Green space is not enough, we need to reclaim the streets

Jon White outlined his ideas for a cleaner, safer Buxton to BCA members at their recent members talk

Childrens art in Reggio Emilia

There’s gonna be a riot down in Water Street tonight

“Green space is not enough, we need to reclaim the streets” was the title of the BCA members talk given by Jon White, BCA trustee and Chair of the Places and Spaces group.

But this was not rallying cry to rip up the paving stones, and man the flaming barricades, wearing yellow vests, clutching copies of the Guardian and shouting "What do we want? Radical change, when do we want it? in due course."

This was no revolutionary manifesto but a considered and studious journey from Reggio Emilia an Italian city with a high proportion of budding child Caravaggio's amongst its 170,000 inhabitants, to the not so quiet back streets of Buxton, the quarry town, nestling amongst the greenery of the planation woodlands once of the Chatsworth estate and now beloved and cared for by Buxton Civic Association, a town dotted with Georgian buildings against a splatter of more mundane functional architecture. In essence a quarry town, with a bit of Georgian attitude.

We heard about the transformation of a neglected grot spot into a beautiful and award winning sensory garden, but how the peace and quiet was spoiled by the screech of brakes, as cars competed for the lack of space on the narrow congested and badly planned road system. We were shown pictures of minor accidents.

But all this could change, if only sensible policies were adopted and a one way system created to allow wide pavements and freedom for the pedestrian to stroll and amble along and across the road as the fancy took him. (Or her) The air would be cleaner, the environment safer, it would be a better place to live.

Some argued that this was too little, that the car should be banned from the streets all together. What we needed were brave politicians, to champion the rights of the pedestrian over the motorist, to force through the changes needed. Some recalled fondly of playing cricket on the backstreets of Bradford.

But the argument and evidence was compelling. The audience was won over, some went away excited hoping for change, others convinced but frustrated by the reality that in Britain today change is hard, and resisted by those in charge.

Perhaps we do need to reclaim the streets, to man the barricades. Perhaps.

But as people left for the sanctuary of their homes they were greeted by a heavy and persistent rain, a timely reminder perhaps of why reclaiming the streets is not as easy here as it is in a warmer clime.

Incomers provide fresh ideas

The child has a hundred languages