A ‘Revitalised’ Riverside, or a Developers Dream?
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According to the Lancashire Evening Post, the Chairman of the Vision Board, Malcolm McVicar has stated that the Preston Vision Board want ‘to press ahead with plans to revitalise the riverside as it flows through the city – with or without the controversial barrage’.
He has also said that ‘The river is a tremendous asset for Preston which is largely ignored’…
Could it be that Preston Vision Board are finally getting off the “Regeneration” = Concrete mind-set at last, and recognising our fantastic river and riverside areas for the unique and irreplaceable assets they really are?
Jane Brunning of Save the Ribble is also quoted in the Lancashire Evening Post saying that ‘she would be quite happy with development of the riverside which did not upset its delicate ecosystem’ as ‘It is a case of working with nature and enhancing it rather than just concreting up the sides of the river as has previously been suggested’.
What Jane is talking about is the following:
Local people have been arguing right from the very beginning of the summer of 2005, when the Riverworks scheme first reared its head, that what WE want to see is our natural River Ribble and riverside assets genuinely enhanced by sensitive improvements which WILL revitalise the area for locals and visitors.
We are particularly keen that the wetland infrastructure, and riverside and green belt habitats should be improved, alongside improvements to access and facilities for people, and thus ensure this fantastic asset attracts even more visitors to the area and will also contribute an exciting new facility to the new Ribble Coast & Wetlands Regional Park.
It is also the case that restoring wetlands 'reduces flood risk'.
- All of these ideas put forward by local people are in keeping with the objectives set out by the Environment Agency to increase both biodiversity AND flood protection by keeping floodplains undeveloped and increasing wetland provision to protect both local communities and the environment against the impacts of climate change.
- They are also in keeping with the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment which aims to ensure floodplains and other flood risk areas remain undeveloped, and with a number of biodiversity plans including the Lancashire Biodiversity Action Plan, the Integrated Ribble Catchment Management Plan, and Planning Policy 17 Planning for Open Space, Sport and Recreation to name but a few…
So could it be that Preston Vision Board are listening to both local people and Environmental organisations at last? Are we finally in agreement regarding “revitalising” our riverside areas?
Sorry to disappoint you but Preston Vision Board’s ideas of how to ‘revitalise’ the riverside still means pouring concrete all over it. The Vision Board ‘dream’ is still to see ‘cafes, restaurants, and homes alongside the river…’ ... 'with or without the barrage'...
Malcolm McVicar’s comments and ‘dream’ appear to show that the Vision Board has a lack of knowledge and lack of respect for the River Ribble, the riverside area, local communities, and all of the environmental strategies directly connected to the River Ribble itself as well as to broader biodiversity and flood management issues:
For instance, did you know that, according to Mr. McVicar, ‘In other cities you can walk along the riverside’?
This suggests that you CAN’T walk along the Ribble! Yet local people and visitors manage to walk right next to the Ribble on both the Preston and South Ribble banks. Amazing! (Wonder if he’s heard of The Ribble Way...?)
Did you know that ‘In other cities… you can live next to it’ as well?
Are those of us who DO live right next to the River, in Broadgate, Frenchwood, Ashton, Penwortham, Middleforth, and Walton le Dale, imagining our homes? We must be! Yet, there they are, looking as solid as anything!
Of course, building MORE homes near the River has been identified as a bad idea as far as ensuring our flood risk does not increase still further, but the fact remains that there are already a large number of homes by the River Ribble in Preston and South Ribble, so if you fancy living right by the river, check out the local estate agents to see what's available...Clearly you CAN walk alongside the River Ribble, you CAN live next to the River Ribble, and even sit and enjoy a drink and a meal by the River Ribble!
Admittedly, since The Continental closed its doors, the choices for local people and visitors about where to enjoy a meal and a drink whilst relaxing by the river are reduced to either the Bridge Inn, the Shawes Arms, or the Tickled Trout - and very nice they are too! - but once the Pavilion café opens in Avenham and Miller Parks, more choices will exist.
Of course, many riversiders prefer to relax on the river banks away from the crowds and festivities, and there are many, many areas to choose from on both the Preston and South Ribble banks to do this whilst walking along the river – or at least, we have for now…
And yes, it WOULD be nice if The Continental re-opened and perhaps built a nice terrace overlooking the river by the wall to save us having to sit on the wall itself as we while away our summer evenings by the river…
And yes, there are places, perhaps along the harbour wall off Strand Road where a nice restaurant and another café could be built… but clearly what Mr. McVicar means by revitalising the riverside is building a whole new development ‘alongside the river’ in ways which will not “revitalise” the riverside for people or the environment but make a lot of money for developers at the expense of our unique riverside areas.
How many cities do you know have an Internationally-important wetland ecosystem 5 minutes walk from the city centre?
How many cities do you know with wildlife-rich wetlands just a stroll away from the main shopping areas?
How many times do cities with developments right on their riverbanks flood?
So the next question is, where might this ‘dream’ Vision of concrete be?
As the Preston Vision Board, do they mean to build a large new riverside development in Preston itself? If so, where might this be? Frenchwood Rec? Fishwick Bottoms? Hmmm… probably a bit too far away from the city centre. Well that only leaves Avenham and Miller Parks then...
...Unless, of course, they mean the Penwortham banks too…? We think Mr. McVicar and the Vision Board’s ideas to “revitalise” the riverside must be referring to something like the huge new urban conurbation of thousands of houses, businesses, and riverside walkways, cafés ands restaurants highlighted in the Riverworks brochures for the Penwortham Green Belt, with a number of areas selected on Frenchwood Rec and Penwortham Holme thrown in perhaps...?
Either way, whether Frenchwood or Penwortham or some other riverside area in Preston or South Ribble, the facts remain that their eyes are on developing on the riverside, which not only plays a vital role in biodiversity, but is also floodplain…
So, if Preston Vision Board are pressing ahead with these riverside developments, why are they blatantly ignoring Environment Agency advice to stop developing on the floodplain?
Why are they ignoring the remit of the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment?
Why are they ignoring the obvious situation we are experiencing with increasingly high rainfall and flooding?
And last but not least, why are they ignoring the wishes of local people?
Mr. McVicar does appear to mention local people as he says: ‘the problem is that some people do not want any change’, and goes on to say that ‘We cannot afford to live in the past’.
Mr. McVicar, WE AGREE WITH YOU. Some people do not want any change, they seem to think that the only way to ‘revitalise’ or “regenerate” an area is to carry on doing the same old things that people have been doing in the past: concrete over it and ignore the consequences.
We DO WANT change, and WE do not ignore the River: we want to see developments that are sustainable for the environment and for local communities, for a better future for all of us.
Incidently, the plans for the Vernon Carus development on Factory Lane in Penwortham will be made available for public viewing at Vernon Carus Sports Club on Factory Lane on Friday, February 8, from 10am to 6pm and Saturday, February 9, from 10am to 4pm.'
For the full story, see Lancashire Evening Post and The Preston Citizen.
The proposals will be online from February 8 at www.penworthammills.info.
Closing date for submissions is February 22.
We will, of course, be analysing these proposals in the light of local concerns for the future of the Vernon Carus sports pitches and regarding the little matter of floodplain developments, so watch this space for further details soon...
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