Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Big Dig & The Big Deception

They do say it sometimes takes an outsider to point out the bleedin' obvious. So it is with the writer Paul Kingsnorth in a book published today concerning public spaces & the encroaching corporatisation of them (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/mar/29/communities ).
In the Guardian extract from the book, "Real England: The Battle Against The Bland", Kingsnorth focuses on the "redevelopment" of London's Chinatown & the Paradise Project in Liverpool in Spring 2006.
Kingsnorth pithily encapsulates the arrangement thus:
"This is the way the deal works. The city council gets an expensive, flashy renovation of a rundown area, costing almost £1bn, for which it has to pay virtually nothing. In return, it must give up --or rather the public must give up-- its rights to it."
Kingsnorth mentions the now-demolished Quiggins, a truly alternative shopping centre in the middle of Liverpool, near the venerable Bluecoat Chambers. Contrary to the city council's promise, Quiggins has, to date, not been found another home in the city centre. In fact, it has been forced to move to Aigburth, seven miles from its old location (http://www.quiggins.com/ ).
It's the conversation with Cllr. Peter Mullen, then responsible for maintenance & repair in the city centre, however, which is the real eye-opener. Mullen takes the developer Grovesnor's intentions with an almost child-like naivety; he is "assured" that public access won't be ended by the abolition of public rights of way. No legal documents to cite or invoke, just a blithe assumption that these thing will take care of themselves & everything will work out fine.
With that sort of handling at the highest civic levels, no wonder 2008 has been such a wasted opportunity.

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