I was never too clever at answering the questions and I don’t really have a specialist subject so it’s not like I could get lucky with that round, but I did enjoy watching Mastermind. The one thing I remember most fondly was when each week the late Magnus Magnusson inevitably uttered that now iconic phrase “I’ve started, so I’ll finish” It was all in the delivery, you knew he meant it and for some, it was the final opportunity to gain that crucial extra point.
Leeds City Council and a number of ‘chosen’ developers have been on a roll recently. Almost every day, we are presented with the vague outline of one multi-million pound project after another. There must be well in excess of a £billion allocated in the past couple of months alone. We’ve been promised everything from new train stations to hotels, parks and lighthouses. I’ve written several pieces on the subject of developing Leeds in the past couple of weeks and today I feel compelled to write another.
The latest announcement came in the form of a relatively small investment, a mere £5 million to be spent tarting up another one of the City’s culturally important quarters, the Grand Quarter. For those who have lost track of the area, the Grand Quarter takes its name from the famous Theatre on New Briggate and also encompasses Merrion Street, the Grand Arcade and surrounding areas. Apparently, this area is looking a little tired now (can anyone living remember when New Briggate was any more appealing to look at?) and Merrion Street surely lost any hope of being attractive when they straddled it with the Merrion and St Johns Centres. Unfortunately, I think it would take considerably more than £5million to fix that mess, but the focus of this piece is not about the amount being spent.
To be fair, this isn’t Council money and it rarely is. They don’t have much to throw around these days and there are a lot of mouths to feed. In this case around 10% is being covered by the public purse, but it doesn’t matter if they picked it off the money tree – surely any money spent should achieve something measurable, and in order to measure any project’s success, it needs to be finished first.
It’s certainly more sensible to finish one thing before starting another if for no other reason than the people involved can remain focused and budgets are more tightly controlled. Once finished we could then set about measuring its true value, gaining valuable public opinion and using this data to help make more educated decisions in the future.
This is a very public plea to those who make these decisions. Before you start painting the shop fronts of Dixie Chicken and Zam Zam in heritage colours can we first:
Help these people
And do something about this
Once you’ve worked through this little lot you can move onto all the other projects you’ve been talking about for the past few years and then, by all means, start the next project, finish that and start another. Feel free to start as many as you finish but please adopt a methodical approach to improving the City you’ve been entrusted with. This is not revolutionary or game-changing; it’s common sense.
Photograph of Temple Works by