I live out in a village and so have to travel to our local town if I want to do any kind of serious shopping.
Recently it has been a building site where numerous 60’s pre-fab buildings are being demolished in order to build a new hospital.
Heavy machinery has taken up residence, health and safety barriers abound and streets are closed as equipment such as drills and cranes are moved around the locality.
This is the reality of building on a brown field site. In the short term the local economy has taken a serious hit and some shops have been forced out of business altogether. But is this short term pain for long term gain? Harsh as it may sound, I really think it might be.
Although the skyline is filled with drills and rigs that would look more appropriate as a backdrop to Jules Verne’s Journey to the centre of the earth than a shopper’s paradise, it’s a sign of growth, of innovation and, dare I say it, progress.
The sixties buildings had started to look seriously shabby. Pebble dash was falling away and despite the best efforts of the shopkeepers with their tempting window displays, the town had taken on a very tired appearance.
In addition parking had become a problem with traffic wardens descending en-masse to check that the £0.20 tickets were being properly displayed. £0.20? Really? I had to ask myself, how can it be worth inconveniencing shoppers for such a piddling amount? Then I realised that of course the answer lay in the potential return of £60 for each person who had failed to make it back to their car in time or (worse still) failed to buy a ticket in the first place. Yep, that would more than pay for the traffic warden’s wages, and in fact it may even have contributed significantly to the building of the hospital!
So it is with a heavy heart that I had to admit that the clearing of the town centre can only be a good thing, irrespective of the logistical challenges presented by the closure of roads due to the moving of machinery, the size and scale of which I have hitherto only seen at the cinema.
After all, the building of a hospital is a noble goal whereas my ‘over consumption’ habits are not.
Since exchanging inconvenience for wonder, I have been much humbled by the spectacle of watching shops being relocated and the sheer expertise and manpower involved in an undertaking of this scale.
The expertise of companies who specialise in moving heavy equipment is just one aspect. How the various agencies and entities involved in a demolition and building project of this scale manage to communicate, work together and maintain such high standards of welfare and health and safety is beyond me.
With trucks the size of houses, apparatus that needs to be safely decommissioned before the new build can even begin, and wrecking balls glaring menacingly at any walls that are still left standing the site, for me, has started to take on all the intricacies and wonder of an elaborate dance.
This strangely beautiful scene (well if you squint your eyes and poke your fingers in your ears) stands testament to mankind’s ability to innovate and submit any landscape to its will.
So whilst I may have suspended my shopping activities in this town for the short term, I will most definitely return to check on the progress being made and to witness first-hand how the building of the hospital will positively impact and enrich the town’s economy.
This master class in innovation, partnership and self-sacrifice will, I feel, ultimately give way to a bustling town centre, a source of civic pride, new jobs and, most importantly, increased health for the local populace.
Somewhat more selfishly, I eagerly await the return of my favourite shops and the establishment of new sports facilities with which to amuse and tire out the kids.
It may have been the cause of widespread inconvenience for many, but as far as I am concerned it’s been a tough job, very well done.