Open Letter to Cheshire East
I write to you as a last resort hoping that you might be able to bring a sea of change to the failed regeneration plans in Crewe Town Centre. I am once again disappointed by the shadow board taking on the redevelopment of the town centre, there is nothing new, nothing that I have not seen before, but nothing that excites me.
I recently applied to sit on the Shadow Board that was announced yesterday, but I see that “nepotism” is not dead in all strands of Cheshire business life as a current board member of the Chamber has been appointed, not me.
I am sure that you are well aware that the current scheme that is proposed for Crewe Town Centre is not viable economically, socially or environmentally, falling far short of the 3 pillars of sustainability.
The scheme has not in fact been viable for the 5 years of Cheshire East ownership, and probably bought in haste by an overzealous Cheshire East, with a myopic regeneration strategy. There are no investors for this model or now no retailers either if you had held off you could have picked it up a lot cheaper today.
Over the lockdown period we have seen the closure of many retail units, Carphone Warehouse, Frankie and Benny’s, Bella Italia, Chiquitos, Romans Originals, Clinton Cards and H Samuel to name but a few. We were at crisis point prior to lockdown, but we have literarily reached rock bottom losing about 80,000 sq ft of retail space. Something has to be done. I have tried to engage with 3 MP's over the years during the downward spiral to no avail, and two council leaders, with not even the courtesy of a response.
I live in Crewe and have done for 56 years, and had some extensive knowledge about retail and regeneration, so I am fairly well-positioned and informed to have an opinion in my home town, I have a degree in Estate Management, a Post Grad Diploma in Planning and Regeneration and a further Post-Grad Diploma in Research of the Built Environment, and a guest lecturer at Birmingham City University. I am shortly going to conclude a further Masters in Planning-Built Environments. I am a Chartered Surveyor an Arbitrator, and a member of the Institute of Place Management. I also have 35 years’ experience in the property world and was part of the team that brought the Grand Junction Retail Park to Crewe.
I cannot sit back and let yet another team of a board member do nothing for the town and be seduced by pretty artist impressions, that is not reality.
My vision is that we actually keep the current facades on Queensway and Victoria Street and refurbish the fabric of this architectural important 1960’s brutalist scheme. The Car Park should be put on hold and active travel should be encouraged into the town, but the new Bus Terminal is a must and should be built immediately. We could add more opportunities with some sort of container village on the old bus station, it does not have to be pretty, just vibrant for the community that are likely to use it.
In all of Cheshire East plans for the town centre they have been a homogenised carbon copy of something else, (currently Northwich), we need something unique, something quirky and something that presents a bottom-up approach for the community.
I would like to take the opportunity to engage with you, but in the meantime, I am going to get some sketch plans done for a new scheme and attempt to get some traction under my own steam, and present them to the community and business leaders in Crewe, I would, of course, prefer to have an input and engagement with Cheshire East.
I fear that the Market Hall refurbishment is wasted unless you have a more holistic approach to the town, and it’s connectively with further uses. You will also have a greater chance of receiving money from the Town Centre Fund if you have a community-led project. A top-down autocratic approach is not viable, we have seen the same artist impressions for 5 years, they must be a great source of embarrassment at Cheshire East now?
I have made an application that Queensway and Victoria are “listed” under emergency powers. I live in hope and trust that you will make contact to explore possibilities but my expectations as ever with Cheshire East are low.