I had earlier decided that I would endeavour to get to the meeting prior to the advertised start time, in order to chat informally with the team gathering the community’s thoughts for the Vauxhall Storage Depot’s new life, but I was far from alone with this intention. The hall was very much alive when I entered and signed in.
I had seen some wonderful Cumulus clouds as I came through the gates and saw this as a good omen – blue sky thinking? So even before going inside I grabbed some shots of this portent.
I tried to learn who were the people to whom I needed to engage in conversation to learn something of what the experts had gauged could be presented to the audience. I, like a few, had expected more of their views of the options that were available, but we were told this was not the way this group behaved; they were consulting us before presenting any proposals – they were seeking some form of consensus from all our disparate views before looking at the idea of putting these into any loose pre-Planning proposal. They were going to listen first.
They would hear the views of those attending on the Friday and the Saturday, then go away and sit down amongst themselves to try to wrestle with the issues we saw, and any propositions we may have put forward, so they could then meet up with us on the Tuesday with a draft of what collectively they had understood from us were the important guidelines that should be adopted in any proposal that was to be put before the planners.
It was interesting to note how we were deflected from asking them for proposals, by their continued insistence they were listening first – they were not going to be accused of foisting their ideas upon us then ignoring our protestations, and it was not long before the dynamics of the discussions moved towards the positivity of the ideas as to how this piece of real estate could be re-incarnated into a cohesive community project, not necessarily entirely without dissent, but certainly with far less antagonism than meets most planning applications for Development.
I consider that this part of Bedfordshire around the conurbation of Luton and Dunstable to be a Museum of Crass Mistakes of Poor and Inadequate Planning, and I really hoped that here was an opportunity to break the mould and do something for which future generations would be proud of our achievement. Good Planning could have prepared the ground for really accessible routes between the M1 and the Airport, the Railway Stations, the University, the Industries of Luton and onward to Hitchin and Cambridge. Good Planning would not have brought the M1 Spur road to a roundabout serving the A6 link from Harpenden and St. Albans – just to name one example. The very moment the Olympic games was announced for London, a plan should have been submitted that separated these traffic streams and the funds requested from central Government to advertise Luton having hotel places, an Airport, and train service to provide a less expensive and viable alternative to being in London for the duration of the Games. Luton missed that boat (to mix metaphors) in Spades; an opportunity unlikely to return in our lifetimes.
My point is let us start way before the actual building by preparing the infrastructure to receive the development, and use a phrase from Winston Churchill: ‘Action this Day’ let us make a bold decision not to add another exhibit to the Museum, build on the will to make a positive contribution that I saw in the hall today.
I hope I was right in seeing blue sky, beyond the clouds, this morning. My glass is half-full.