Plans to enhance Wilmslow town centre have been sidelined by the council, according to the Wilmslow Trust. Two years ago we presented a comprehensive ‘vision’ for the town centre on ways a range of low-cost landscape and streetscene initiatives that will provide a lasting legacy for the town can be implemented. We set out the proposals in several meetings with the council and were supported by the Wilmslow Business Group.
Some of the ideas were featured in the Wilmslow Express on 28 February 2008. Others have added their voice on the need to improve the look of the town. In December, Vic Barlow's column said, “Wilmslow is looking a mite disheveled.” and “really needs to exploit its reputation for style and celebrity.”
More recently celebrity Michael Winner made well-publicised comments about Wilmslow’s ‘ugly town centre’. Local councillor and lead-member for environment and highways at Cheshire East, Rod Menlove, retorted in the Express that “a host of improvements totalling £200,000 being carried out across the area will mean Mr Winner will have to eat his words.”
The Trust now understands that this money – enough to more than cover lasting landscape enhancements in the town centre was spent on road resurfacing - £150,000 at Lacey Green alone, where some residents commented to the Trust that the road surface was not too bad and hardly a priority.
The council’s reply to the Trust on 31 March made no opening to discuss the cost of options, saying everything should be put on hold until we get a Town Council and the council had no money. "This seems to imply, extraordinarily, that it is no part of Cheshire East’s mandate to consider issues in Wilmslow,” said a Trust spokesman. The Trust believes the town is not fulfilling its potential.
The council appears to have no overall vision for enhancing the centre, focusing on a few hedge-trimming, routine maintenance items unrelated to any well-considered concept. Wilmslow has long been a pleasant town – something residents and visitors value greatly, yet look closer and parts of the town centre are very uninspiring. The centre is littered with ugly metal posts and signs. Some key areas could look much better at very modest cost.
Department for Transport Traffic Signs Regulations 2002 offer guidance, saying that while there is a statutory duty to sign restrictions or prohibitions ‘Designers should begin by assuming a total absence of signs and introduce them only where they serve a clear function. To be most effective, signs should be used sparingly.’ So there is no reason to defer the rationalisation of signage and removing obtrusive posts.
We see little point in vetoing discussion and action for another year or more until a town council perhaps appears and a talking shop can be re-opened, starting the same merry-go-round again. Residents and local businesses want to see action to enhance the centre now, but ask where is the council in this?
We believe the proposals suggested are perfectly feasible. The Wilmslow Trust remains constructive and engaged in plans to enhance the town and has been so for many years. Finance is obviously important and the Trust offered suggestions on how budgets might be used more flexibly to support a lasting legacy to improve the look of the town. We observed that significant sums of money were available for end of year budget projects – far more than needed for the plans we proposed. We need to look at ways we can engage residents, businesses and public opinion over this apparent impasse.
Editors Note: This is a guest post by Brian McGavin, vice-chair of Wilmslow Trust.