We have heard that phrase enough over the past few years, but no I am not going to discuss the rights or wrongs of Brexit.
I have written before about the importance of Place Management and how a sense of place is a vital requirement to establish good community cohesion.
A town centre is central to a community with regards to belonging, being a locality where you may be able to shop or eat, visit a library or a museum and arts centre, get your banking done or sort your teeth out. Maybe you require some other business service, then afterwards you decide to take in the fresh air in a town park or sit in peace in a beautiful church. Plus if there is public transport travel hubs conveniently located offering bus and train services, so much the better.
Well guess what, Havant Town Centre has all these amenities and more. Surely then, our town centre should be lauded as a good example of this sense of place for which we should have much pride, and a town centre that can have a successful future, can be further developed and thrive in the years ahead, especially as thousands more planned houses in the years ahead will create lots more residents to use and visit our historic market town.
Why is it then, that we don’t always feel pride in our town centre? I think it’s the feeling that it is not always sufficiently loved and cared for to the level we would expect. Weeds growing between precinct buildings and the pavement, graffiti not removed, bollards not replaced for months and then when replaced, using non-matching ones secured with weak, inferior materials that are not the original block paving. It may seem like they’re all minor issues, but when put together, creates this feeling that nobody cares.
What can we do about it? Well if enough people report when the public realm is not being repaired or remedied, the Council or Norse, their operational organisation, will do their best, but will also often cite lack of staff and finances to carry out the work up to the original standard and in a suitable period of time, let alone to a superior standard.The majority of the people in the town of Havant want to be in a place that gives them that feeling of wanting to live in a thriving town that you are happy to call your home. However, organisations are needed to monitor and lobby the Council to encourage and challenge them to carry out the all important TLC that the town centre deserves.
After all, we have already shown that it has got a lot going for it with its wealth of amenities that offers a lot more than many town centres, it should be strategically managed, promoted and developed to create a flourishing commercial and cultural centre.
Havant Civic Society is currently the only Havant Town organisation that does monitor and lobby on your behalf. If lots more local people joined our organisation, through strength in numbers, we should make a difference in challenging the Council to make our town centre the pleasant and successful place we all want it to be.
For example, we have asked the Council to suggest to the owners of 44-54 West Street*, that they give something back to our community after approximately 12 years of looking at a partly derelict building site fronted by a temporary, torn and fading vinyl display hoardings. We have suggested that until the owners develop the site, and as an act of goodwill, they could clear the site and let the Council create a temporary Community Garden that links the precinct to the bus station, giving us something positive to use and enjoy for all the community.
* Stop Press!! (Sept 16th) We are led to believe that this site has recently changed hands and that “the new owner is keen to move the re-development of the site forward“.
We’ll be watching this development closely…
Where we see opportunities to improve the central hub of our living environment, the town centre, we should all strive to make it our place, our town centre and somewhere for which we can feel pride.
So in the current times in which we live, perhaps taking back control does just mean feeling involved and having some influence on what is happening around you in your environment and community.
By getting involved in the work of Havant Civic Society, it gives you the opportunity to have your say on what you would like your town and community to be like now and in the future. So are you going to take back control? If you’re reading this and have not yet joined us, please consider doing so. It’s easy, it’s worthwhile and it’s probably cheaper than that expensive cup of coffee!
Peter Hammond – HCS Vice Chairman