College site – good and bad news
As many of you are already aware, our area is facing some major changes in the form of the college redevelopment. Whilst its good to see the back of the festering old pile, buried in the plans is a detail which threatens to seriously damage our quality of life and which is likely to see a rapid increase in late night rowdyism and crime: Its a brand new open pedestrian walk way which passes straight through the site and up Rolleston Street. It means that instead of dog-legging round ‘curry corner’ and going up and down Victoria Hill, groups of late night drinkers will use the new and more direct route to get to and from old town and central using and on up Prospect Hill, Western Street, Cross Street, North Street etc. I’ve been raising the issue of this route for sometime – and hopefully you’ve seen a copy of the petition Dave Wood circulated last month (I’m told the responses have been fantastic). Here’s a update.
- The new 24 hour open through route remains on the plans
- This is despite two years of reasoned and reasonable discussion which has involved (at least *apparently*) shared concern and support from the likes of Phil Young, Peter Greenhaulgh and the local ward councillors, not to mention an ever increasing number of local residents
- The residents (us!) have suggested an eminently workable and practical compromise, where by the developers include a gate for the route which is closed once the onsite businesses close at around 11.00. NOTE: we have been told that these are ‘high class’ restaurants and retail units. This gate could be equipped with an automated time-lock or manually closed by one of the onsite security guards which the developers insist will prevent issues with trouble makers
- The developers have told me in recent emails that such a gate would be an ‘onerous restriction’ for their potential tenants and could ‘threaten the ENTIRE viability of the whole project’ (!) Despite my questions, they’ve actually been unable to explain why they believe that, or how it could possibly be. Surely the manager of a high class restaurant would be quite happy to know that the area outside his business wasn’t being used as a through-route in the small hours of the morning? Aside from the obvious security benefits, it would also remove the obvious littering, urination, vandalism etc which could occur, even if the area is covered by cctv and 24 hour security
- I have also seen correspondence which implies/threatens that unless residents accept the current proposals, we’ll simply end up ‘stuck with the college building’. This is either a desperate and unpleasant piece of scaremongering, OR it brings into question of whether the developers are financially secure! The cost placing of a automated gate is so infinitesimally small in the scale of the development, I cannot accept that its really about money. This appears to be about the developers failing to engage because, in their view, they simply don’t have to. Why? Because SBC is desperate to deliver something (anything) of its stalled regeneration plans, that the developers feel they simply don’t have to listen – they believe they hold the whip hand, and concepts like engagement and intelligent compromise aren’t important to them. Raw, rude profit is the main motivator – they’ve paid for their plans they want to divest themselves of this millstone and local residents are merely an irritant.
- The developers PR strategy appears to be to continually and apparently deliberately misrepresent our concerns. They keep repeating that ‘the high class nature of the tenants and the use of CCTV and onsite security will prevent anti social issues’. This is of course transparently irrelevant to the issue: The residents are concerned about what happens once pedestrians have used the route as a late night cut-through between Old Town and Central. The nature of the tenants, the security and the CCTV are obviously utterly irrelevant to what happens when a bunch of pissed lads use it as a short cut between Rudis and Suju – and end up punching off wing-mirrors up our streets
- Both local PCSOs and Crime reduction Officers have told me that they believe that the 24 hour pedestrian route would be highly likely to result in increased anti-social behaviour and crime on our streets.
- The planning team within SBC seems to be ‘unaware’ of the depth of feeling – despite the numerous written comments which were fed back via Ashfield at the supposed consultation meeting. What happened to those written comments? Numerous neighbours in my area thought that their concerns would be considered and passed on. It appears they’ve been ignored
- Despite their continual insistence that the units will be occupied by the ‘highest quality tenants’, there is still no confirmation of who these will be – or if there’s to be ANY guarantee that even if found, that they might not easily be replaced by low-end tat merchants in the future. The Brunel centre is a perfect example of the hollowness of such hype. That was once described as a development that would attract high class businesses. A walk around the second floor of The Brunel shows how developers descriptions and promises can soon ring hollow
- The Brunel also provides another perfect example and precedent. Originally the doors of the Brunel (with its ‘high class establishments’, its CCTV and its security) were open 24/7. Numerous issues with trouble makers meant that the doors ending up having to be closed and locked after the businesses on site finished trading. You can take people out of Swindon – but sadly, for many, you can’t take Swindon out of them. Developments need (MUST) be sensitive to the behaviour of some of the people who live in the town. A serious negative impact resulting from the provision of this route is utterly predicable (and preventable).
If you want to find out more, there are some threads on the local chat forum Talk Swindon here:http://www.talkswindon.org/index.php?topic=3233.0 and a well made documentary film (he said modestly!) here:http://www.talkswindon.org/index.php?topic=3644.msg20584#msg20584
Please write to Dave Wood – and please write to the planning department to let them know your feelings (contact details to follow).