Results tagged “coventry city centre” from Coventry Telegraph - Talking Politics

IS this week's debate about moving Coventry's successful three-day free music festival from the War Memorial Park to the city centre as much about politics, as money and music?

The council's Labour leaders have noticeably not been singing from the same hymn sheet on the issue. The decision to hold a public vote emerged from a division of opinion between senior Labour cabinet members.

Feelings are running high, with some passionately seeking to persuade movers and shakers to back a switch to the city centre.

Those in favour include rising Labour politicians Ed Ruane and Lynnette Kelly. Against is council leader John Mutton, who Labour group insiders believe could face a leadership contest weeks before this summer's Godiva Festival.

It's a legitimate debate - whether or not there is political manoeuvring between Labour group characters and factions who don't always see eye-to-eye.

Councillors Kelly, cabinet member for city development who will seek to become Labour MP for Warwick and Leamington, and Ruane, whose cabinet portfolio includes tourism and culture, both want to stimulate the flagging city centre, where one in seven shops lies empty.

Yet my sense is the vast majority of people will instinctively want to keep the Godiva in the park - a natural large space for a music festival.

The point where politics and road safety collide can be a dangerous junction indeed for politicians seeking re-election.

Ask Conservative councillors, who accepted public anger over potholes was key to them losing control of Coventry City Council in 2010.

Yet the council's Labour leaders show no sign of u-turning to reinstate traffic lights at controversial "shared space" junctions, despite the first pedestrian death months after their introduction.

Labour councillors tell me they at least recognise considerable public dissent, particularly concerning the elderly, disabled, mums with pushchairs and others less mobile.

But I detect no rumblings of discontent in the Labour group. Neither do I detect there was any serious debate about removing traffic lights when it approved parts of the policy in private last year before it went to cabinet.

IN 2009, I met two fashionable architect dudes from Los Angeles who were surprisingly set to shape the historic rebuilding of Coventry city centre.

In February that year, the trendy designers from L.A. firm Jerde - Stuart Berriman and David Sheldon - unveiled their stunning final vision of an English city centre for the 21st century.

Their prescription amounted to a massive £1billion injection to breathe new life into an ageing and tired post-war city centre, once famed across Europe for the innovation of then city architect Sir Donald Gibson.

With Jerde's help, Coventry City Council leaders were acting out of alarm over the city centre's declining retail performance. They also sought a shot-in-the-arm to rejuvenate the central area's dying nightlife.

Coventry people in a public consultation seemed to like Jerde's juxtaposition of futuristic design concepts and the city's medieval and post-war architecture, alongside a flowing resurrected Sherbourne "river" - all under cascading roof-top gardens the size of seven football pitches.

Yet, amid the excitement, people also spotted the giant elephant in the room.

The UK had officially entered recession just four weeks before. The previous year's global banking collapse and credit crunch had signalled the end of credit-fueled boom.

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