Sorry Tom, we don’t like your prom

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A round of applause echoed around the chamber of Lancaster Town Hall after the vote was taken.

There was a similar reaction from the public gallery at Morecambe Town Hall last summer when the town council voted much the same way.

This applause, along with results of public consultations and surveys, and hundreds of emails and letters sent into the council during a saga which has lasted eight long years, sends a clear message.

The majority of Morecambe people – or at least those who care enough to make their voices heard – do not agree with Urban Splash’s vision for the central promenade.

Some made their views known at Monday’s meeting.

They included Evelyn Archer, chair of the Friends of the Winter Gardens and a longtime opponent of the scheme.

“The development would destroy the character and appearance of the conservation area, and the siting of the listed buildings,” she said.

Sue Thompson, chair of the Friends of the Midland Hotel, said: “We’re delighted that Urban Splash achieved a successful regeneration of the building, but we feel compelled to object to (their) proposals. They are damaging and inappropriate.

“They would also result in the demolition of the end gate piers (on the hotel) designed by Oliver Hill.

“This development would be far more suited to a highly urbanised area.”

But resident Julie Chapman spoke in favour of the project.

“Urban Splash has won 327 awards, more than any other developer in the country,” she said.

“The development would transform the dreary into the desirable.

“Urban Splash loves Morecambe.

“Most visitors to Morecambe only stay for two hours, 90 per cent don’t stay overnight. We’re losing vast amounts of potential revenue. We must see the bigger picture. This is a chance of a lifetime to get the best for Morecambe. Morecambe’s loss will be someone else’s gain.

“We must say yes, it’s our civic duty.”

The Lancaster City Council planning committee then debated this most burning of issues.

“It’s interesting and innovative, but we are where we are now,” said Coun Roger Dennison.

“I think the officers (who recommended rejecting the scheme) are quite right. The only sensible thing to do is to move for refusal.”

Coun Keith Sowden said: “We do need development here, it’s essential we have something.

“The lady earlier put forward a very strong argument for Urban Splash development, but for me the most important thing is what the people of Morecambe think.”

And after the committee voted 12 to 1 to refuse planning permission, the spontaneous burst of clapping showed that the people of Morecambe – or at least most of the small but passionate group present – thought this was the right decision to take.

‘The wrong development in the wrong place’ has been their general consensus from day one. In September 2011, Urban Splash chairman Tom Bloxham warned he might walk away from Morecambe if the people did not back his plans. Now we await his next move.