelict and underutilised land in the civic centre, exploring a town centre bypass, new lanes going through the centre of the roundabout on the A35 at Purewell and replacing the Saxon Square shopping centre car park with a new multi-storey.

To quell the anger Cllr Broadhead, BCP deputy leader, met with Christchurch Town Council to discuss the plans and also mend relations.

Cllr Dedman said: "Cllr Broadhead stated several times that he wanted to work with the town council, take up our ideas and include us when any BCP councillor visited the area.

"I hope this is going to be put into practice and to include, in particular, Cllr Nigel Brooks, who caused this upsetting situation with his silo working."

She added: "So, the meeting had to explore both why these plans had never been mentioned even to the BCP Liberal councillor for that ward – although the Conservative councillor Peter Hall was CC'd [into the email] – and certainly had never been before the town council or residents.

Cllr Lesley Dedman was the first mayor of Christchurch Town Council in 2019
Cllr Lesley Dedman was the first mayor of Christchurch Town Council in 2019

"The other task was to put to rest for the residents the idea that Saxon Square Car Park would be demolished and rebuilt as a multi-storey as was stated in both emails.

"I was called to visit residents myself who had actually been losing sleep over this threat to their houses, which are alongside," she continued.

She said both aims "were achieved" as Cllr Broadhead "agreed firstly that nothing would in future be done in this underhand manner", and "there are no plans to demolish Saxon Square".

Cllr Dedman said the town council had showed him a report it commissioned in 2017 which looked into revamping Saxon Square but had concluded it was "expensive and impossible in practice".

She added: "As far as firm plans are concerned, there will be plans for development in the near future of the civic centre, although the deputy leader gave an undertaking not to include the leisure centre in those."

As for the relationship between BCP Council and the town council it "must certainly improve", she said.

"We town councillors by calling this meeting and airing our grievance have made it plain to the unitary that we are a force to be reckoned with, and certainly residents sitting in let him [Cllr Broadhead] know they value our local knowledge," she added.

The A&T contacted Cllr Broadhead by email, but he did not respond.

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