One of the most unsatisfactory aspects of the whole process is the way in which the public has been consulted. This is a Council owned site, and the Council has often indicated that it is more concerned with the need to regenerate the site rather than achieve the best financial return.
In such circumstances the Council was obligated to fully consult with the public, ie the resident tax payers, at all stages on both the concept and the design but, to the extent that there has been any consultation the public has been presented with a fait accomplis. There is no evidence of any element of the proposal being adjusted at any time, to take into account any public response.
There was a poorly advertised exhibition held in the Guildhall in March, but problems with that include a substantial lack of information, and information that was presented was in many respects disingenuous.
An example of this can be seen in the plan that formed the centrepiece of the exhibition. It shows the two main blocks A and B consisting of numerous small scaled building blocks with lots of gardens in between, the instinctive reaction to which is that it all seems very pleasant. The problem is that what wasn’t made clear was that this was in fact a roof plan with private access only, and that at ground level the two blocks actually consist of large solid building masses, completely unrelieved by any form of greenery.
Another example of the disingenuous approach to consultation, can be found in the survey which asked questions including “do you support the plans to replace the large bus station with a modern bus centre with public toilets closer to the city centre?”
Anyone knowing the site would know that the replacement couldn’t possibly be “closer” to the city centre, and anyone knowing the scheme would know that the “modern bus centre” was nothing of the sort, and simply consisted of a row of bus stops on Friarsgate. Needless to say, the public’s answers to this and other meaningless questions have not been disclosed publicly.
There was another exhibition put on in September shortly after the developer had submitted a series of planning applications. There are four planning applications which, as a process, only add to the confused picture the public has had to contend with.
Although the applications drawings were presented as a package at the exhibition, no copies were available and few members of the public have the facilities to analyse hundreds of drawings online. Again there was no model of the whole scheme.
As a result, the means by which the public have been informed is entirely as a result of the CGIs that have been presented at exhibitions, in the press, on the Council’s website and in various brochures issued by the developer.
The problem is that there have been nowhere near enough of them. There are glimpses of Blocks A and Block C, and of Block B for one application, and cameo views of Silver Square and Cross Keys Square but none of Block D, Block E, Block F, Block G, Block H or Block J.
The images that are available have been composed to convey a café-lifestyle atmosphere rather than explain the architecture, and features such as trees, people, sunshine and reflection have all been employed to disguise the physical reality. Distorting the perspective can also be helpful, and make the areas in the foreground appear more spacious, and buildings in the background appear smaller than they would actually appear from the viewing point.
Worse still is that some of the information presented and accepted by the Council is factually incorrect, and this can be seen when you compare the CGIs of the elevations to Friarsgate for both Block A and Block B, against the photograph below.
In the CGIs the sun is positioned due north, an error which is perhaps more than just inept.
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