Politics:: articles from 2015 General Election Campaign
Is Coalville open for business?
Walking through the centre of Coalville leaves a scary question: is it open for business?
That sounds a daft question: lots of people live and work here. But seeing in quick succession two pubs boarded up, a charity shop, and the two shops at the entrance to the Belvoir Centre all closed sends a less than optimistic message.
Right now it is a little extreme as the charity shop is only closed for refurbishment, but someone walking past the Belvoir Centre could easily think the whole thing is closed from its outward appearance. Thats on top of the shadow cast by the redundant factories within sight of the clocktower.
These things matter. Most obviously, they dont do much to encourage people to come into Coalville, which actually makes the situation worse.
But there is a bigger picture. One of the closed shops at the entrance to the Belvoir Centre was a branch of Greggs. On the doorsteps I have heard people say they used to go there to have a cup of tea and meet friends, so their quality of life is affected by the loss. Inevitably the sense of decline is infectious. One of the hardest things about delivering regeneration is to change the sense that there is no hope. These visual signals make that much harder. The impending closure of Snibston Museum and the threat to Hugglescote community centre compound this.
Regeneration for Coalville is needed. Ive been pushing for the re-opening of the Ivanhoe Line from Leicester to Burton on Trent, to include stations in and on the edge of Coalville and Ashby, for the Bardon bypass (which would also protect the future of the Hugglescote Community Centre), and for investment in Snibston rather than its closure. All of those are good ideas, but they are also expensive.Through
Liberal Democrat channels Ive been exploring things that district councils have done elsewhere using their powers to vary business rates to help encourage the use of the empty shops some of those might involve a small loss of money to the council in the short term, but this is a valuable investment in the town. From the road it looks as if the whole of the Belvoir Centre is closed, which sends a harmful message.
News of antisocial behaviour in Ashby over the Easter weekend is a reminder that regeneration and improvement in the community situation is important there as well.
Regeneration is about people and infrastructure. Reversing the decision over Snibston, protecting Hugglescote, pushing for better community facilities in the Bardon Grange development, providing a good station when the Ivanhoe Line is re-opened are all important, but encouraging new businesses into some of the empty spaces in the town centre looks like a relatively inexpensive way to do deliver a real boost and to do this quickly.