'Come and join our march'
LEADERS of a fight to stop £40 million being spent on a new civic centre have issued a call to arms for more residents to join their campaign.
The rallying call came from 30 demonstrators who held a placard-waving march to the proposed site at the Central Business District in Hanley yesterday.
Wearing masks to show their fears that the scheme would be a 'white elephant', they said more people were joining the protest, called March on Stoke, every day.
And they argued that the best way to halt the project would be the building of a movement so big it could not be ignored by councillors.
Group chairman Alan Barrett said: "This is really starting to take off in a big way as more and more people realise the stupidity of it all. So we would urge residents to get involved. Let's see how far we can take it.
"There are so many flaws with this plan but people are most upset by the fact it is taking £40 million of their hard-earned money at such a time of austerity.
"They realise it will be their grandchildren who end up picking up the bill. We would have no problem with offices being built in Hanley by a private developer.
"As it is, council leader Mohammed Pervez and the small number of councillors who voted for this are risking the money we were good enough to give the authority to spend on our behalf."
The protest was a dress-rehearsal for a full-scale demonstration starting at Cannon Place, Hanley, on Saturday, February 23, at 11.30am.
As they made their way from the Mitchell Memorial theatre in Broad Street, marchers were greeted by motorists sounding their horns in support and pedestrians applauding and giving thumbs-up signs.
The council wants to move its headquarters from the 20-year-old Stoke civic base in Glebe Street to Hanley, in a move they say will create jons and work as a catalyst for regeneration of the city centre.
But opponents argue that it is already destroying jobs as decades-old businesses such as Hancock's pet stores and Soo's takeaway shop in Broad Street have closed to make way for the scheme.
Mr Barrett, a writer from Stoke, added: "By trying to create jobs with no guarantee of success they are killing others. Small shops are already struggling against supermarkets and on-line shopping.
"Stoke-on-Trent will never compete against places with recognised city centres so why try and do it by sucking everything into Hanley? Instead we should be focusing on our uniqueness of having six towns with their own identities and using this money for a tramway to connect them."
The movement has already gathered 2,000 supporters on Facebook and is raising several petitions.
Protestor Tony Bradshaw, aged 49, from Penkhull, said: "People from all backgrounds, ages, areas of the city and political parties are now joining us as word gets around."