Your say in the shape of things to come ...
Jun 19 2008 by Andrew Baldwin, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
Our towns and cities were transformed in the 60s and 70s – and not for the better. Huddersfield people, for example, still lament the loss of the Market Hall and the Shambles. Can we learn from those mistakes? ANDREW BALDWIN reports
‘It wasn’t just the Luftwaffe who destroyed cities and towns. We did 95% of it ourselves’
DON’T forget the diver sir, don’t forget the diver was a catchphrase back in the golden days of radio when the wireless was steam-operated.
It originated in the 1940s radio show ITMA, starring comic Tommy Handley, and – as these things do – caught on as part and parcel of the English language.
A variation of the saying might apply to the mass changes which transformed our towns and cities in the 1960s and 1970s – don’t forget the people, don’t forget the people.
One man who believes they DID forget the people is Huddersfield professor Cedric Cullingford.
Quite simply, the heart was ripped out of huge areas of our land. Streets of terrace houses where families gossiped with each on doorsteps were torn down and replaced with faceless tower blocks, featureless shopping centres without soul were built.
People were unhappy with the results. Social sores festered and grew in the concrete jungle.
It’s a mistake which Prof Cullingford does not want to see repeated.
And nor will it, if a new movement takes hold in Huddersfield.
Prof Cullingford, professor of education at the university, is one of the team behind a new debate on how the town centre should shape itself in years to come.
Mistakes of the past must not be repeated, he says.
A public meeting next Monday will begin the process of how we see ourselves and the buildings around us.
It could have a profound influence, if it gains the support the organisers are hoping to achieve.
Prof Cullingford says: “It wasn’t just the Luftwaffe who destroyed cities and towns. We did 95% of it ourselves.
“Town planners put traffic schemes first. They were careless about the people and they were careless about buildings.
“We’re trying to make a sense now that people matter, that they should be put first.”
Next week’s meeting has been set up by Huddersfield Civic Society, a short time after Prof Cullingford was elected its new chairman.
Mistakes of the past he can point to in our own town include the demolition of the Market Hall and the Shambles, both much-loved places which were well-used and where people gathered.
But it’s not solely about preserving old buildings – although that would be nice where a genuine use is found for them, he thinks.
And it’s not anti-traffic either, although Prof Cullingford admits he is starting to wonder if there is really a need for the ring road to completely encircle the town centre.
No, what this is about is creating a vision of how the Huddersfield of the future could be.
Well, Prof Cullingford is a great admirer of what they have created in city centres on the continent – a mixture of commercial and residential uses making the best of urban spaces.
Barcelona, for one, dubbed Spain’s sexiest city.
Mayor Pasqual Maragall almost single-handedly kick-started Barcelona into the 21st century by putting a highway underground, reconnecting the city to its waterfront.
On that waterfront he fashioned new beaches and new neighbourhoods. Elsewhere in town he built new neighbourhood parks by the dozen.
The main square, Placa Catalunya, is a lively place during the day. The stunning La Rambla is a wide tree-lined boulevard full of street theatre, cafes and market stalls.
Well, the weather helps. Not to mention the sea.
But it’s an example of the forward-thinking and ambition which Prof Cullingford would like to see applied to Huddersfield.
Some may dismiss it as airy-fairy. But we’ve got to look at the wide picture to get a sense of where we should be heading, says Prof Cullingford.
“One only has to look down one of the many alleyways, like Hawksby Court, off New Street, to witness both abandonment and opportunity.
“A town worth visiting needs to be consistently appealing with details that match. If the neglected yards of Huddersfield so clearly represent abandonment and neglect, a lack of spirit, they also symbolise the possibilities.
“It is only if we care about all the different parts of the town that we will achieve the kind of place we can be proud of,” says Prof Cullingford.
He has no idea how many people will be coming to next week’s meeting, but hopes it will be the first of a series of discussions.
“We’ll put out a certain number of chairs and arrange wine and soft drinks. Then we’ll take it from there,” he says.
A Vision for the Future of Huddersfield, with presentations by Peter Davies, Greg Jennings and David Wyles, is in the Castle Hill Suite at the university next Monday, 7.30pm for 8pm.