After shopping centre giant intu collapsed into administration, causing yet another Broadmarsh development plan to fall by the wayside, Ewan Cameron decided it was time for something different. Creating an online petition calling for the area to be turned into a communal green space, his campaign has over ten thousand signatures at the time of printing. Here’s exactly why he thinks the plan to turn Broadmarsh green is essential for Nottingham...
We probably all have at least one fond memory of the old Broadmarsh centre. Maybe it was fries in Wimpy or simply being entranced by the gymnastic monkey in the Gordon Scott shoe shop. It could have been shopping for school clothes in BHS or taking a step down into the City of Caves. Many of us will have vivid memories of the bus station – how could we not, when this was the place where so many goodbyes have been said and so many warm welcomes offered?
With all that said, let’s be clear. The Broadmarsh was, and is, a complete eyesore. Can you imagine how many visitors have alighted from the train, eager to explore the city of Robin Hood, only to be met with a giant concrete slab which looked like something that belonged to an industrial estate, not the star city of the Midlands? If we live in Notts, it’s probably not something we’ve ever thought about, because why rage about something you can’t change? But in the last month things have changed. With the current development on hold, intu Broadmarsh disclaimed the lease to the City Council after the business entity that was intu Broadmarsh was wound up. With the Council now owning the freehold of the land, a window seems to have been opened and over 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Broadmarsh to be flattened and turned into a green open space.
Of course there was already a plan to knock down the Broadmarsh and build something new, but the planned shopping centre was somewhat lacking in imagination. Plans for a cinema and bowling alley felt as though the current retro-vogue for all things nineties had somehow leaped from ironic T-shirts and Spice Girls reunions straight into the realm of city planning. While it would have replaced the concrete with glass and metal cladding, the question that needs to be asked is whether we really need another shopping centre in Nottingham. Even before the pandemic, brick and mortar shops were in decline, especially national chain stores that sell objects now available for cheap convenience online. We probably should have said something earlier, but when Intu went into administration and workers downed tools, a mood swept over the city and many people, quite independently of each other, questioned whether it might not just be better to have a nice park instead.
A park would indeed be a place that would quite literally help our city to breathe. To have a place in the centre of Nottingham that is lush and green can only be a positive for our mental health too. Yet it is not just well-being, but our sense of what Nottingham is that is at stake here. If ‘town’ is only a place for us to run from shop to shop like Pacman collecting pills, then our city pride becomes only a reflection of what we can buy in Nottingham. If on the other hand we have places to relax, to refresh, and to play in, then our city pride becomes something much stronger. Nottingham does not need another place to shop but a place where we can be.
Let’s be clear. The Broadmarsh was, and is, a complete eyesore
Of course, these things are easier said than done and it’s not as though the Council don’t have tough decisions to make. After all, Nottingham City Council has been scandalously underfunded by the current national government, while other cities and regions have received more than average in national funding. We would not want a park at the expense of cuts to vital services. Thus, there is perhaps an inevitability that any new structures in the Broadmarsh would need to be seen to be worth it, monetarily speaking.
There is, of course, a persuasive argument that a green open space in Nottingham is a long-term investment in city health and aesthetics that would generate more visitors and tourism in itself. There is also the possibility that a green space could also double as a dynamic space for events and local markets. There is a need for the Council to generate an income stream, but let’s keep in mind that we have two world class universities and a whole load of people who didn’t go to university who are as smart as anyone. With all this intelligence floating around, surely we can collectively think of a way to make our green open space a solid investment on physical, mental, and financial levels. The fact that the Council has plans for more greenery and public spaces in the Broadmarsh area as, on the weekend of 8-9 August, the roads around Broadmarsh will be reconfigured to create a new, welcoming gateway to the city along Collin Street, Canal Street and Sussex Street, is cause for some optimism.
It’s this openness and collective spirit that we hope the Council can nurture in the coming months. We know there are tough decisions ahead, but let’s tackle them together and perhaps we can emerge from these trying times with a new green jewel in the centre of our city. In recent weeks, Nottingham has become a city of a new shared imagination.