“A Stamp of Approval”
A Letter to the Editor from COLIN RELPH, questioning the wisdom of the proposals for the site of the former ARGOS building and adjacent land: the case for a real Town Square.
Having lived and worked in the old part of Scarborough for many years, I have been following the proposal put forward by the Council last year to demolish the old ARGOS building. The scheme offered in 2019 was a project that would replace the ARGOS building with new student accommodation and at the same time remove the properties next to it on St Helens Square, to create a Town Square.
My initial thoughts were that although the idea of creating student accommodation in this area was totally ridiculous, I did see the very significant beneficial impact that creating a Town Square might have on the whole old town area.
In this regard, although it has now been nearly a year since the ARGOS/Town Square idea was first touted by the Council, my view that building student accommodation in this area would be ludicrous has not changed. In fact, because of the Coronavirus outbreak, I think building new student accommodation anywhere in Scarborough would be a bad idea.
As anyone who has a child who may want to go to University in the future (or anyone with a child about to go, or already at University) could tell the Council, many potential or existing students are already opting to do their degree courses from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
Modern technology and the need to find new ways of working brought about by the advent of the Coronavirus have shown students and Universities that lectures and tutorials can be delivered quite satisfactorily via Zoom and other similar mediums.
Students are increasingly realising that they can stay at home, get their degrees, and not have huge student loans to pay back once their course is completed. In short, the days of students needing, or wanting, student accommodation are rapidly become a thing of the past.
The need to create a Town Square in the old town, on the other hand, could not be more obvious or more welcome in the post-Coronavirus world. After this hideous virus has been brought under some kind of control and we move on to the whatever the ‘new normal’ is, regeneration of the whole Borough will be desperately needed if we are to have a sustainable economic future.
Projects such as the Town Square will breathe new life into one of the most deprived areas of the Borough.
The removal of the outdated and mostly redundant buildings on St Helens Square will give us the opportunity to create, for very little money, a truly innovative and useful asset for the town. Opening up this area will allow the Market to be shown in its true glory and improve trading conditions for many businesses.
Well, in my opinion, that is what would have happened if the scheme to create the Town Square were to be developed as it was originally planned. Unfortunately, it now seems that the promised redevelopment of St Helens Square is not going to be a full redevelopment but only, at best, half a development. Gone is the promise to open up the whole area by removing all the buildings on the Shakespeare side of the road and creating a wide and impressive plaza.
Now the project has shrunk and instead of all the buildings being removed, only three will be demolished.
What is now being offered is not a Town Square but more a postage stamp. Gone is the vision of a wide open space which could be used to accommodate performances of plays, music and art; now we are being offered a fountain and a few movable trees.
The Market Hall will still be hemmed in and the possibility of holding truly large scale markets, hosting specialist retailers and international festivals and much more will be totally out of the question.
The development being offered, as with everything it seems this administration touches, is pathetic, and, if it is ever completed, even in its present form, which I very much doubt, it will do little, if anything, to improve the business prospects of the old town.
My view is that the Council should be bold, especially in the new business environment we are now emerging into, and run with this excellent and truly innovative idea and create a Town Square that we can all be proud of.
This is no time for the so-called leadership in the Town Hall to be timid and small minded. Businesses and the residents of the whole Borough are looking to you to think big and help, rather than hinder, in the creation of a ‘Better Borough’.
The creation of a real Town Square would, I suggest, be a great first step.