In her guest column this week, Councillor Lesley Clarke talks of the need to preserve Aylesbury’s rich heritage – and to learn the lessons of the past when planners were far to eager to wield the wrecking ball on our historic buildings.
One only has to look at the Back in Time series each week to see how many gems the town has lost over the years in the name of progress.
This week Karl Vaughan looks back at Great Western Street, an area of Aylesbury which has changed immeasurably for the worst.
In fact, I would suggest the tunnel containing the bus station which now subsumes Great Western Street is Aylesbury’s biggest planning mistake. Yes, even worse than the County Tower, which has a certain brutal elegance (the nearby abandoned travel kiosk has to be the stupidest thing ever built in the town, but not in the same league in terms of ugliness).
As a lad growing up in Southcourt, the dark, dingy tunnel was my route into the town centre.
The horrible concrete structure which looms above the street and which is part of Friars Square Shopping Centre, completely blocks off views of lovely Market Square from that side of the town – not just for people travelling from over the Bourg Walk bridge, but also for visitors arriving by train.
It does not give a good first impression.
Once inside, you’re engulfed by bus and cigarette fumes (despite the no smoking signs everywhere).
There’s bird mess and dirt everywhere – indeed I don’t think there’s a visibly more grotty place in Aylesbury. In the winter it becomes a wind tunnel, pushing back shoppers making their way to the town.
The artwork which was installed a few years’ ago has done little to improve its appeal.
Friars Square’s management have been doing a brilliant job reinventing the shopping centre with a new Market Square entrance announced just last week. It complements the work being done by the district and county council’s revamping the area around the cinema and old county offices.
But I would urge them to think radically when drawing up their next longer-term masterplan and aim for a more open-air shopping experience (I appreciate that I’m asking here for a major redevelopment, given the impact on the shopping centre, which, as I said above, is doing its best to improve what it can)
If there’s one place truly deserving of the wrecking ball in Aylesbury, it is Great Western Street.