Monday, April 20, 2009

The Edgar Street Grind

18 months ago I was a huge supporter of the Edgar Street Grid project. A huge scheme to redevelop half of Hereford including a desperately needed link road, new retail centre, multi-screen cinema, affordable homes and transport hub.

It would bring Hereford kicking and screaming into the 20th century, create jobs and aid the retention of 20-somethings that disappear off to uni and never come back.

Now though, things are different and the people behind ESG need to realise this.

Hereford is dying. Over 55 retail units in the centre of the city lie empty while those that remain are struggling. We’ve lost Chadds – our local department store – which has been replaced by a scruffy pound shop. Zavvi & Woolworths are gone. Charlotte’s Bar has locked its doors. Babyland has been aborted. Pubs are closing down, those that remain open are struggling and what was once one of the jewels of Hereford, the Leftbank Village, is lying empty and deserted.

What is the point in redeveloping half of Hereford if the half that’s already there is already struggling? It’s the city centre that needs the TLC not the Edgar Street Grid.

Ironically it is the area that the ESG plan is hoping to rip apart that is thriving. Along Widemarsh Street not one retail unit lies empty – all are small scale local businesses and they’re all doing well. Along Canal Road a new window fitters has opened and converted what was once a rundown garage into a tidy showroom. On Blackfriars Street work continues an old Plumb Centre has been transformed into a bright purple Freedom Cult, sorry, Church. While the cattle market, an ugly blot on one of Hereford’s main roads, is home to a string of successful small businesses.

Yet this is the area of Hereford planners want to tear apart. It makes no sense. Why needlessly uproot successful local businesses?

Hereford council, for the sake of this beautiful and historic city’s future please take a step back and reconsider where this is heading.

Right now it is the city centre that desperately needs the attention and rethinking.

Why not employ the talents of ESG to concentrate on High Town, Broad Street and the Commercial Road/Street area. While a new transport hub, affordable housing and multi-screen would be a great boon to the city what we don’t need right now is a big John Lewis led retail park taking attention away from the city centre. Why not bulldoze the old Chadd’s buildings and put it there instead?  


Bring the focus back to the centre, the heart of Hereford.

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