Martin Kirby Column; Back To The Future, Seeds of Doubt and EU Don't Fool Me
A REAL CHANCE FOR CHANGE
Earlier this week, I attended a meeting organised by Gloucester City Council and the developer, Stanhope, to discuss the best way forward for the city centre, now that Stanhope has signed an agreement with the council for the King's Quarter development.
There is no doubt that it's a bold scheme and would remove many of the eyesores so often complained about by our readers, as well as yours truly. If everything goes to plan, the crumbling bus station will be just a bad memory and a smaller, more attractive King's Square will replace the grim skateboard park we have at the moment.
There's a lot to do before Bob the builder hands over the keys and there will be plenty of objections and stumbling blocks, as was evident on the night. As usually happens when any discussion is opened up to the audience, comments ranged from constructive to barking mad, so at least I wasn't bored.
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What did impress me was the contribution by John Wood, a Partner in The Other Retail Group, which owns the Eastgate Shopping Centre. John made the point that the King's Quarter, important though it is, shouldn't be allowed to detract from the shopping facilities we already have and - most encouraging of all, that he is 'a big fan of markets' and wants the Eastgate Market to benefit when the Eastgate centre undergoes its own upgrade.
But Mr Wood faced howls of protest when he announced that, among other big names coming to the Eastgate, Tesco would be taking the former J J B store, at the Southgate Street entrance. A Tesco may not be ideal, but I'm convinced that an empty shell with piles of junk mail inside dirty glass doors is unlikely to encourage shoppers into the centre. Whereas a bright, busy store at the doorway will. There was also a commitment from Shelagh Larard, Asset manager of Aviva, that something will definitely be done with that damned Golden Egg building.
Parking was another issue raised and it had the tree-botherers up in arms, but the fact is people want to drive as close to the shops as possible. If we can't have cheap parking, it must at least be safe, clean and accessible.
If we get this scheme right, Gloucester could become the city it should always have been.
OH GROW UP!
My six year old granddaughter wanted to plant a pumpkin seed, so granddad duly obliged with a small pot and compost. Ten minutes later, she insisted on going outside to see if it had grown. Although it was a waste of time, granddad duly obliged. Ten minutes later……well, you get the picture. It's going to be a long year.
EU WON'T CONVINCE ME.
A small number of people have taken me to task over my anti-EU rant last week, but I'm unrepentant. One contributor informed me of something the EU has apparently done for us, saying; "we can be confident that water is safe to drink or wash in, wherever we travel within the EU". Ah, so that's where some of our money goes – paying for other countries to improve their water supplies, while UK water companies refuse to repair leaks and issue hosepipe bans almost every summer. Another pointed out that the Cornwall Council website gives details of available EU grants. Great if you live in Cornwall, but not much to get excited about in Coney Hill! The fact remains that we pay far more into the EU every year then we get back in any form of subsidy or grant. Any business that has annual outgoings greater than its annual income will soon be bankrupt, yet we are supposed to be grateful for being in this club for the terminally-deluded. On a different Euro note – years ago, I wrote of my belief that (then) Prime Minister, Tony Blair, wouldn't be happy until he was President of the United States of Europe. Now the idea of an elected president for Europe has actually been put forward - by Tony Blair. God help us.