Tuesday, June 24, 2008

(This place, is comin' like a ) Ghost Town

A few weeks ago I blogged about the Glossop Vision situation, which appears to mean huge, burnt out or mothballed mill regeneration schemes in the main. I qualified this criticism by pointing out the more acceptable facelifts in terms of pavements and station surround improvements, though the general consensus has been that these were implemented in a way designed to seriously inconvenience the local population and hit the local retail industry particularly hard. It is only reasonable to say that the town continues to look “like a ghost town” as the Howard Town mill project currently has the authentic air of the “Marie Celeste”, as if abandoned suddenly with all hands on deck.

Anyway, Glossop Vision are unrepentant, flagging up the next phase of their projects, and seeking new members to help Glossop submit to the latest dose of “regeneration”. There appears to be only Woods Mill left in terms of the usual approach but no doubt there are plenty of opportunities there for similar “white elephants”. Many will be wondering what is coming next.

Of course there is a disused railway line – currently a trail in an area that is not exactly spoilt for choice in terms of countryside facilities – but would that be the kind of thing that Glossop Vision is interested in? . Would it be a money spinner (quite possibly actually!)? But it does look old economy and that is always a problem with the “vision” people, who usually want “business as usual” 1990s style. As a colleague recently wrote, the “Vision” seems to favour enterprise that takes money out of the town into large corporate concerns.

Fortunately for the Council there seems to be no shortage of hapless individuals in the firing line recently to deflect public attention, so they can happily pursue their Vision line without embarrassment. Stories like those of the Dainty Deli repeatedly inspected by the Health and Safety Inspectorate, and ultimately closed with damning verdict by a Crown Court Judge make the Council look good, as a protector of public standards or safety without damaging any major interests.

The previous week it was Councillor Ivan Bell, labelled a “bully” by the Standards Committee amidst a deluge of expensive explanatory paperwork but strangely having to stand trial without the plaintiff being present. That seemed a little disrespectful of the process somehow, or even disrespectful of Councillor Bell whose reputation was after all at stake. The irony was that the accusation of “disrespect” was the very one levelled at Councillor Bell, and in fact one he had the courage to own up to.

And following that, bid farewell to the Dainty Deli - the latest casualty of Glossop’s High Street West. Whilst not being a patron of the store, it is worth saying that this appeared to be a quite a pleasant, busy, old-fashioned little business, in keeping with the town’s character, and likely to blend well with the tourist trade. Sometimes businesses like these struggle to comply with the new demands of health and safety regulations and need a lot of support to maintain their business in the current retail climate.

Whilst realising the Food Hygiene Officers repeatedly advised them of the need to radically improve and that they failed, seeing another local business with High Street frontage go down does not warm the heart. While in the formal sense the owners apparently missed their chance to improve, whether the Hygiene Officers did everything possible to keep the business afloat is not made clear from the newspaper reports. One would have liked to feel that a small local business got the same repeated second, third and fourth chances handed out to the regeneration projects.

Similar censure of the ill-fated Regeneration Policy is not to be heard and the questions regarding this seem hidden under press coverage of matters of ultimately less importance - under in fact what could be something of a fine web of spin?

No doubt the further excellence awards for our visionary council are not going to be handed out just yet but it is probably just a matter of time. Meanwhile one wonders just how much more Vision Glossop can take?

(Editors note: One retail chain has recommenced trade from the ground floor at Wrens Nest)

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