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Somerset Conservative MP compares Taunton to war-torn Aleppo

A Somerset MP who compared Taunton to the war-torn city of Aleppo in Syria has apologised - to the citizens of Aleppo.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, who is the Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, sparked controversy last week after likening the two in the House of Commons.

The 59-year-old heaped praise on the Devon city of Exeter for producing a “detailed vision” for its centre before launching his attack.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset

Exeter city has just brought out an excellent report looking at 20 years ahead for the security and the growth of their city centre.

Across the border, my county town Taunton is more like Aleppo than anything else.

Could I please have a debate in government time, in this place, following on from the member opposite on town centres and how they must look forward to visionary experiences as opposed to looking back for what has happened in history?

– Ian Liddell-Grainger MP

Mr Liddell-Grainger has since come under-fire for his comments, and has issued an apology.

But instead of apologising to residents in Taunton, the MP has said sorry to Aleppo.

A member of the Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets) inspects a damaged building at a site on the Aleppo-Damascus highway. Credit: PA

“It was not my intention to affront innocent residents by comparing Taunton to Syria’s second city,” he said.

I gladly take this opportunity to offer Aleppo a sincere apology. Life must have been bad under ISIS, barrel-bombed by Bashir Al Assad and blitzed by the Russians.

The last thing they needed was comparison with Somerset’s neglected town centre.

– Ian Liddell-Grainger MP

“Aleppo is a World Heritage Site already being reconstructed after years of horrific destruction.

Ian Liddell-Grainger compared Taunton to Aleppo in the House of Commons.

“Taunton still bears the scars of years of municipal neglect, bad planning and flat-footed leadership. Frankly, the place is a mess.”

He referenced recent crime in the Somerset town and accused the council of lacking “imagination” in its plans for Taunton’s future.

“Aleppo is being rapidly rebuilt,” he added. “Taunton just gets worse. The council leader called my comparison shameful and disgraceful.

“Perhaps he should reflect on those words – in a mirror.”

Read Ian Liddell-Grainger's statement in full below:

It was not my intention to affront innocent residents by comparing Taunton to Syria’s second city. I gladly take this opportunity to offer Aleppo a sincere apology.

Life must have been bad under ISIS, barrel-bombed by Bashir Al Assad and blitzed by the Russians. The last thing they needed was comparison with Somerset’s neglected town centre.

Aleppo is a World Heritage Site already being reconstructed after years of horrific destruction.

Taunton still bears the scars of years of municipal neglect, bad planning and flat-footed leadership. Frankly, the place is a mess.

But it used to be a venue of choice. Somewhere well worth visiting. Now? I prefer to quote the words of one resident who wrote to me last week:

"This town has become the biggest nightmare of my 58 years on earth with drugs, car crime, sex performed on doorsteps, madmen running around with knives, police here 138 times in 2 years, 200 logged incidents in my area alone."

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated comment. Statistics issued by Police UK prove that Taunton now has the worst record in the County for burglaries and unsolved crime.

In parts of central Taunton there is nothing left to steal. Firepool is grim testament to the incompetence of planners and the lack of imagination of the Council.

A huge prime site abandoned by the river. Even the developers gave up and left town. Taunton does not have the dignity of individual parishes to represent it properly.

Small wonder the town is losing its character. Instead Taunton Deane Council pursues manic expansion and unfettered house-building without considering the impact on those who already live here.

Aleppo is being rapidly rebuilt. Taunton just gets worse. The Council leader called my comparison shameful and disgraceful. Perhaps he should reflect on those words – in a mirror.