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Local residents corner shopping mall construction plan
In Higashimurayama, a suburban city in Tokyo, a municipal plan to construct a shopping mall has come to a standstill due to the strong opposition of local residents.
The facility, to be run by Japan's major retailer AEON, is planned to open in April. But the construction of even an access road to the site has yet to start. No progress has been made in the procedures required by the City Planning Law and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government environment impact assessment requirement.
Located in a quiet residential area, the site, where there is a spring-fed pond, is facing an elementary school, a long-term nursing home where the elderly in need of 24-hour care are living, and a retirement home.
"My family moved to this neighborhood because it is located within commuting distance of the Tokyo central area and is rich in nature. We hate to see this pleasant environment destroyed," a resident said.
Along with environmental problems, including heavy traffic, car accidents, noise pollution, and air pollution, the residents are becoming increasingly concerned about the city's financial crisis.
In order to attract AEON, Mayor Nozaki Shigeya, who is backed by the Liberal Democratic and Komei parties, proposed that the city should pay 345 million yen, half the total cost for constructing the 150-meter access road. In the City Assembly, not only the LDP and Komei Party but the Democratic Party supported this proposal.
Since taking office in 2003, Nozaki has cut services for residents and forced them to shoulder heavier burdens on the grounds of the city's financial difficulties. He has already closed down all three municipal kindergartens, raised national health insurance premiums for four consecutive years, and sold city assets.
Witnessing the city policy of sacrificing residents' living conditions to attract the large-scale retailer, local residents have quickly developed their campaign in opposition to the construction plan.
Together with various residents' organizations calling for the cancellation of the plan, the Japanese Communist Party has distributed handbills, collected signatures, held symposiums, and requested the city to conduct an audit of the plan.
The planned facility's total floor area of 74,800 square meters is as large as all the retail shops in the city combined. Small retailers expressed anxiety, saying "When the AEON shop opens, other shops in the city will be closed down."
A company, which owns the retirement home next to the site and the land on which the access road is planned to be constructed, has also joined the residents' movement against the plan. The company has declared that it will not sell its land, saying, "We want to defend the environment that is suitable for our lifelong nursing-care facility."
JCP City Assembly member Watanabe Ken'ichi said, "The city should promote a nature- and residents-friendly community, not one that serves the large-scale retailer and destroys the natural environment as well as local businesses."
- Akahata, February 5, 2007
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