Big Issue: A city needs people living in it to truly prosper
I WANT to see a prosperous Gloucester.
I think we all do. But maybe "prosper" is perceived in different ways. Of course, "prosperous" suggests a bustling high street, full of bag-laden shoppers and chinking tills, or at least in a commercial sense it does.
In the current economic climate, this is difficult for any city; yet I believe Gloucester can still flourish.
If we are to regenerate our city, it is imperative that people live in it (rather than in suburbia). With this in mind, it was good to hear in The Citizen that there are plans to convert the former register office on Spa Road into flats.
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If we were to travel back 50 years, and walked down one of the city centre streets, we would discover countless city centre residences.
Many would live above their very businesses and workplaces – and nor was it frowned upon to do so.
In fact, the architecture of Gloucester reveals quite the contrary; it would appear that, throughout history, a Gloucester pad has been really quite snazzy.
I cite the magnificent Tudor Merchant's house on Westgate (Winfields) or Constitution House (the Conservative Club) – both of these salubrious properties were built by men proud to live in their home city.
And so should we be.
This was the key to the sense of community, the vitality and the energy of our city.
It was not just a "shopping centre" but a home itself.
Yet, from around 1950 onwards, there has been an increasing rate of relocation to the outskirts.
Apart from London, city centre living has become unfashionable and thus a human aspect of the city has been lost.
If people live in a city, they will visit cafés, restaurants and pubs, they will build friendships with the local businessmen and landlords, they will rejoice in their city.
This is the Gloucester I want to see.
However, I said I was "happy" with the news of the Registry office for a reason.
I am not delighted, for the accommodation that it will provide is only really suitable for couples – not families.
Much of the grandeur of Brunswick Square and the Park area has been lost by the conversion of these splendid Georgian terraces into one bedroom flats.
Developers, blinded by profit, have chopped them into smaller and smaller segments, with no regard for their period features.
Whereas many of Cheltenham's town houses have remained true to their name, their Gloucester counterparts have been, and still are, divided and divided until all their original character has been lost. For this reason, I am greatly encouraged by the plans for the former Technical College on Brunswick Road. Rather than transforming the current building into flats, it will be demolished and houses built, including a public square – a mirror of the neighbouring Brunswick Square.
Of course, houses cannot be afforded by all, but Gloucester is already overflowing with blocks of flats and could do with some more grand designs.