Back in February, Dynamo attended a “stakeholder engagement workshop” on proposals for the redevelopment of the Canal Quarter. We enjoyed it so much that we’ve been to another one!
Like the previous event, it was organised by consultants Planit-IE on behalf of the City Council and took the form of a short presentation, following which participants were allocated to a number of working groups for further discussion.
There doesn’t seem to have been a lot of progress since February. We were told that there is still a blank canvas and the five work-groups, each consisting of about 8 participants, were asked to choose their key priorities for the development and to rank them in order of importance and whether they were short, medium or long-term objectives. The only “givens” seem to be that retailing is not expected to play a major part and that car parking is supposedly to be restricted to the outer fringes of the site.
Because each group appeared to take a different approach to the task and reported back in different ways, it was difficult to get an overview. Dynamo’s group, which also included representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, University of Cumbria and City Council Planning, took the view that Connectivity, Conservation of Historic Buildings, Maintenance of Local Character and Identity and Provision of Green Space were all important and that it was likely that the Arts and Culture would play a major role. Our key priority was that action be taken quickly to prevent further deterioration to the historic buildings currently on the site. Despite the determined efforts of Dynamo and others, “car parking” was identified as a key priority although we did manage to get our workgroup to redefine it as “Car Parking and Transport Solutions”.
Following the February workshop, Dynamo submitted a follow-up to the consultants which sought to get cycle use and parking embedded in the development from the start. It has to be said that there was no evidence that any action has been taken on this, although we were briefly shown a map that appeared to indicate that all the existing roads through the site will be retained and that although car parking was supposedly to be restricted to the north and south ends there appeared to be a significant space allocated for it right in the middle. Just to show how complicated the issue of traffic can be, a local resident on Dynamo’s work-group made the point that if the present traffic rat-runs through the area were to be prevented from doing so it would increase traffic and worsen conditions for residents in nearby Freehold.
The workshop was to be followed immediately by an event aimed at young people, as the consultants have realised that they haven’t actually asked any young people what they would like to see. Dynamo’s representative obviously had to leave at that point, but further workshops and consultations have been promised.