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What if (our development had turned out differently)?

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pixrobin
Canley
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1 of 28  Thu 26th Jun 2014 8:12pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2014  Total posts:997

I read all the remarks about the wrong things that have happened in Coventry's development since the war. So here's your chance to rectify things, and perhaps come up with viable alternative. I have 3 main questions. If there had been no blitz on Coventry how would it have developed in the post-war period? As we have the benefit of hindsight what would be your alternative to the Gibson plan? I think many of us agree that the ring road is too tight. What would your alternative route have been?
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
TonyS
Coventry
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2 of 28  Thu 26th Jun 2014 8:20pm  
Moderator: Joined Jan 2011  Total posts:1547

Well, we haven't been able to do it so far in over 1200 topics so I'm not sure we can do it in just this one! Smile
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
flapdoodle
Coventry
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3 of 28  Thu 26th Jun 2014 9:25pm  
Member: Joined Nov 2010  Total posts:837

If the blitz hadn't happened, maybe most of the old city would have gone anyway - just as many old cities that weren't blitzed were 'raped' by the modernists. A vulgar term, but used in the title of a famous book. Well the blitz happened, and it was fairly destructive, but not as destructive as people think. The Nazis didn't 'flatten' Coventry, but tried to do so, and gave the modernists a 'canvas' on which to try out their ideas - most of which were unproven and based on works from the early 20th century that tried to 'plan' cities in an inorganic way. Zones here, zones there, roads separated from pedestrians, forgetting the fact that cities grew organically, aided by some planning, for thousands of years, and that buildings are there to serve the routes. The growth of personal transport was new. And railways and trams were being phased out to allow more cars to flow around the streets. The whole emphasis was on getting to a single destination as quickly as possible, with no room for businesses to take advantage of traffic that's hurtling around flyovers and horrendously complex road systems on multiple levels. There's no streets in Coventry because the city doesn't need them. Perhaps without the blitz, Coventry's old town would have been preserved and a new town built alongside it to contain the shops and facilities a growing city required. Or maybe not. Personally, I think there a few things that were a mistake and need to be reversed. The ringroad needs to be lowered, the city's urban grid needs reconnecting up, Gibson's precinct needs to be reconnected up and made more permeable, the blank walls, the service areas, and appalling layout of Broadgate needs to go and replaced with more traditional 'city streets' that go somewhere and don't stop at tunnels. The city centre needs more residents, more leisure facilities (developments like Priory Place failed because of a lack of venue nearby). Less pedestrianisation and better access to help encourage evening businesses and make access better. More public transport. Actually come up with a strategy for the area between the ringroad and the precinct to bring those dead areas back to life. Bring more of the 'management class' into the city rather than have them in Warwickshire and commute to out of town business parks. Friargate is the best development for years, a sensible one to bring businesses into the city centre. The rest has been a dismal failure - from the 1960s it's been a catalogue of mistakes. Other war-torn cities also have similar problems, but they are slowly reversing them. Coventry, in some ways, is just carrying on along the same route, by bodging and fudging.
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
pixrobin
Canley
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4 of 28  Fri 27th Jun 2014 12:54am  
Member: Joined Mar 2014  Total posts:997

I feel I must make my position clear. I haven't visited Coventry since 2005. Any depth of knowledge of Coventry as a place to live, work, and shop, springs from my youth which was more than 50 years ago. Not only has there been many changes to routes and layouts but we have also seen a massive change in society too. I have always been a pedestrian and public transport user and very rarely a car owner. In today's world walking through the Precincts a couple of hours after all the shops have closed I would probably feel vulnerable - especially in the darkness of winter evenings. I would feel less so if there was passing traffic. Even with passing traffic I'm not sure I would feel safe walking from The Butts to Croft Road in the dark. It's a desert with an occasional camel running past. The same is true of many of the interchanges/pedestrian crossing points on the Ring Road. I feel that the ring road is akin to the city wall of medieval times: the wall was to restrict access for non-citizens, but now the greater majority of citizens live outside the ring road. One of the problems I see in the modern Coventry is the fact that it has two universities. They certainly bring in students from across Britain and from across the world. But, students are always on tight budgets affording little to spend in city retailers. Students also need accommodation and entertainment venues. The two educational establishments do bring employment for some Coventry residents but compared with the space the university buildings require it is negligible. So, the universities bring prestige to the city but little else. I agree with Flapdoodle that the city centre needs more residents, but these need to be permanent, local residents and not those who flee between mid-July and late September. Don't think I'm against students per se. I'm not. I worked with students for 20 years of my life and truly believe they are our country's future. The great majority of them are striving to create a future for themselves within society.
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
Mike H
London Ontario, Canada
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5 of 28  Sat 28th Jun 2014 1:27am  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:454

So who wants to move into downtown core living where there is no room for kids, pets, cars and other trappings? Should I stand to one side to avoid the rush of applicants?
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
AD
Allesley Park
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6 of 28  Mon 30th Jun 2014 2:53pm  
Member: Joined Aug 2011  Total posts:380

Ah, the eternal question. HOW WOULD IT BE DIFFERENT? The first question is almost impossible to answer. Although plans for redevelopment were already in place I doubt much would have got done because of resistance to knocking old stuff down, much like today. Although more was knocked down by the planners than the planes it just gave the kickstart to slowly erode stuff away. "Well, now that's gone there's not much point in keeping this either is there?". You could have redeveloped the whole city centre at least twice over with just plans from the last 20 years (and Broadgate half a dozen times!) but very few get anywhere due to resistance. Some stuff would have had to change as it wouldn't have been suitable for modern living. Anything that had got done would have been heavily compromised working around what was there and may even been worse than what we've been left with (which seems difficult to comprehend I know). But I think the main projects, like the precinct and possibly the ring road, would never have seen the light of day, or at least watered down so much it would have seemed a minor alteration to the existing pattern. But that itself may have lead to even greater development of the outskirts and the city covering a much bigger area with pockets of real deprivation and dereliction. Maybe the Meriden gap would already be largely filled in? RING ROAD With the ring road, I don't think it would be too tight IF it wasn't treated the way it is, as a mini motorway. As a normal, at level road, with junctions and crossings, edged with pavements and buildings with frontages and kept to 30mph, it would be fine. Yes, it would be busier, but I think more people would head outwards to get around the city rather than inwards, freeing capacity up for use by people wanting to access different areas of the city centre easily rather than different areas of the city as a whole. A bypass further out would probably be needed, with Allard Way and a widened Hipswell and Sewall Highway being the most obvious choice for the eastern side. Assuming large scale changes would have occured akin to the ring road Daventry Road connecting to Earsldon Ave through the Memorial Park would have been a possibility, then through Queensland Ave, Four Pounds Ave and Moseley Road. Although a bypass rather than ring road connecting the A444 between the Sky Blue Way and London Road roundabouts with a more direct Humber Road route would also be on my list. Further out, we've largely got an outer ring in place with the A45/46 and M6, which could be completed on the west (although I'd prefer the route of Windmill Hill and Browns Lane as the intended route, Coundon Wedge Road, doesn't fit in well). Perhaps there is even scope for a regional ring road using the M40,M42 and M1, with the north either the M6 or A5 and maybe connecting the M40 and M1 with the A425?
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
AD
Allesley Park
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7 of 28  Mon 30th Jun 2014 2:57pm  
Member: Joined Aug 2011  Total posts:380

WHAT TO DO DIFFERENTLY? Although I'm no fan of Gibson some of his biggest plans were never implemented in the way he wanted so its difficult to say if his vision failed or the enforced compromises. Again, I think the biggest change would need to be the ring road, as it is the biggest barrier to the city centre. As above, levelling it would be an option I'd have considered, but this would still have required a lot of the old roads to be cut off creating dead ends, or so many junctions as to be unusable. So I'd have placed the ring road in cuttings rather than overpasses, like at J5 and 6 to keep the visible link between outside and inside the ring road but allowing the roads to stay connected and creating both the bypass and unobstructed routes for traffic and pedestrians in and out of the city centre. I'd possibly restrict the junctions of the ring road to four so they don't take up so much space, would be easier to navigate and not create so much dead space, with the others travelling directly into the city centre instead. Either way I'd ensure the roads had pavements and buildings along them instead of dead space and endless car parks. I'd also create a much greater entertainment offer to keep people in the city centre after work and make restaurants etc more viable, and city centre living more appealing to younger workers before they settle down. It's an inescapable fact that with families and ageing city centre living becomes less attractive as family homes take up too much space and could only be supplied in small quantities, so much of the residential offer would be apartment based and aimed at twenty somethings. I'd have put the train and bus/coach station all in one place to make it more integrated and cost-efficient with a free City Centre hopper route to drop people off in more convenient central places. I'd have also tried to maintain a view of the three spires from the station entrance Allied to this, I'd have the main shopping route running N-S from the station, up via Warwick Road, Hertford St and Broadgate, potentially continuing along Bishops St and up to the Basin. I'd have a secondary E-W route for more independent 'trendy' businesses, from FGS through to Spon St. Although Smithford St seemed perfectly acceptable if a precinct style development were to be created I wouldn't create artificial levels and try and make people use them, resulting in all the escalators ramps etc. Either a continual slope or two levels, one at Broadgate level and one at Corp St level, would be enough. Less pointless squares. I like public squares, but they need to be there for a reason and make a feature of something and most of ours just seem to be there because they couldn't think what to do Every street/road to have frontages, instead of this blank wall, back to front nonsense like Primark, the Sports Centre, SkyDome, Belgrade Plaza. I'd take all the older structures I possibly could and create a historic quarter centred around the cathedral. Like Spon St but much bigger. Keeps the old structures and gives them more impact due to the density, making the city feel much more historic yet allow it to be modern with redevelopment elsewhere not held back by having to compromise. And of course no Cathedral Lanes, just opening out the area as a small park for views of the churches etc.
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
Dreamtime
Perth Western Australia
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8 of 28  Mon 30th Jun 2014 3:53pm  
Member: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:2920

'What if' indeed, AD. I agree with most of what you say and would award most with ticks, especially the aspect of too many blank walls as you say. What a waste of space, why do they persist on doing that. It all looks grand in theory but a bit late now don't you think. 'If only' comes to mind. If only Coventry had had the right architects at the right time and saved the town from the ruin it has become. Are they not learning anything from their mistakes? Roll eyes
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
Mike H
London Ontario, Canada
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9 of 28  Mon 30th Jun 2014 10:15pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:454

The idea behind the Ring Road (or any ring road) is to ease vehicular access to parking and service areas, and that is just what the Ring Road does, or at least did when it was originally built. It's location? It used the line of least resistance and the most level parts available. Had the RR been pushed outwards, it would have directly encroached on perfectly good industrial sites and housing that had not suffered too much damage.

A flat RR would be so severely congested at every junction, it's official name would have had to be changed to the Coventry Parkway, because that is what it would have become, and an RR further out would have seemed like one was driving in Derbyshire or the city of Bristol where one encounters some fairly steep inclines..

Flat sides = cheap to build, easy to maintain, and in any case, ornate sides are going to 'not be the personal choice' of many.

Keeping people in the centre after work? The city centre isn't a prison camp and hopefully will never be one. Workers want to go home after work, put their feet up, have dinner, say hi to the kids, and if they still want to go out, at least have the option of freshening up.

Coventry was an industrial city where a fair proportion of the industry was within the city walls. It was never a pretty place, but it was a proud place from which came some of the best products ever made in Britain, made by some of the most skilled workers in the world. The city centre is what it is, the remnants of a golden age and a desire to rise from the ashes. It would have risen higher had the 60's boom lasted, but it didn't last and Coventry could have become a lot worse than it has done.

If you want a vibrant city centre, use it but be prepared to pay the price because maintaining any city centre, be it in England or Canada (yes, we have the same issues here too), is an expensive business.

Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
pixrobin
Canley
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10 of 28  Mon 30th Jun 2014 10:38pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2014  Total posts:997

Thanks for your response AD and Dreamtime. In your two posts, AD, you made so many observations that reflected my thoughts. I think I had better use several responses cos I don't think I can do it in one that would fit into one 'page'. On the ring road and giving it a larger radius the route I had in mind follows some of yours and, like you, I realised that taking it too far would conflict with the A45 by-pass. Mine too had to cross the War Memorial Park but I would propose that they use an elegant suspended roadway to bridge it. On the north side of the city I looked at a route following Harnall Lane. I felt that going further out would defeat the object of the road. I don't feel it as a way to keep traffic away from the city centre but to allow drivers to access the part of the centre they require. But, there is the other problem - as soon as you increase the radius then more properties will be affected. Ooops sorry Mike H I was still typing this when your response was posted. Edited by member, 30th Jun 2014 10:57 pm
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
AD
Allesley Park
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11 of 28  Mon 30th Jun 2014 10:55pm  
Member: Joined Aug 2011  Total posts:380

MikeH Using the most level parts available? Apart from all the flyovers which create a massive visual obstacle between the city centre and elsewhere, and a psychological city wall. Plus the huge amounts of tunnels and handful of bridges built for pedestrians (which became their only way in until recently) and which have always and always will be avoided where possible, resulting in ever declining usage of the city centre ever since those routes were cut off. You say it is designed to access parking and service areas, but it isn't used just as that. It's predominantly used as a bypass for those crossing the city, and that generates most of the traffic on it and on the trunk roads (where most of the congestion problems occur). I certainly see a lot more traffic travelling around it and heading back outwards than into the city centre. I'd say at least 90% of my journeys, and those of my friends and family follow that. If it were level and so heavily congested people making cross city journeys would instead head outwards to roads like the A45 and A46 and then back in instead as it would be quicker for them, reducing the RR congestion and making the road used predominantly for city centre access. And as I posted I've had put less junctions in on a flat RR, thus reducing the stoppages. You're taking the whole 'keeping people in' quite literally aren't you Lol I meant it in the sense of giving them a reason to stay, or return, to the city centre after work should they choose to, be it for a performance, dinner etc. I love spending time at home, but people do also like to go out with their partner/family to unwind, but they need something worthwhile to do. You could pretty much seal off the city centre after about 6pm and it would barely be noticed as there is practically nothing to do. This a massive gap in a city economy and a massive potential loss of income and job creation. Edited by member, 30th Jun 2014 10:55 pm
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
pixrobin
Canley
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12 of 28  Mon 30th Jun 2014 11:25pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2014  Total posts:997

Just thinking. Are there any 'executive apartments' in the city centre. If not, couldn't the 'upper level' of the precincts be converted to provide such accommodation. I have in mind the idea of the Barbican development in London though I have no idea if that has been a long-term success. The Barbican development did contain the London Museum and the Barbican Arts Centre. A couple of friends and I used to travel in from Dartford (20 miles) for exhibitions and performances. And no, none of us could be called 'executives'. We bundled into my Reliant Robin for the journey Lol Further thoughts suggest that Coventry is not London so executives may not need city centre apartments, as a 20-minute drive will take them out to many of the lovely Warwickshire villages.
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
dutchman
Spon End
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13 of 28  Mon 30th Jun 2014 11:32pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2010  Total posts:3021

The Ring Road was originally much flatter than it is now but due to a surveying error, work was stopped, the route resurveyed and flyovers added. Ringway Whitefriars for example was originally intended to cross Gosford Street 50 yards further west than it does now and at street level, cutting the street in two.
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
Mike H
London Ontario, Canada
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14 of 28  Tue 1st Jul 2014 4:23am  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:454

Whatever people think about the RR, completely flat would have been a disaster.

AD, during the course of business, I used to have to cross town from one store to another, visiting Goddard & Poke on Tower Street, WH Smith wholesale on Bishop Street, Palmer and Harvey on Stoney Stanton Road, Thompson's on St Nicholas Street and maybe Laxon's on Foleshill Road. Pre RR, it was a nightmare, trust me, especially if I had to call at all of them in the same trip. The RR enabled me to drop off easily to any of these locations, do business and disappear as fast as I got in. I was so thankful that it was built, and delivery drivers were pleased too. No major roadwork ever looks good in the middle of a city, but without it and the ugly service areas behind stores, there is no centre.

Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
AD
Allesley Park
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15 of 28  Tue 1st Jul 2014 10:37pm  
Member: Joined Aug 2011  Total posts:380

Much larger cities cope with at-level roads servicing their centres and don't grind completely to a halt. Many have much busier and more vibrant centres than Coventry so obviously the higher level of traffic or slower journey times aren't sufficiently prohibitive enough to stop people using it (or could even be a reason why they're used more as there isn't this monolithic structure seeming to block the way). The fact is that for the very minor improvements in journey times the elevated RR provides (and could be negated if the council pushes through a plan to reduce the speed limit) it causes the city, and the city centre especially, a great deal more problems, reducing people using it due to the barrier it creates and putting off visitors unfamiliar with it and therefore giving a poor impression before they've even got out of the car! I notice from your example it's all about journey times and cross town driving highlighting my point about how people mainly use it as a bypass of the city centre not a means of accessing it . That is similar to the way I use it and I make no qualms it is can be an advantage (although at peak times I can walk into the city centre quicker from 3 miles away!). But I can also make those same journeys heading out to the A45/A46 and the journey times aren't much different. What about the actual destination and how it affects people journeying there? It's a massive put-off, and that's for locals so imagine what it does to the mindset of visitors and the loss of income the city centre suffers from that? I maintain that the ring road has been the biggest killer of the city centre.
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?

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