So hello, 2014. Sprawled before us, a mass of blank canvas, virgin snow, blue sky. It’s the job of the commentator to make predictions of the future 12 months, but I’m going to give that a miss. Politically, 2014 is the Euro Elections, but I don’t think I’ll be covering that in the same detail I’ve covered the General, Borough and County elections. Not for any Europhobic reasons, but because it’s a bit too devolved from what I suppose is my ‘patch’. It’s tough enough trying to find context in the County elections: simultaneously trying to work out Beeston’s position in terms of Broxtowe’s, and then in Nottinghamshire’s, then in the country….nope, I’ll spare my brain that trauma and hold off to next years double-bubble of General and Borough elections. Unless the lesser coalition partners do the decent thing and save any chance of getting anything more than single figures of MPs on the benches post-vote. Go on, Vince. Go on, Tim Farron….
Anyhow, back to 2014. It’s around a year since I organised a meeting to discuss the future of the Square after developers Henry Boot submittted plans for it’s revamp, that were generally considered a bit, well, crap.
It turned out to be a packed meeting, and one that was generally useful, with some progress made. It became apparent though that the real problem facing Beeston was one of coherence and communication. Developers, NET, Broxtowe Borough Council and us, Beestonians, simply weren’t working together to see how to steer Beeston into a post-tram future. This was leading to frustration amongst the public, who felt that big decisions made to their home were being foisted upon them. They felt this undemocratic, unfair and against their interests. The town was – is- being razed, and for only the vaguest, far-off outcomes.
Throughout 2013 I tried to work out why. I talked to hundreds of locals, small business owners on Chilwell Road, shoppers, developers, politicians, council officers; I read up on the concept of ‘transition towns‘, the stuff being done in Totnes (who’s up for our own currency? Richard Beckinsale on one side of the coin, Soubz on t’other?), and looked at retail trends against leisure/culture trends. I’ve not became any type of expert, far from, but feel a bit better informed and, surprisingly, rather optimistic.
It seemed good sense then to get another meeting together, and that’s what happened. On Saturday, at John Clifford school (where we held the first meeting), I’ll be chairing ‘Beeston New Deal’ , an open, public meeting to discuss what we want from Beeston, post tram, and have the people who can effect change in place to take note of what we want. It kicks off at 7pm, runs through to 9.30pm, and is free, though, as is customary in these events, they’ll be a whip-round to cover costs with any excess going to charity.
I’m no Dimbleby, so up-front I want to get a few things clear to ensure we don’t get bogged down:
- The meeting is NOT a political one. Yes, Nick Palmer has done some of the organising, and will be making an introduction speech, but it’s agreed that NO partisan arguments on party lines, or apportioning of blame, will occur. Nick simply has more clout than I do to get the people we need to the table, and a mailing list to get the word out to a wider audience than I can. I will cut anyone off who starts making arguments solely grounded in party politics.
- We are not talking about the tram. We’re talking about post-tram: what Beeston will be like once the network is in place. The tram is inevitable, and like it or loathe it, it’s an inevitability. Apportioning blame for it’s construction, or it’s delays due to opposition, are not wanted and will be cut off. We need to address the future, not pick at the past. Things are too urgent for that.
- We’re not promising anything. I’d love Beeston to run like Trumpton: everything in it’s place, or Sim City, where we can simply drop an M+S into the Square and a Waitrose in Broadgate Park, but it’s not that simple. We can merely make it clear to those who do make policy and draw up the plans what we want.
- We do want to examine how Beeston can thrive post-tram. Anti-trammers often reckon the tram will act as a drain on Beeston, with people using it to leave Beeston to send money, rather than arrive. Pro-trammers reckon it’ll act as a shop-window to the thousands who will pass through each day. Myself, I’m not convinced either way. Keep thing as they are, the pro-trammers predict right. Do something now, give our town a USP, a speciality, rather than more of what you’ll find in Nottingham, and that may happen. We already have a large base of independents, restaurants and pubs: how do we make the most of them?
- We can’t afford to dwell on negativity. Yes, people are unhappy, annoyed, and feel the need to vent. Not at the meeting though, please. There are plenty of good places to do that, especially online: Facebook’s NET Tram Extension Ranting Room seems to be a good place to do that. We need creativity, productivity and clarity. Anything else bogs down the argument, and means we’ll be ruining this chance to work together.
I hope you can make it down. Together, we can stop Beeston sliding away from us.