Sunday, January 03, 2021

Wild at heart?

The Broadmarsh was on a downward spiral even when I was still living in Nottingham, more than 15 years ago - and now the tatty and obsolete shopping centre is no more. According to City Council leader David Mellen, its long-overdue demolition presents "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine a significant space right in the heart of one of the country's core cities and build a new vision for urban areas following the coronavirus that is people centred and green but also leads to jobs and housing, improving quality of life".

So far, so sound-bitey. But the plans put together by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and local landscape architects Influence do genuinely merit being described as "radical": not just an identikit, sanitised urban park of the sort you might find anywhere/everywhere, but wild woodlands, wetlands and meadows.

Mellen's mention of coronavirus is significant. Before the pandemic, the area - very central, and a short stroll from the train station - would no doubt have been prized as ripe for conventional development into shops, offices or flats (or, most likely, a combination of all three). But COVID-19 looks set to catalyse a general and seismic shift in urban living, working and shopping habits/trends, which presumably means that the value of the land has plummeted - and, consequently, that the Trust's proposals stand a much better chance of becoming reality.

There are obviously barriers still to be overcome. But pursuing these plans would be a way for the City Council to demonstrate concrete commitment to their green ambitions, which include making Nottingham the UK's first carbon-neutral city. The creation of wild space would also transform Nottingham city centre into a more desirable place to live and work - and thereby help to mitigate against the anticipated drop in urban property/land prices.

Like many others, I'll be watching developments with interest.

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