When in a Hole… Dig Faster! (Liverpool’s ‘Big Dig’)
Liverpool’s Big Dig is supposed to be the way forward for investment in the city centre. In theory this is great. In practice the abject failure to insist on ’24 hour’ operation is a serious threat even to those businesses (and workers) already here. Edict No.1 in the ‘Regeneration Rulebook’ must surely be: when effecting to make progress, don’t put at unnecessary risk what you’ve already got.
‘How else is Liverpool going to resume its rightful place as a city meaning business?’, asks Matt Johnson in today’s Business Post of the city centre’s Big Dig.
Well, the Big Dig is supposed to be a route to increased business in the city centre; and at the moment it’s exactly the opposite.
Clearly, the intended outcome is that there should be more commercial and other enterprise activity within the city, but they’re going about it a very strange way. If we’re not very careful, there will in fact be less such economic activity in the immediate follow-on from the Big Dig, not more. Footfall is already dropping alarmingly, and not all the cries of ‘Wolf!’ from traders are sham – as of course Matt Johnson readily confirms.
Yesterday I was in the city centre mid-morning and later in the afternoon. On both occasions diversion signs and cones out-numbered visible Big Dig workers by a huge ratio. Not much sign of urgent activity to be seen even in the middle of the working day – and of course none at all that I have observed in the evening or during the night.
The City Council may be saving money for itself (and thus it would argue for its rate payers) by not engaging people to work at night – or even it appears particulary energetically during the day – but this will cost us all dear.
Reduced trading will mean fewer jobs; so some people will go out of work as a result of this – hardly a cost saving for them as individuals.
The whole Big Dig strategy, from what I can see, has developed without appreciating the most fundamental – and most unobserved – regeneration rule of all…… Don’t damage (more than absolutely essentially) what you already have in the attempt to ‘improve’ things for the future.
If the city powers-that-be can require commercial deliveries to be made in the centre outside business hours, why can’t they apply the same logic, only more so, to the diligence with which they deliver the Big Dig? Come on chaps, this is supposed to be a 24 hour city!
Yet again, we must ask: Who’s in charge? and who is answerable to the citizens and businesses of Liverpool and their by now doubtless deeply puzzled potential future investors?