If there was anything from last week’s launch of the Winstanley and York Road consultation exercise that surprised me it’s that it was generally positive.
To those looking at it from the outside that statement itself might be surprising. Why on earth wouldn’t anyone be positive about the council potentially spending millions improving your neighbourhood? Well, there are lots of reasons.
From the emotional (people develop strong emotional ties to their homes), to the cynical (what is the council’s ulterior motive) to the pessimistic (the idea is nice, but it just isn’t going to happen): there are those who are not happy with any of the proposals. And there is, undoubtedly, a big job for the council to do in addressing all three, whether it’s reassuring people that they won’t lose out because of the plans or persuading them that the council’s motives are honourable.
Generally though, it seemed people were there to find out more and engage positively in the process that will shape the outcome.
Certainly among those residents to whom I spoke I could feel some warming towards the council. They were all in the pessimist camp, they’d seen such things suggested before and they amounted to nothing so why would this time be any different. But talking to them I felt that a change was taking place, not necessarily because of anything I said, but because as the consultation process progresses there is a better mutual understanding between the council and residents, and a growing faith and trust that something is, actually, going to happen.
I mentioned in my last post on the topic that I didn’t think the minimal option would be that well supported, and certainly from the conversations I had and responses I saw on the day (admittedly a very small sample) it seemed fairly clear that there was appetite for some of the wider ranging options, which bring more disruption, but also more benefits. Despite my desire not to prejudge I hope that remains the case. It’s perhaps easy for me to say, since I’m not one of those who is going to be directly affected by the scheme, but I think the benefits of the options which involve various degrees of demolition are worth far more and will last far longer than the disruption and inconvenience they will entail.
The next stage of the process involves more direct consultations, often on a block-by-block basis to ensure as many people as possible have their say. I’m planning on attending a few of these sessions as well, and am looking forward (I think!) to meeting more residents to hear their views so I can better represent them as the Winstanley and York Road steering group chairman.
There will be difficult times ahead. However well supported the final proposals are, there will still be some who oppose them–for whatever reason–and may well oppose them vociferously. Ultimately, the council will have to decide based on the balance of support, benefits and opposition to whatever option or options emerge. For the time being, though, it’s pleasing that the process remains largely positive.
You can find out more from the council’s regeneration pages