Saturday, October 03, 2009

Kensington "Neighbourhood Centre" underway at last!

Liam, Nick and I attended the ceremony to cut the sod on the site of the new "Neighbourhood Centre" in Kensington a few weeks ago.

Originally proposed as a real community resource, with a one-stop-shop, Community 7 Housing Association HQ, PCT offices, community space, shops and apartments, with a fire station, this truly was a neighbourhood centre project.

Unfortunately endless delays beset the project. The LibDem council chose to spend the money for our proposed one-stop-shop on a Tourist Information office in town - the 08 place white elephant. Community 7 were obliged to set up an HQ on the opposite side of the road, it opened several years ago, and from its upper windows, staff could gaze across at a site full of Japanese Knotweed and think about what might have been. The PCT went elsewhere too, nobody could put their development plans on hold indefinitely!

So what we are now faced with are some shops with flats above - that doesn't sound like a "neighbourhood centre" to me, does it to you? I tried for 2 years to persuade Kensington Regeneration to call it something different, given its changing nature but they have thus far obstinately refused. In my more generous moments, I was thinking we might call it Regeneration Place perhaps.

I am genuinely saddened that so much of what was promised will not be delivered.

Thankfully the Fire Service have hung on, waiting for the site to become available, and they will be building a new fire station here (entrance from Beech Street) to replace their ageing premises at Low Hill. They have also agreed to offer free community space withih the fire station so that local people can hold meetings there, good for them, let's hear it for Merseyside Fire Service!

I am delighted that shops are being built here, particularly Iceland, which will be the anchor store and I am sure will attract other national retailers to the site. The area is very poorly served by shops, only two supermarkets - a Lidl and an Aldi, and the latter is due to close before Christmas as it moves to a new site in Old Swan. Local people will really benefit from this extra retail opportunity and I hope it will begin to revitalise the shopping "offer".

And it will be great too, to have a decent development on this vital site in Kensington. (Technically it is in Fairfield, but Kensington Regeneration have driven a coach and horses through local place names, so now everything in the New Deal area is called "Kensington" even though Fairfield has been around for 150 years longer than Kenny!).

The cleared site, which used to house the much loved and dearly missed Silver Blades ice rink and later the bingo, as well as a couple of very small streets of houses, is absolutely central to the area. It sits on our most important junction and it can only be good news that something is finally being built here.

Plans for phase 2 - further houses on that part of the site that fronts Lister Road, have been scrapped, so this part will be landscaped instead.

I shall watch the construction and development of the *insert new name here* with interest!

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