The 45 minute reports and discussion chaired by Stan Heptinstall took place immediately after the Beeston and District Civic Society AGM 2017.  The Society undertook to report progress at the AGM when we met for the ‘Vision for Beeston’ event on Friday 7 April 2017 in the Pearson Centre.

The object of the April event was to fast forward thirty years to envisage the kind of place we would like Beeston to be beyond the planning horizon.  We live in a time of accelerating global change and population growth, with more people expecting higher standards. Simultaneously we are absorbing new technologies and facing limited, finite resources.  This Society has a particular long-term role in protecting and improving our environment.

Reporting progress

Peter Robinson listed relevant events over the past six months, including, in no particular order:

  • the opening of the refurbished Library and the announced sale of the Beeston Town Hall
  • progress on the Beeston Borough Council Local Plan, (something that we would hear more about from Steffan Saunders on the morning of Saturday 14 October in the White Lion)
  • the pop-up summer beach on the former car park site beside the Beeston interchange
  • developing ideas for town centre artwork led by Jeanie O’Shea, (nee Barton)
  • the opening of the Canalside Heritage Centre in the Rylands
  • the resurrection of the Beeston Station volunteer project
  • the recent gifting by NET of the ‘Lets Go to Beeston’ logo to the local voluntary group Middle Street Resource Centre
  • ideas for a ‘Welcome to Beeston initiative’ explored by Jonathan Tait
  • continuing progress on the Toton and Chilwell Neighbourhood Forum embracing Chetwynd Barracks, including firmer information about HS2.

A common factor in the last six of these activities is that they are the product of community commitment and voluntary action. While much of this is positive there has been little visible progress on bigger, longer term questions discussed on 7 April, including:

  • What is Beeston about today; how are we perceived by others?
  • What are our assets, (some are social, like Oxjam, The Carnival and Heritage Open Days), and how can we make better use of our attractions and strengths?
  • How is the world about us changing and how is it going to impact on us? Particularly relevant is the changing nature of retail and its impact on town centres.
  • In unpicking these issues we could start to focus on why and how as a Civic Society we can protect and improve our environment.  What does pride of place mean to us?
  • How can we help to make Beeston a more attractive, confident and welcoming place to live in, work in and to visit?
  • The way initiatives are taken forward must be a key element in all of this thinking. We no longer live in a command economy where resources can be directed.

Jeanie O’Shea described progress on the Beeston Street Art Festival proposal, followed by questions:

  • £8k is available from Henry Boot via Broxtowe Borough Council as a ‘ring fenced’ Art Fund.
  • Street art could give a facelift to Station Road, creating an attraction out of an eyesore.
  • Submissions have been sought from artists; with twelve received and four described as ‘affordable large-scale possibilities’.  The Council is showing interest.
  • A presentation folder has been passed to John Delaney with a response expected shortly.
  • Artwork would comprise murals on the Station Road Birds’ walls; owned by the Council.
  • Responding to maintenance questions; murals should last at least 10 years without attention using Montana spray paint or another reputable brand of high definition paint. The Station Rd walls are also out of the sun, which could increase the durability to 15 years, after which touching up could be done or a whole new festival held.
  • Proposals did not include changing the stump in the Square, or a clock.
  • Restoring the hanging baskets was seen as one way of making Beeston greener.
  • Another is to ensure that planning permissions on Phase 2 etc. include green space and green issues.
  • Potentially we should be able to influence conditions applied to planning consents.

Julian Owen described progress on the Canalside Heritage Centre, opened on 24 June last:

  • The Centre is being managed with gusto and is financially sustainable.
  • An army of volunteers turn up every week. The site is turfed and is looking greener.
  • Vibrant artwork is being encouraged and the website is being developed.
  • Many things are planned, including a sustainable trail with Attenborough Nature Reserve.
  • Ways of using the waterways to advantage are being explored, including canal boat trips.
  • Another possibility is to restore the ferry to Barton in Fabis.
  • The possible impact on Tony’s Cafe is being monitored.
  • The Centre is the product of many years work by Stewart Craven.
  • A question was raised about possible gravel workings on the Clifton side of the Trent.

The next thirty years

Julian Owen was invited to speculate on the impact of change over the next thirty years:

  • He expected that how we buy things will alter. Present patterns of retail may have disappeared by 2050 raising questions about what our town centres are for.
  • Will more people want to live in town centres?
  • There are serious housing issues as whole segments of our population become disenfranchised. Where will they go?  We need to explore housing options.

A more general discussion started and ended with a focus on Beeston Station as a key entry point to Beeston, but was cut short through lack of time.  Notes from the evening would be summarised for the Civic Society website.

A concluding point was made about looking to the future.  The Royal Society of Arts suggest that long-term thinking might be both strategic in outlook and tactical in action:

  • Strategic, by thinking through possible eventualities using sensible, factual predictions; and
  • tactical, by being agile, adaptable and pragmatic.  Seize opportunities as they arise.
  • Inevitably, events will occur unexpectedly that will open up possibilities for change.

Peter Robinson
18 October 2017