It would appear that the days are numbered for the much-reviled Golden Egg building in King’s Square. According to a report in the Citizen on Wednesday a planning application has been submitted to demolish it.
This should come as no surprise as a month ago The Citizen reported that the long-awaited multi-million pound face-lift of the King’s Quarter was finally to get underway as Gloucester City Council were in negotiations with developer Stanhope PLC.
King’s Quarter includes not only King’s Square, but also the Bus Station, both of which represent a major eyesore in the middle of the city. According to the report, “The King’s Quarter scheme is likely to get new shops, bars, restaurants, residential and office facilities, as well as a new bus station.” Good news indeed.
In fact, so welcome is the news that when you read through the comments on these stories there is a much more positive vibe than usual. Sure there are the usual knee-jerk whingers and cynics, but there are far more people looking forward with some optimism to the scheme.
I am undoubtedly in favour of the scheme. The city centre desperately needs bringing back to life and the only way to do this is to provide an attractive proposition to some big-name stores to pull in shoppers who want to spend money in the city. New bars and restaurants are also good, although I would hope that the existing excellent pubs would also see trade pick up as the city becomes more attractive.
The cynics shouldn’t entirely be ignored, however. I must admit to a touch of “I’ll believe it when I see it” cynicism myself: we’ve been here before, but seen nothing beyond plans and artists impressions.
There is also plenty of scope to get it catastrophically wrong. The design has to be appropriate – not too bland, but not some crazy architects wet dream either: something practical, functional and yet attractive. Not an easy thing to pull off. Whatever the design, it’s not going to please everyone. At some point somebody is going to have to be brave enough to make a decision so that the whole thing doesn’t run into inertia. I don’t envy them the job.
One concern that you hear a lot is about the residential element. The worry here seems to be that we could end up turning the city into a housing estate – a criticism frequently levelled at the docks. I don’t think that this needs to be a concern. When people don their rose-tinted spectacles and look back on the city of yester-year, one thing they seem to identify is that the city was much more vibrant when more people lived in it. The post-war slum clearances moved people on mass to new estates in the outskirts leaving the centre deserted and soulless.
However, experience from the docks shows that building houses in the city doesn’t necessarily make it vibrant. Where are all of those residents in the evenings? Not in the local pubs and restaurants it would seem.
Finally, the scheme has to work as a whole for the city. A revitalised King’s Quarter linked to the Quays via the Greyfriars development (planning also in progress) and the Southgate Linkges scheme (underway) sounds brilliant, but it is going to need some joined up thinking.
So, in summary then, a great step forward for the city – as long as it actually happens this time and as long as it is done properly. Meanwhile, we Gloucester residents should keep a keen eye on proceedings, but remain optimistic and constructive and actually give the planners a chance to put their case before deciding it’s all going to be rubbish.
I’ll leave you with a thought courtesy of my brother, Russell. Around fifty years after the end of the Victorian period everyone decided that Victorian architecture was outdated and needed bringing into the modern era. Vast development schemes were enacted to put this vision into place. Now, another fifty years later, we are doing the same again. In another fifty years will we be looking back on King’s Square and saying “how could they demolish such a superb piece of period architecture and design”?