'This is not what the residents want' - Scarborough's Old Town push back against Argos development

Residents of Scarborough’s Old Town have voiced concerns over the proposed development of the former Argos building on Newborough.

An artist's impression of the proposed plans from Scarborough Council with a small square next to the block of flats. (Scarborough Council)
An artist's impression of the proposed plans from Scarborough Council with a small square next to the block of flats. (Scarborough Council)

Around 110 residents attended a public meeting at Scarborough Library on Tuesday night, with others having to be turned away due to Covid restrictions limiting the number of people allowed in the room.

Current development plans, which are being backed with a £22 million investment from Scarborough Council, have been drawn up in collaboration with Coventry University Scarborough and York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The scheme will see the existing building demolished to make way for retail units on the ground floor and accommodation for 52 in-training NHS doctors and nurses from Scarborough Hospital and 150 university students on the upper levels.

An artist's impression by Neil Pearson of an alternative use of the land - a large town square. (Neil Pearson)

Honorary Alderman Norman Murphy, a former councillor of Northstead Ward, chaired the public meeting.

He said: “People who live in the Old Town are up in arms about it, the last thing they want is for another barrack building.”

The three Castle Ward councillors – Janet Jefferson, Alex Bailey and Carl Maw – were invited to attend the meeting, along with the developers, but none turned up, disappointing the meeting’s organisers.

James Corrigan, local business owner and meeting organiser, said: “We have been woefully let down by our ward councillors.”

The meeting discussed alternative uses for the space, including a town square.

Mr Murphy said every resident in the room voted for the idea of the town square, and no-one wanted the existing plans.

He said: “We need to make it absolutely clear that this is not what the residents want.

“There wasn’t any dissent, no-one wanted the block of flats.

“There is no way a block of 200 flats in the Old Town of Scarborough will regenerate the borough.

“A town square could be used in any number of ways, for exhibitions, markets, film showing, the options are endless. With a block of flats there are no options.

He also voiced concerns about the cost of the current plans.

“My grandkids will be paying for this for the next 40 years. A town square would be a fraction of the cost.”

Mr Corrigan added that in the council’s guidance for developers it states a public meeting should be held with the affected community prior to the consultation period.

He said: “This scheme should be paused and a public meeting should be called.”

At time of writing the scheme has 70 objections on the council’s planning portal and just two comments in support.

Mr Murphy said: “People must make [their local councillors and the planning department] aware if they are not happy with the proposals, if they do that then democracy is served.”

A document detailing the concerns of residents at Tuesday night’s meeting is being compiled and will be sent to the leader of the council Cllr Steve Siddons and chief executive Michael Greene.

In September, the council agreed to a review of the scheme after a motion from deputy leader of the Conservatives Cllr Heather Phillips who said construction costs had risen by 30 to 40 per cent since the original vote in 2019.

At that meeting Cllr Siddons said: “We have to have the courage of our convictions that we made in July 2019. Nothing has changed in respect of this project.

“Anything else, whether delay, hesitation or reversal, will stop the delivery of the strong economic future our residents deserve.”

The scheme is on the agenda of the council’s Places and Futures Overview and Scrutiny Committee which meets on Wednesday at 2pm.

The planning application can be viewed and commented on at the council's planning portal here.