Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Does vision come at a price?

On Monday evening I went to a meeting about the proposed 'MediPark' in Old Lenton, which was attended by just over thirty local residents. The Nottingham Evening Post was there and published a news story about the meeting. It was a fair account, but I suspect that some of the young reporter's story was chopped, so some of the detail was lost.

The proposed Nottingham MediPark and its location aims to build on the city's strength as a 'science city' and the site's proximity to the QMC hospital and new state-of-the-art Medical Treatment Centre (which is privately run for the NHS), as well as Nottingham University and Alliance Boots. All are based in Lenton.

So, where does the River Leen fit in? Well, the site's western boundary is the Leen and is what separates it from the QMC and Treatment Centre, which you can see on the right-hand side of the picture. The view is from Leengate towards Abbey Street and is the section of the river the developers of the 'MediPark' have promised to landscape and 'naturalise, as part of their plan to 'create a high-quality public realm around the edge of the MediPark'
The MediPark presentation was made by a David West and it was impressive, appearing to be full of details about the MediPark 'vision', whilst anxious to point out that when the buildings came to be designed and built they might look quite different. He spent time talking about how they wanted to naturalise the site by creating a 'lagoon' in the centre of the development to take surface water and then recycling it. They also plan to 'Grow an urban forest (of) 650 birch trees grown in a nursery they will create on-site when work begins on the first phase of the Medipark in 2011, subject to funding etc.

David West was right to point out that there is nowhere for anyone to sit beside the River Leen and that it would be better used it is was properly landscaped, but it is already used by lots of locals and by QMC staff as an amenity. Yesterday, the day after the meeting, I walked to Dunkirk Post Office and back and met Sheba and Ruth on the way. Ruth and her husband, David, are both well respected and well liked community activists and Ruth uses this stretch of the Leen regularly. Whilst I welcome the vision, it does nothing to ameliorate my sadness the about the fact that visions to create a River Leen walkway and green corridor along its length, from north of Bulwell, through Basford and Radford, to Lenton and the Trent, have come to nothing, after decades of talk.

Perhaps we can use this new interest in the Leen as an amenity to kickstart a campaign to make the long envisioned Leen walkway a reality. For the past year I have been talking about organising a walk through Nottingham hugging the banks of the Leen as closely as possible and, after listening to David West, I am determined to make it happen sometime in the next few months.

The MediPark display was three panels, so what you see in this picture is all there was to see. The information brochure was also slight in appearance and in content. It was Mr West, during his presentation, who put some meat on the bones and gave the ideas behind the MediPark some substance.

I did see visitors sitting down and completing the Medipark questionnaire, but it was also slight and provided little space for questions which needed answers. Generally the response seemed favourable. I did make the point in my answers that I wish those promoting MediPark had involved local representive groups, like the Forum and NAG, in their discussions from the beginning.

During his presentation, David West said: 'We spoke to potential tenants about our plans and the buildings and (their views) have totally driven the process'. If they could talk to businesses and others why couldn't they talk to the Forum or NAG? The truth is, like so much else that happens in Lenton, the process is driven by Lenton's location and the views of outside players, like the NHS, University, big business and the City Council, take priority over local residents and how any new development might impact upon the quality of their lives.

Dave Trimble (centre), our local Labour Party city councillor, turned out and found himself in the hot seat trying to answer questions about parking, traffic management and CPOs (Compulsory Purchase Orders). He really does his best and I have long been of the view that trying to represent your ward in the face of corporate city priorities puts councillors between a rock and a hard place, and that only elected urban parrish councils can overcome this problem. With Dave are Dorothy and Christine, two long-time Lenton residents, who take an active interest in local community matters.

Dave found himself having to address issues that the MediPark development team have paid scant attention to. They tried to say that these were matters which could be raised as part of the outline planning process, but local residents were less than happy with what they heard. Had they got the local community involved from the word go, these would have been issues they would have been alerted to and could have given the same attention to as 'the vision'. Perhaps this is what happens when you get fixated on a vision and ignore what seem like marginal issues. Solving these issues will come at the price. We have to make sure that it is not local residents who have to pay it in return for some 'high-quality public realm around the edges' of the MediPark.

A man who killed an innocent shopper after a row over queue jumping in a supermarket was jailed today for four years. Tony Virasami, 38, was sentenced at Southwark crown court for killing bystander Kevin Tripp after an argument between his ex-partner Antoinette Richardson and another man in a supermarket queue. Richardson, who called Virasami to the store and encouraged his violence, was jailed for 18 months.

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