Cameron Supports high street revamp

PUBLISHED: 12:24 18 February 2010 | UPDATED: 09:32 12 August 2010

BACKING: David Cameron and Jo Johnson

BACKING: David Cameron and Jo Johnson

TORY leader David Cameron has thrown his weight behind a controversial £2.2million high street makeover.

TORY leader David Cameron has thrown his weight behind a controversial £2.2million high street makeover.

At a meeting in Westminster, Mr Cameron joined Conservative parliamentary candidate Jo Johnson in supporting the Orpington Masterplan, which was finalised by Bromley council in December.

The plan has come under fire from residents over the relocation of Orpington Library from The Priory in Church Hill to office space in The Walnuts, at a cost of £1.94million.

But Mr Cameron welcomed the plan, adding: "The revival of Orpington High Street is a priority for Jo and local Conservatives. They have my full support."

Mr Johnson, parliamentary hopeful for Orpington, said: "Bromley council has recognised the high street needs investment and infrastructural support so it becomes an attractive place to eat, shop and visit. They have recognised there is a lot of work to be done to regenerate the high street and the masterplan is a good start."

But several members of the public criticised plans to relocate the library when it came before the planning sub-committee on December 9 last year.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Orpington, David McBride, branded the Conservatives as "arrogant" in their decision to move the library, the 10th busiest in London.

He said: "Jo Johnson has only just moved into the area so he won't have spoken to local residents as I have on this issue.

"And I am not sure when David Cameron became an expert on Orpington but obviously he has been briefed by the constituency party."

He added: "It is a waste of £2million to move the library from one end of the high street to the middle and give residents a smaller library instead. Residents are convinced that the library that is proposed will be smaller even though the council says it's not.

"The Conservatives are quite arrogant. They think their view is right and if anyone disagrees they are wrong and push ahead regardless."

But Mr Johnson said the library move would increase "footfall" to the high street and help traders in the area.

He added: "If you talk to the traders, they are very keen for it to be moved to the high street to increase the footfall. Clearly, there will always be people who like the walk through the gardens but that rhythm may have to change. It will make the library much more accessible to people."

Work on Orpington High Street, part-funded by Transport for London, began this month.

The Walnuts leisure centre is to be refurbished and extended with improvements to the Sainsbury's and Jobcentre buildings, high street pavements widened and increases in street parking.

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