Work has started on creating a “fantastic new resource” for the people of Otley, or over-expensive “swanky new council offices”, depending on who you believe.
The Labour group insists the community-focused information centre, and Town Council base, which will be opened on Orchard Gate, will provide a fully-accessible resource for all in the heart of town.
Local builders Houldsworth have started carrying out major refurbishments to the property, which will include adding a lift, following the council’s signing of a long-term lease with owners Tatton Settled Estates.
But critics have slammed the scheme, for which £50,000 was set aside in the council’s new budget, as an expensive “vanity project”, with MP Greg Mulholland (Lib Dem, Leeds North West) attacking it in Parliament this week.
Otley town mayor Councillor Mary Vickers (Lib Dem, Prince Henry), is supporting the move.
She said: “These new premises are designed to meet the needs of our community and should allow the town council and its partners to advance the support services available to our residents.”
Councillor Austin Kelly (Lab, Ashfield) said: “This will provide a fantastic resource for the residents of Otley.
“It will provide access to information, accommodate displays related to local issues, and provide a conference suite that will house town council meetings and be available for use by a wide range of partners, to deliver services and seminars.”
Christopher Pugh, of Tatton Settled Estates, added: “We are delighted the town council has chosen to locate its community resource centre within Orchard Gate, a thriving shopping centre with a good mix of local and national retailers.”
Mr Mulholland, addressing Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in the House of Commons on Monday, asked the Conservative MP if he shared “the dismay of the residents of Otley, where the Labour-controlled town council has introduced a record-breaking 14.5 per cent increase in the precept to pay for swanky new town council offices?”
Town council leader Coun John Eveleigh (Lab, Ashfield) hit back: “It’s a pity our MP doesn’t follow the advice of our Lib Dem town mayor, who has called for unity on this project and for the parties to work together.”