A strange, strange "debate" at Full Council tonight.
We were in the somewhat unusual position that Council members from all the voting blocs wanted to throw out the Tesco proposal to build a superstore and flats in the town centre. After unprecedented consultation, the people of the town had given a thumping thumbs-down to the idea (perhaps the first big reverse Tesco has had nationwide in some time).
So what was there to discuss? Well, unfortunately for the Tories and the LibDems, the Labour ruling group was doing exactly what it had promised and was listening to the settled will of residents and taking the lead in rejecting the scheme. That of course was the opposite of what Tory Group Leader Tony Richmond wanted 6 months out from local elections, so it was entertaining to watch him agree with every clause in the resolution moved by John Williams whilst trying to squeeze some political advantage out of the situation. The LibDems (bless 'em) weren't much better, with Fred Lawton arguing against the idea of "appropriate" consultation. So what was Fred advocating - inappropriate consultation?
There was also the sideshow that was Conservative Cllr. Jim Ruck's self-imposed exile from the decision. Jim is hugely liked and respected by members of Council on the Labour side, and he left the Chamber muttering "Cllr. Ruck has left the building" which got a good laugh. Attempts by the Tory spin-machine to turn Jim into the "Linden Avenue One" however seemed thin stuff and I'm surprised that the Echo fell for it.
The result? A unanimous vote in favour of the original motion moved by Cllr. John Wiliams, which rejected the Tesco proposal, made clear that a major supermarket development in the town centre (including the area outside the ring-road) would not be acceptable, and which empowered the Town Centre Board to look at proposals for the future. Members of the "Say No to Tesco in Darlington." campaign have been invited to join the process, including my fellow blogger Mike Barker, who got a name check from the Leader. (And Mike - that's the only link you'll get off me!)