AN MP who made insensitive comments comparing Taunton to a war-torn city has apologised - to the citizens of Aleppo.

Member of Parliament for Bridgwater and West Somerset, Ian Liddell-Grainger, sparked controversy last week after he made comments in the House of Commons on January 31, likening Somerset's county town to the Syrian city Aleppo.

He was admiring the work of nearby Exeter in producing a 'detailed vision' for the city centre, before voicing the attack on Somerset's county town.

He said: "Exeter City has just brought out an excellent report looking 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 on town centres and how they must look forward to visionary experiences as opposed to looking back to what has happened in history."

In reply to his comments, Andrea Leadsom MP, lord president of the council and leader of the House of Commons, said a debate would be an option.

She did not, however, comment on Mr Liddell-Grainger's, perhaps extreme, view of the town.

She said: "My honourable friend is absolutely right.

"Local authorities and local enterprise partnerships do need to properly plan for the thriving future of their town centres and their regions.

"He makes a very good point and I would encourage him to seek an adjournment debate so he can rise his particular issues."

Bridgwater Mercury:

CONTROVERSIAL: MP Ian Liddell-Grainger compared Taunton to war-torn Aleppo 

He has since come under-fire for his comments, and has decided to apologise.

But his words are not aimed at the residents of Taunton he might have offended...

He said: "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."

He continued to rub salt into the wound, claiming Taunton has the highest rate of unsolved crime in the county.

"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."

MP for Taunton Deane, Rebecca Pow, has been contacted for comment.