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What if (our development had turned out differently)?

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Mike H
London Ontario, Canada
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16 of 28  Wed 2nd Jul 2014 5:18am  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:440

Which larger cities? Birmingham? That city is a nightmare for the first time visitor. Leicester? That is too. Milton Keynes, where every block looks just like the last one? Maidstone, which has a one way system all through it, miss a turn and you have to go all of the way around again? If somebody wants to get someplace, they will do it somehow.

Coventry ended up not having enough locals with free cash which would support a decent centre that in turn might attract visitors. In any case, I don't believe for a second that there are thousands of people thinking 'Lets go have brunch in Birmingham, or lunch in Leicester, or dinner in Doncaster. If they need a city centre, they will go there.

If you want visitors, you need to provide something which can't be had anywhere else for miles. So, build a Pepsi-Max ride in Lower Smithford Way offering free rides, an Airbus A380 in Broadgate serving everything from EasyJet packed lunches in Baggage class to 1st class BOAC VC10 fare, and roads to and through Coventry would be blocked with traffic all year. Locals wouldn't get a look in.

It would look hideous of course, but if you want visitors. PS. You still haven't told me which cities, other than London, got bombed silly, lost every vestige of what they were before the recessions, and yet still managed to re-invent themselves, thereby becoming as successful or better than ever they were in the past. Smile

Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
morgana
the secret garden
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17 of 28  Wed 2nd Jul 2014 9:56am  
Member: Joined Nov 2011  Total posts:2216

Liverpool, Wrexham, Bradford, Coventry, Birmingham, cities all got bombed in WW2 other than London. Portmouth and Southampton also were heavy bombed. Twisted Edited by member, 2nd Jul 2014 9:57 am
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
pixrobin
Canley
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Thread starter
18 of 28  Wed 2nd Jul 2014 12:21pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2014  Total posts:1058

Just as an aside. When my sister lived in Coventry (she left around 5 years ago) she avoided shopping in Coventry's city centre. She had the local shops of Earlsdon but her main shopping venue was Leamington. And that had been the case for around 30 years.
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
Mike H
London Ontario, Canada
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19 of 28  Wed 2nd Jul 2014 2:20pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:440

On 2nd Jul 2014 9:56am, morgana said: Liverpool, Wrexham, Bradford, Coventry, Birmingham, cities all got bombed in WW2 other than London. Portmouth and Southampton also were heavy bombed. Twisted Edited by member, 2nd Jul 2014 9:57 am
This is a list of places which saw bombing, Birmingham, Coventry, Liverpool and London being the worst. Birmingham was a mess, but its diverse manufacturing base enabled it to survive after the war (it didn't have all of its eggs in one basket), and it was already Britain's second largest city. Liverpool, despite suffering a lot of damage, continues to this day as a major west coast port. Southampton also continues as a major port. London was going to survive no matter what, but Coventry is different.

After the war, the planners went ahead with a 'brave new world' approach, and it would have worked had the industry chiefs over the industries in Coventry not made disastrous decisions which ultimately led to the demise of everything that the city made. If the planners could have foreseen the demise of Coventry's industries, I doubt that the Precinct, Broadgate would ever have looked like it did in the late 60's, or been the size that it all was. By the end of the 70's, Coventry was left with Britain's largest white elephant, the city that could have been.

Adding insult to injury, when the Japanese invasion came, they bypassed Coventry and set up in Sunderland, Swindon and Derby. The only black mark against Coventry was worker militancy, but imagine if any one of the three Japanese companies had come to Coventry, the difference that it would have made would have been huge. Workers with money in their pockets, a thriving city centre, smiles on their faces, two weeks of every year getting sunburnt in Torremolinos. Two Japanese car makers in the city, and Coventry would have outgrown Detroit in its heyday. Nobody would be moaning about how dull Coventry is or the height of elevated sections of the Ring Road. Smile

Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
Mike H
London Ontario, Canada
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20 of 28  Wed 2nd Jul 2014 2:39pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:440

On 2nd Jul 2014 12:21pm, pixrobin said: Just as an aside. When my sister lived in Coventry (she left around 5 years ago) she avoided shopping in Coventry's city centre. She had the local shops of Earlsdon but her main shopping venue was Leamington. And that had been the case for around 30 years.
Leamington is a much nicer place is why. It's a nice compact Spa town, built by big money, lived in at one time by big money. One never had to park too far away from anything there. But I note that Ford has left the building, and AP has been broken up too. It would appear that RLS is on the slide too, albeit a slow slide.

My immediate family also shopped in RLS, and we moved from Finham to RLS in 1965 to save the 10 mile journey taking my sister to Kingsley School every day, and because it was a more upmarket place. Cheers

Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
AD
Allesley Park
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21 of 28  Wed 2nd Jul 2014 3:58pm  
Member: Joined Aug 2011  Total posts:428

Yep, Birmingham is a nightmare. I hate driving around it. But it's busier than Coventry. Of course it's got a bigger local population and has almost every train service stop there so people don't have to use the roads, but it's much, much busier. But so is Milton Keynes. And Leicester, which in terms of socio-demographic data is quite similar to Coventry. So why, if the RR is such a boon for navigation, is its centre so massively outperforming ours? You are undoubtedly correct that the loss of industry and jobs due to the reliance on a single industry has affected peoples income and so can afford to do less (and why I'm not sure why you think having the Japanese carmakers here would have made things much better - Sunderland and Derby are hardly on the powerhouse map - they aren't even the main powerhouse of their local regions). But that is no different to many other places, and in the statistics Coventry doesn't do that badly. There are jobs, some of which are highly paid, and those people DO NOT spend money in the city centre - they go elsewhere. Like Leamington and Warwick. Even those on average wages prefer to travel to places like Leicester as they perceive a greater choice. Coventry is no worse in terms of employment and spending power than places like Leicester, so why do people go to places like that instead and we have such a poorer choice of shops and amenities? Why do people from Coventry travel to Leicester and very few do the other way round, especially if Leicester is a nightmare to navigate? Even small towns outperform Coventry city centre. Why? Well, mainly it's because the city has become so decentralised - everything is now in parks in the suburbs and outskirts. Jobs, shopping, everything. Why? Mainly due to easier planning permission I'd imagine, but this isn't a situation unique to Coventry, so why is our city centre performing SO much worse than similar places? A telling statistic came in the statistics about a year or so ago. Coventry was 71st in the table, but add in Central Six and it jumps to 53th. Nearly 20 places for one poxy, soulless set of retail sheds. And what is the difference? It offers easily accessible parking and is outside the ring road. I imagine we'd almost pull our weight if you added in all the other retail parks. I know for a fact there are numerous people who have come to work in this city from outside who will not use the ring road. Even people who have driven in London for years! They add miles onto journeys simply to avoid it. And if they do that they can't go into the city centre can they? If sitting at a standstill put people of so much central London and New York would be deserted! People will get annoyed at waiting, but they're more likely to put up with it than a situation they find intimidating, even frightening in some cases. People have been making jokes about our RR since it was built, and will continue to do so for as long as it remains. It strangles the city centre. PS I never answered the bombing question earlier because it was never asked
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
morgana
the secret garden
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22 of 28  Wed 2nd Jul 2014 4:33pm  
Member: Joined Nov 2011  Total posts:2216

Ring Road history I too know many people who won't use the ring road, I always thought the angles of leaving and entering the Ring Rd not right even though I've used it many times.
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
Mike H
London Ontario, Canada
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23 of 28  Wed 2nd Jul 2014 5:11pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:440

When a Ring Road is the only talked about feature of a city, it's the rest of the city which has the problem. Leicester and Birmingham were not anything like as reliant on one type of industry, and didn't have everything that they were swept from under their feet. There was/is enough people still with money to support a good day to day infrastructure, and that is why Coventry's dream turned into a nightmare. It wasn't the fault of the people, and it wasn't the fault of the planners either.

From a car workers perspective, Sunderland, Derby and Swindon are doing ok, better than the ex-car workers of Longbridge and Coventry.

I have to be honest and say that I don't think that Coventry ever had the best array of shops. Even in Coventry's heydays after WWII, it never seemed able to attract the best, and that must surely have been something to do with the perception of the type of people who lived there. Did they see us all as low grade workers having no appreciation of anything decent? If they did, that's not nice, and if I knew of any company who did think like that, I would write to the Queen and ask that the Royal Warrant be revoked. Coventry deserved better. Edited by member, 2nd Jul 2014 5:25 pm

Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
Mike H
London Ontario, Canada
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24 of 28  Wed 2nd Jul 2014 5:16pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:440

Ring Road history I too know many people who won't use the ring road, I always thought the angles of leaving and entering the Ring Rd not right even though I've used it many times.
Yes, it needs skill and one's full attention, as does driving anywhere. You probably know of drivers who never use the M1, M6, M40, M5 either because they can't handle the long slip roads and nobody letting them in.
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
AD
Allesley Park
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25 of 28  Wed 2nd Jul 2014 5:30pm  
Member: Joined Aug 2011  Total posts:428

So when people stop using the city centre because it's less accessible, shops and businesses move out. Stuff becomes unused and social problems set in, putting people off even more. Any residents remaining look to move out, putting even more businesses off as the demographics worsen. The city centre has a problem, but what causes that problem? It was starting to stagnate and decline long before the car makers left, so what was the excuse then? As far as I can see the biggest link between city centre decline has been the construction of the RR.
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
Mike H
London Ontario, Canada
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26 of 28  Wed 2nd Jul 2014 8:36pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2012  Total posts:440

The British mass production car industry was stagnating for a long period, and suffered through poor management decisions, poor quality control, poor attitude to its customers. From what I saw, the British manufacturers were giving us what they thought we deserved, and the best stuff was being exported.

Meanwhile, European and Japanese stuff was cutting into sales of homegrowns. The City Centre hung on until thousands of local workers were laid off, and that was not the beginning. It was the beginning of the end. The rest of what you stated was an unavoidable follow-on unless some other manufacturer which was doing well moved in. When there was talk of a Japanese manufacturer maybe taking on the Canley Triumph site, I held my breath for a while, bearing in mind that it was those workers and M-F which kept us in business. But the buggers didn't. They went North and South and anywhere but Coventry. That marked the beginning of the end for our Newsagents business too.

We had a prime location on Tile Hill Lane between Eastcotes and Middlecotes, serving the locals and passing trade to the Canley Triumph and M-F workers for years. As the workers slowly got laid off, our business dropped off too. In the heydays, we could make up more than minimum orders direct from manufacturers and that kept the Inland Revenue happy because they expected to see a 21% gross profit. As business fell off, we started to struggle to put in orders to get 'best terms', but the Inland Revenue still wanted to see the 21% shown on our books. When the workers all left, our local and passing trade fell away dramatically. We had to start getting a lot of stock from local wholesalers, and the profit margin fell away too. In the meantime, the Council wanted higher rates all of the time, and they painted a bus lane on the opposite side of the road, essentially stopping a huge amount of potential 'quick stop' parking. Through no fault of our own, we went from doing ok to 'get us the hell out of here before we start owing everybody'. It was not fun, I can assure you.

So now multiply what happened to us a thousand times and more, and it is easy to see why Coventry fell away so damn fast. I remember keeping that store open during my paternal grandmother's funeral service at St James Church, after making a promise to her that I would always keep it open. I could hardly speak that day, and it still brings tears to this day, not just the funeral but everything, watching a community die, a proud city in it's death throes. It was happening on the other side too, the demise of the Humber Works, Ryton, GEC, and Rolls Royce out at Ansty. We served all of those people, and we went down alongside them.

Coventry has taken some huge hits over the years, and what is most surprising is that there is anything left over. But that's ok. Y'all can call me names, y'all can keeping twisting what I say, taking everything literally, and y'all can keep blaming the planners and Maggie T too if you want, but it wasn't them. Coventry planned and built itself up after WWII for a future which would last a thousand years, but the future lasted for less than forty. Long live Coventry and all who have fought for her in times of war and peace.

Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
Helen F
Warrington
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27 of 28  Sat 5th Jul 2014 4:31pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:1151

I'm sorry, but while the German's deserve some of the blame, the town planners have been destroying old Coventry far more systematically and with more lasting effect. I most definitely count as an outsider to Coventry albeit one who, while living there, quite liked the place. However I didn’t frequent it very often except for small excursions to the central shops, usually at Christmas. From time to time I also visited the theatre and the University but each trip was discrete and involved different routes and parking places. I couldn’t even relate the different destinations to each other. My perception was that Coventry was much bigger and more confusing than it is. So why do I know the city far better now than I did when I lived there? The different parts of Coventry don’t link up and sight lines are blocked by threatening or faceless buildings. Sometimes I was unaware I was metres from places I already knew but from the other direction. Having learned the bones of the city, where the old roads were, the place makes much more sense to me. There’s a reason why places converge on a centre, it makes it easier for people to orientate themselves but modern Coventry has destroyed that. To be fair, Coventry looks much better than it did 10 years ago and miles better than the early 90s when I arrived but it’s still a series of disjointed blocks guarded by more than one scary barrier and I don’t mean the city wall. I now use the theatre car park (excellent) and walk either along Corporation Street (grim) or through the gap into the precinct. That gap is neither clear nor welcoming and the bit on the other side is somewhat abandoned. Each area of parking must first be easy to locate and then needs to draw the visitor/shopper towards the centre. Each area of interest must have a safe, welcoming route to and from the middle. Eg If you look opposite St John’s church there is a sign saying ‘Lower Precinct’ in hard to see script, underneath what looks like a witches hat. The buildings around look grey and uninviting. Why would you negotiate the traffic to head for that unless you knew it lead to the centre? The height of the buildings mean it’s hard to orientate yourself and one bit of precinct looks much like another. Each new complex looks more like a fortress than the last. The buildings worth visiting are locked away by much taller ones with no clear or safe looking route to them. When you do get there, they’re shut. As others have written, after 5pm the place rapidly looks abandoned. I wouldn’t like to linger in the busy places because I know I have to negotiate the quiet ones to get back to the car. For most towns and cities that are dying, they need to reduce rates and parking costs at least until the rot stops. Stop the drift out of town and do most to encourage small shops because they offer something different from the big shops that are even bigger and more convenient out of town. Build more apartments. While people want a nice place out of town, they might be encouraged to live in a flat if it’s well maintained, cheap and well supplied with shops and things to do. If you don’t build accommodation within the city then you need to have good, cheap parking that gets people as close to the centre as possible. That way they don’t have to go far to any part and back again with their shopping. If you decide that what you really want to attract is students then abandon any thoughts of tourism. If you want the tourists then you have to consider how a person would explore the city… and why. If it’s shoppers you want then you have to offer more than a long walk and tacky identikit shops. If attracting business is the goal then forget the city centre because it’s too small. Create a new centre and start again. Make the centre somewhere where business people go after dark which means safety, cleanliness and no students. I speak as one who lives in a place with no history, no soul but a load of big shops, big roads and big businesses.
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?
pixrobin
Canley
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28 of 28  Sun 27th Jul 2014 12:47am  
Member: Joined Mar 2014  Total posts:1058

Most of what has been argued in this thread has been with benefit of hindsight - and there's nothing wrong with that. But, look how our lives have changed since Coventry's post-war redevelopment began. If no inner ring road had been built in the 1960s and 70s would we consider the investment worthwhile today considering the out of town shopping centres which have been built. Perhaps we may see it more practical to connect up the shopping centres instead.
Town Planning and Development - What if (our development had turned out differently)?

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