Beeston New Deal: An Invitation.

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.


27 thoughts on “Beeston New Deal: An Invitation.

  1. Roisin Kirby says:

    Are Beeston BID attending as this subject matter is surely close to their remit? Would any proposals need to be run past them/endorsed by them?

    • Nick almer says:

      Yes, Beeston BID are being represented. There won’t be any decisions at the meeting (as we won’t be a representative body, simply an opportunity to put forward ideas to be followed up) so they won’t need to approve or otherwise, but I hope we’ll hear their views. Who decides depends on what people want – many of the issues are council-related, but others depend on bus companies, NET or others.

    • Nick Palmer says:

      Yes, they will be represented, and I hope will contribute their thoughts. There won’t be firm proposals for anyone to decide on as a result of the meeting – the idea is more positive brain-storming and an attempt to focus the main preferences.

  2. simon cross says:

    Can anyone come to the meeting armed with information about how we turn empty shops into affordable rental spaces such that local creatives (in the broad sense) can fill local shops with all sorts of interesting stuff for sale or merely self-promotion. I’m sure we’ve all seen those ‘rent for a pound’ places; it would make Beeston High St a damn sight more interesting than just another row of cheap-looking charity shops. Maybe i’ll do some digging of my own but if there’s an expert out there it’d be good to hear how it can be done….

    • Nick Palmer says:

      That’s the kind of good idea that we’re hoping for. The issue is usually rates – if they pay full rates then people are put off, if they pay cheap or no rates then they may be competing with someone who pays full whack. But there may be reasonable ways round that.

    • Treecull says:

      If any public funds are to be expended in reduced rates or rent free periods, I would much rather have a row of charity shops that recycle donated goods and give away all of their profits to help abused children, sick animals, people with mental ill health or those with cancer, than a row of betting shops and pawn brokers that create the social problems that the charity shops raise money to address. Please understand that charity shops serve an important purpose and they are a very good use of empty space.
      However, I think that Mansfield Road in Sherwood has made really good use of their empty shops by setting up creative workshop spaces. It is worth looking at how well that has been done.

  3. Rish says:

    Simon: In my professional capacity I had a chat with someone from Broxtowe Council who was looking to get potential live trading in some of the empty retail spaces. The last I heard, I think the idea floundered due to lack of interest from potential tenants (although I cannot vouch for that). I would add that I think this particular Council officer seemed to be working on his own, God knows if the Council were doing anything else to get the message out there.

  4. M Bell says:

    we weren’t listened to pre tram, why will it be any different post tram.

  5. bartonferry says:

    The developments at beeston marina are very positive (lottery funding has been successful) – this and the work of the beeston history society could be extended – there is a.fascinating beeston heritage trail and shops here over100 years old – something to think about promoting as a reason to visit ?

  6. bartonferry says:

    I’ll definitely be there – great idea Matt.
    Some related developments that immediately come to mind as having the potential to attract visitors are:
    1. The news of successful lottery funding application for the Canalside Heritage Centre at Beeston Marina which will give a new lease of life to the historic lock cottages there:
    2. The work of and the Beeston Heritage Trail.
    I always think myself lucky to live in Beeston – we have Attenborough Nature Reserve, Wollaton Park and University Park campus within walking distance, our own excellent greengrocer and butcher shops on our doorsteps. Interesting shops where you never know what you might find at the bottom of Station Street and on the corner of Abbey Road and Wollaton Road as well as a wealth of other independent businesses.
    We also have great transport links (<2 hours to London) and some excellent public houses….
    Who wouldn't want to live here?!

  7. Pete Bone says:

    A great idea to have this meeting, but on a Saturday evening? Very odd timing, which is bound to be difficult for many, including myself. I’m afraid I can’t be there, so I hope people are kept informed about outcomes. Thanks.

  8. Nick Palmer says:

    We originally planned it for Friday, but had a special request from the Beeston and District Society to move it as they have a long-planned discussion of Beeston Square, and many of their members would like to go to both events. I generally avoid midweek meetings as many people don’t like to go out to meetings when they have to work in the morning. It can work the other way too, because younger people often like to spend weekend evenings having a good time, and debating town planning might not quite qualify. Really there isn’t an ideal day, and I speak as someone who’s organised more meetings than I like to think about!

  9. Karen says:

    I think we could usefully look at other local towns and see what they are doing well and what we could emulate in Beeston; Sherwood seems to have a good artsy/community vibe and West Bridgford seems to have a thriving night life for example. A unique feature of Beeston is our chinese population and associated businesses – could we badge ths together and create a thriving China Town?

  10. Paul says:

    Can’t make tonight 😦
    … but can someone raise a word of warning. Having a Waitrose sounds nice, but an other National … Waitrose-Sainsbury’s-Tesco price war, the first casualties will be the likes of our small independent butchers and the fantastic and unique Hallam’s. Not worth the risk.

  11. Nick Palmer says:

    Yes, can’t see there is any virtue in having a third major food retailer, and doubt if it would pay off for them if they did.

  12. Joan says:

    Over the past year I have transferred a lot of my spending to online shopping. It is convenient to be able to shop at home and have items delivered. I do what I do with a heavy heart as I would also like to do more to support our local independent retailers and keep Beeston with a thriving High Street. Many local independent retailers do not have a web presence where I can browse what goods they have in stock, order them and request local delivery. I understand that there might be difficulties for small businesses in providing such a service but could they not start to use their combined strength a bit more to offer such facility and even say local evening delivery?

  13. Pam Miller says:

    May not be able to make the ‘New Deal for Beeston’ meeting tonight, but just like to say I would welcome some sort of cultural centre in Beeston Square. I like the idea of Matt’s multiplex cinema to offer a range of films from national current blockbusters to art-house movies. Maybe, also, an art exhibition space in the complex (which we really do need), theatre area for plays, musicians, poetry readings, etc.

    • Nick Palmer says:

      Yes, the multiplex idea comes from me, actually – I’ve been working in London and have been very struck by the success of initiatives like that there. We have just the right sort of cultural mix to make it work. Matt’s key idea is the cultural emphasis, and that struck a real chord at the meeting.

      • simon cross says:

        the problem with a multiplex cinema is that (i) we have one more or less down the road and (ii) multiplex cinemas don’t offer the kind of range and diversity of cinema choice that one finds in independent cinemas. Indeed, Broadway could hardly survive without showing blockbusters. My sense is that we don’t need to replicate city centre culture but rather look to develop, encourage, nurture a more organic ‘Beeston culture’, whatever that looks like. Strangely enough a better cinema locale idea might be to adopt the kind of small-scale cinema clubs that rural communities or parish councils employ on a bi-monthly basis showing non-mainstream films including documentaries but have a tie-in with food-related events, or whatever. The point is that to create Beeston as a cultural quarter we need not/should not ape the multiplex type approach. We need range and diversity in small-scale cultural offerings, not pile-em-in, stack-em-high culture where the economic returns go to the owners of Showcase cinemas. The answer is surely to think local, independent, and above all quirky giving Beeston a truly independent identity from Nottingham.

      • Pete Bone says:

        Agree completely. We need to emphasise ways in which Beeston culture is different to that of the city centre, and stress our independence.

      • Nick Palmer says:

        By down the road you mean Broadway? It’s not exactly an easy walk from Beeston!

        I take the point about the need for developing a Beeston culture rather than just cloning a national one. How well does Cinema Paradiso at Chilwell do? – that seems closer to what you both have in mind?

  14. Stanley says:

    I think Karen is on to something here. Nottingham is unusual in not having a chinatown – most large cities have them and they give that part of the city a real USP. I think the east end of the Beeston is developing into a nice little chinatown and perhaps we could make it a bit more official.

  15. Charlotte alston says:

    Late night shopping! I love using the local businesses but suffer from a 6 day working week. I know there are pros and cons – who really wants to work evenings…. Just a thought.

  16. simon cross says:

    Nick; I didn’t mean the Broadway; Showcase is on the ring road i.e. down the road. Can you really imagine a giant cinema chain building one in Beeston when the Showcase is more accessible for cars – that usually being the point of multiplexes, what with adjacent chain-type restaurants…

    • Nick Palmer says:

      Ah, OK, misunderstood you. I still think there is a significant psychological difference between a local cinema and one you have to drive to – maybe it’s just me, but I’m MUCH more likely to go to the former. And many of the multiplexes in London are far from giant cinemas – the local one near the place I work in Angel is quite hard to spot and tucked away amid a bunch of local shops and cafes, most of which aren’t chain-type restaurants. The sort of megastudio you have in mind is one I associate more with out-of-town complexes, like the Showcase.

      I think we’re envisaging different types of multiplex (I’m not a fan of giant Odeons plus McDonalds etc. either), and the best may be to look at any specific proposals that come up (I gather something like this may be on the cards, though it’s at the vague expressions of interest stage) and discuss them in concrete terms.

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