The City Council’s plans for Central Park.

17.06.01 Central Park

Plymouth Central Park ‘the lung of Plymouth.’ I took a chance of joining one of the ‘walk ‘n talk’ consultations this week so here is what I learnt, and with the seventeen others gave feedback.  A master plan was drawn up in 2013 showing improvements and was adopted in collaboration with stakeholders and park users, and with some tweaking through consultations which have just closed (well by 3rd June anyway), money has been allocated to make improvements over the next 12-18 months. Wow another project underway isn’t this amazing how Plymouth is developing or in this case consolidating, on so many fronts. Then there are Plymouth Argyle’s plans within the park, (entirely separate), to build a new grandstand which will justify their enhanced status in League 1. Talking of Argyle (and this is the last I’ll say on this subject), the sixth point in the masterplan was to resolve land drainage issues. It has always embarrassed  me to see on match days fans walking up from the Barn Park Road end, in line a breast having to narrow to single file to evade the ponding and puddles all over the tarmac road leading into the park. The third point in the masterplan is to provide easy access. How wonderful if that could include one of Mackay’s original suggestions, and that is to extend access to the park from the city, by finding a convenient spot for a cycle and pedestrian bridge over the railway line? People could access the city centre without navigating any traffic at Pennycross roundabout and walking up the hill into the town. The new plans are to put down more sports pitches, and tennis courts whilst retaining the bowling pavilion with its well-maintained greens, and enthusiasts of this game, so traditional to the Drake tradition of this city. This would fulfil the fourth aim that of having quality outdoor sports, leisure and play facilities. The children’s playground it is suggested would be an ideal spot for a more permanent café, which would have the dual aim of improving facilities for walkers and Mum’s in the playground, but also if successful provide an income stream for more improvements to the park.

I’m pleased to note the fallen sign has been removed. Ron 16.08.17

There was no suggestion of doing away with the hut at the pitch & putt greens which provides drinks & snacks. These are suggestions which are not cast in stone. The bowling pavilion would be a feature to add changing facilities and become something of a sporting hub.  The scrubland behind the pavilion would also be developed by building tennis courts, in conjunction with the Lawn Tennis Association (we are just getting back on our feet in international tennis, & we could play a part in developing grass roots tennis). There would be every intention of retaining the well-established Devon hedge which runs south from the Clock Tower (praise be its telling the correct time). For more information take a peek at the council web-site for Central Park Master-plan. Devonport Park has set a standard, with less sporting aims, but shows how well it can serve the community so let’s get behind Central Park improvements and contribute to it for the benefit of us all.

The photographs I’ve attached relate to the Barn Park end, and one shows the ponding mentioned earlier in the post.The other pictures indicate some improvements needed generally at the bottom end, which was not in fact taken in on our tour.

 

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The Joint Local Plan for Plymouth,incorporating parts of SWDevon, and South Hams. Published in the Plymouth Herald on 10.04.17

 

The clock is ticking on the Joint Local Plan.  A title like this takes a lot of getting out of bed to read up on!  But it has meaning for us all, and especially our children. We have until 26th April to contact the city council with our comments. So for those that want to make a comment, now is the time. The council’s website is the place to go www.plymswdevonplan.co.uk  It is in essence strategic, that is long-term thinking, allowing a few of us to look into the detail and say “That’s not for my child or grandchild.” Yes that’s the sort of long-term thinking with 2034 the kind of dead-line set. It also involves how we impinge on neighbouring councils in West Devon and South Hams. You would think an important town like Saltash would have an equal contribution with its thriving shops and Plymouth commuters, but the Cornwall County Council wanted to look at Cornwall as a whole & are not part of this thinking. One day we will I’m sure, we’re all so close. The plan covers ten themes such as rural life, health and wellbeing, and education and learning. There are 147 policies displayed, of which Plymouth with the largest population has the lion’s share with 110.There are important headings such as the Derriford Northern Corridor, the main city centre, Regional Connectivity a most important aspect, and many relating specifically the city Centre, such as Colin Campbell Court. To find out more you are best advised to do what I have done (am still doing) and that is plugging into the website mentioned earlier, and visiting one of the touring displays in the libraries where there are very helpful/knowledgeable planning officers on hand at specific places (website tells you). The next one is in the central library on 8th April.  If you can’t do that go along to any of the libraries where there is a 300 page book clearly laying out the different policies and plans. (It’s not as daunting as it sounds & is beautifully planned and laid out with attractive art work and diagrams. But what I would suggest is that you focus on something that affects your area and then look at it. You will be given a map to take if you are lucky as I was in West Park library. If you have questions we are offered a helpline 01752-305477. Our comments will be taken seriously provided they are made in the appropriate way. They may go forward to the general public examination which is expected to be held in September…

The three growth areas for planning in Plymouth are the Eastern Corridor, the City Centre and Waterfront, and the Derriford Growth Area.

We can make comment on any of the evidence base, or the assessment detailed. They are really looking at where we don’t agree. There are to my mind plenty of places where we can agree, but that is assumed at this level, and it’s only where we don’t, or have other ideas that positive comment is called for.

For my own part I would like to see spacious Central Park and the city Centre linked, an idea mooted in the Mackay plan, with a footbridge/cycle path over the railway line to link up with the top of Armada Way.

There also seems serious mileage in considering a railway station, (notwithstanding exciting plans at the main station), that take traffic away from the city Centre and is convenient for Plympton and Plymstock commuters, such as re-opening the Plympton station. I’m very happy if we keep down the height of buildings, so I’m pleased with the news there will be no high-rise on Derry’s Cross as was planned. We are a rather rainy city, so let’s have protective weather canopies overhead for shoppers, and as many trees as we can easily irrigate. I’m pleased to see there are plans to look at the drainage in Central Park. I always feel for the sports fans that walk up from the Barn Park end, and have to sometimes navigate around huge puddles. All in all this is a gigantic effort from our planners, and it takes us the users to contribute to what we want now, rather than complain later.

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There are exciting years ahead for Plymouth. Published in the Plymouth Herald 16.02.17

The Constructing Excellence Plymouth Club, of which I am a new member, recently held a conference where Plymouth past, present, and future was reviewed for members, in a packed Council House Chamber.  Jeremy Gould a Professor of Architecture enlightened us on the post-war Abercrombie Plan, saying it was politically motivated, that Lord Astor (Plymouth’s Lord Mayor throughout the war, and a reformer), was the driving force.  Apparently Abercrombie was involved in the design of many city plans, but only the Plymouth one was ever completed. The plan was rigidly adhered to, (Beeching like, with no reflecting on are we doing this right?). The city engineer Paton-Watson was determined to drive it through.  We’ve heard older Plymothians say that, “What Hitler didn’t destroy, we did ourselves.” Thank goodness for our local Residents/Heritage Associations, because the Barbican could have been swept away in the clean-up, if it weren’t for this kind of civic body that fought the case. Anyway the big plan was put into practice with great emphasis on the City Centre, though the further north they went the less Portland stone they could afford, and the more brick was put in place. Look around Mayflower Street if you don’t believe me. We learnt that Plymouth has more mid-twentieth century listed buildings than any other UK city. Amongst them are the Guildhall, & the Civic Centre and its surrounding gardens. On Notte Street too were the old Midland and Barclays Bank, the Unitarian Church and the Church of Christ the King (RC) all listed.

One speaker thought we’d gone far enough down this route and were in danger of becoming a Stevenage-on-Sea in terms of all our concrete!

It was a bit easier to talk about the past, than the present & future. Much of the present, is work in progress. Martin Harridine of A2 Studios spoke of the progress since the Dave Mackay vision, and Stuart Wingfield of Plymouth City Council spoke of the forthcoming Joint Plan with South Hams & West Devon which we will have to wait until next month to see and discuss. Martin commented on the progress made in Millbay which still has much more to offer. He admired the style of the Art School built there, and speaking for myself, the Plymouth Architectural Trust arranged  a most interesting tour, & I have seen their splendid facilities.  Already in Millbay there are many occupied accommodation units, and a well-established restaurant, the Dock, by the new marina. The City Council is investing in developing a terminal on Trinity Pier for mid-sized passenger liners to dock. (We couldn’t cope and therefore don’t want the multi-size cruise ships). The boulevard which is planned will run along the axis of Bath Street towards Campbell Court which will be re-developed. There is a large focus on the waterfront to make it a quality experience.  It makes a wonderful arc looking from above, with the fields of Mount Edgcumbe in the west then moving East the Plymouth water-front and then completing the frame the fields of Staddiscombe. The problem of traffic flow north is being addressed with the yearlong roadworks underway, and there is a new road coming through Forder Valley. How we will address the internal traffic flow in the city we will just have to wait and see the new Joint Plan with its reported  200 pages!  Road access from Plympton and Plymstock was also raised by questioners. There were no easy answers, though one wit thought we could be a cycle and pedestrian only city Centre. He might be nearer the mark than we think! In all we can conclude that there are some exciting years ahead for Plymouth, but we have still to bite the bullet in terms of freeing up the traffic flow through the city.

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Modern shoe boxes short on space & quality. Published Plymouth Herald 21.03.17

Road, rail, sea, and air! These are the four concepts of physical connectivity for Plymothians. So at the end of 2016 how is our connectivity doing as the largest city in the south-west? Roads out of the city:  Maybe the police will not close the A38 lanes for too long after an accident, and maybe the Highways Agency will go easier with their coning when no obvious work is going on?  Rail:  A little hope here. We may have an improved defence system at Dawlish, some newer rolling stock, and money to investigate re-opening the Okehampton to Tavistock rail link, giving us an alternative northern route to Plymouth,which has plans to make-over the railway station.  Sea: This is our natural resource. Talk about making Millbay a terminal for visitors from cruise ships of the medium-size is an excellent idea. Our MPs are campaigning for more new frigates to be based here, which is relevant to our marine environment. The ferries to France continue, with many small services locally linking up the water-front & Cornwall.  Air: The most recent announcement that we couldn’t run an airport without government funds is no surprise. But FlyPlymouth want to run general aviation which is of a much lower order than package holiday flights. This would provide air-taxis for VIPs to fly quickly in and out of the city (because our rail track just can’t be changed to bring key visitors here faster.)  If this works well then there may unfold premium business flights.

The next question is after our hard working elected representatives, who have Plymouth got in London to influence movers & shakers? People to speak for us in informal conversations and social links, within the civil service, parliament and big business. In the House of Lords there is Lord David Owen probably our most distinguished parliamentarian of old, Baroness Fookes one time MP for the old Plymouth Drake, and our three elected MPs. Two ladies on the edge are Baroness Nicholson, one time member for Torridge and West Devon, & Baroness Wilcox of Plymouth who may still have a soft spot for us given she earned her business spurs here in the Barbican fish business. These folk are fine, but we also need more people of stature from local government, officers and Councillors to grow into the role of influencing others outside the city. When we select local councillors do their ward committees consider candidates with potential stature to take full leadership of the city, and when opportunity comes to carry Plymouth’s case to London?

Therefore we should all take a bigger part in contributing to our city. If we elect small thinkers at local government level, we are going to end up with small thinking at city level, and never carry the day for the bigger achievements. Small thinking councillors will select similar local government officers and so on. We as citizens need to take a closer interest in all that’s going on in our community. Join organizations like the Plymouth Civic Society or a Residents Associations eg the Hoe Residents and the Stonehouse Residents Associations active over planning issues. Write or telephone your local councilors. I have found mine extremely available and responsive.  Attend their surgeries or Your Say sessions; take an interest in how they are selected & who selects them. There is no doubt we need people of competence at all levels, but especially ones who can argue this growing city’s case in fields further away.

Our road rail sea and air links will be much the better for a little more positive input from our citizen users.

Arguing for better connectivity by sea, road , and air. published Plymouth Herald 23.12.16

 

Road, rail, sea, and air! These are the four concepts of physical connectivity for Plymothians. So at the end of 2016 how is our connectivity doing as the largest city in the south-west? Roads out of the city:  Maybe the police will not close the A38 lanes for too long after an accident, and maybe the Highways Agency will go easier with their coning when no obvious work is going on?  Rail:  A little hope here. We may have an improved defence system at Dawlish, some newer rolling stock, and money to investigate re-opening the Okehampton to Tavistock rail link, giving us an alternative northern route to Plymouth,which has plans to make-over the railway station.  Sea: This is our natural resource. Talk about making Millbay a terminal for visitors from cruise ships of the medium-size is an excellent idea. Our MPs are campaigning for more new frigates to be based here, which is relevant to our marine environment. The ferries to France continue, with many small services locally linking up the water-front & Cornwall.  Air: The most recent announcement that we couldn’t run an airport without government funds is no surprise. But FlyPlymouth want to run general aviation which is of a much lower order than package holiday flights. This would provide air-taxis for VIPs to fly quickly in and out of the city (because our rail track just can’t be changed to bring key visitors here faster.)  If this works well then there may unfold premium business flights.

The next question is after our hard working elected representatives, who have Plymouth got in London to influence movers & shakers? People to speak for us in informal conversations and social links, within the civil service, parliament and big business. In the House of Lords there is Lord David Owen probably our most distinguished parliamentarian of old, Baroness Fookes one time MP for the old Plymouth Drake, and our three elected MPs. Two ladies on the edge are Baroness Nicholson, one time member for Torridge and West Devon, & Baroness Wilcox of Plymouth who may still have a soft spot for us given she earned her business spurs here in the Barbican fish business. These folk are fine, but we also need more people of stature from local government, officers and Councillors to grow into the role of influencing others outside the city. When we select local councillors do their ward committees consider candidates with potential stature to take full leadership of the city, and when opportunity comes to carry Plymouth’s case to London?

Therefore we should all take a bigger part in contributing to our city. If we elect small thinkers at local government level, we are going to end up with small thinking at city level, and never carry the day for the bigger achievements. Small thinking councillors will select similar local government officers and so on. We as citizens need to take a closer interest in all that’s going on in our community. Join organizations like the Plymouth Civic Society or a Residents Associations eg the Hoe Residents and the Stonehouse Residents Associations active over planning issues. Write or telephone your local councilors. I have found mine extremely available and responsive.  Attend their surgeries or Your Say sessions; take an interest in how they are selected & who selects them. There is no doubt we need people of competence at all levels, but especially ones who can argue this growing city’s case in fields further away.

Our road rail sea and air links will be much the better for a little more positive input from our citizen users.

In town on Xmas Eve I popped into the bus station to see what the facilities were like. Its nicely laid out, and it looked reasonable. Then I began to notice some signs, handwritten mostly, which alerted me to think things weren’t as good as they could be. Especially for a family visiting Plymouth with young children. After a coach journey passengers may want a drink for themselves or the family. Unfortunately the drinks cabinet was out of order.(See the sign on the cabinet below). Equally important, they may have been hanging on for a comfort break off the coach, or to change babies nappy. If so they need 30 pence, & it can’t be in 5’s. Now if they want change to get the right entrance money, sadly the machine providing that was also as the handwritten sign put it, “not in service”.

Now a lot has been said about the poor impression given by the shabby and rather shadowy precinct comprising the old Bretonside bus station. But whilst the new station is fresh and clean, do we citizens think that the reception in Plymouth on Xmas Eve for weary travellers, with out of order vending machines and change machines for these facilities is the way to make a good impression on people? No I think not. I will be going back to see how things are, but the underlying message seems to be, that nobody wants to take responsibility on a Saturday nearing holiday time, and the caring for travellers is in practice negligible.

Drinks vending machine out of order.

Drinks vending machine out of order.

the-out-of-order-change-machine