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Coventry’s City Wall Walkabout with Les Fawcett

Monday, July 13 at 6.30 pm

Meet at The Warwickshire Club in Henry Street (parking on site) Taking in Bishop’s Gate, Well Street, Hill Gate, Spon Gate, Swanswell Gate and Cook Street Gate (around one mile) Finishing at the Club where there are lots of military mementos

While opinion is already divided over regional devolution for the West Midlands with an elected mayor at its head, further controversy raged recently when business leaders in Birmingham insisted that Greater Birmingham best described the region. Mike Dell, Chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, was quoted in the Coventry Observer. He said: “The name Birmingham is recognised on the world stage, West Midlands is not and we do not want to be trying to explain where we are. It is important that we put aside parochial perspectives and work together.” Work together we must, but there are multiple aspects to these proposals that need full and proper consideration. Devolution is perhaps the biggest issue facing Coventry and we asked committee member, Les Fawcett, to put together a few thoughts for your consideration. Here they are: 1. UK has the most centralised form of government in Europe; every other country has a tier of regional governance between

Birmingham: Council Offices in Victoria Square

Coventry Telegraph is to be congratulated on a recent front page story about overflowing refuse bins in areas of the city that are dominated by university students. CovSoc Vice-Chairman Paul Maddocks said: “We in CAN (Coventry Action for Neighbourhoods) asked the city council last year about its stance on rubbish left on the street when students leave, without a thought for its effect on the environment and local people. Even landlords don’t appear to care one little bit. So today I went out in my local area and photographed bins full to overflowing but the wrong way round for collection. Then there was the discarded furniture, and the fridges and freezers left out by students who had lived there, with meat and flies all too obvious in the heat of the day.”

July 2015

the state and the individual city or county. 2. Regional governance would reduce London's stranglehold. 3. Wales and Scotland have powers that English regions don't. 4. If we have a combined authority covering the West Midlands county, would we just be recreating the WM county council that was scrapped after only 12 years existence? 5. Do regional authorities give their members advantages over districts not in a regional group, and if so should every district be included in one of the regional groups? 6. If 5. is true, should a WM authority include Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Shrops, Herefordshire and Staffs? This would cover an area similar to the Government Office of the West Midlands that was scrapped by the last government. 7. If the region is bigger than WM county should it have a more friendly name, such as Mercia? 8. Is there an alternative to powerful regional authorities, perhaps a regional forum for the existing authorities to discuss common interests, without a vast expensive bureaucracy like the one that killed off WMCC? Or a regional authority that has only limited powers such as transport, leaving most powers to the existing authorities? With members nominated from each local authority rather than by direct election? 9. Should a regional body be dispersed among the member towns to stop any one city grabbing the lion's share of the benefits? There will be space in existing council offices as local government shrinks with the cuts. 10. Would tax-raising powers combined with spending powers, prevent the "spend-it-or-lose-it mentality" that currently wastes so much public money? 11. Would a referendum on devolution be any use if the electorate didn't know exactly what they were voting for? 12. Should Coventry's approach to a WM authority be, "Yes, but only if...."? Forward any other thoughts that will help the Society make a representation on this crucial matter. Please email them to lesfawcett@hotmail.com

Following this, enforcement officers accompanied Paul on a tour of the area taking photographs themselves. It was pointed out that unless issues are reported they can’t do anything about the problems in the various areas they have to cover. The Council’s Environment and Housing Enforcement Manager, Helen Caves, said: “The Council has been working hard to tell residents how to properly dispose of household waste, as well as carrying out campaigns to take legal action where people continue to act irresponsibly. We have recently taken a number of people to court and we will continue to take legal action against those who refuse to obey the law.” Residents seeking further support or information are asked to call her department on 0500 834 333.


THOSE with a keen eye might have noticed that another city centre building has now been taken over by Coventry University. Portal House, a modern six-storey building in New Union Street - once the home of a Job Centre - now provides office space for the university’s professional services staff, freeing up space elsewhere for academic expansion. This acquisition is the latest in a long line of projects which has seen the institution transform itself from a well-respected polytechnic in the 1980s to an audaciously ambitious new university which, from 1992, has grown enormously in both size and stature. The university was named ‘Modern University of the Year’ for a second consecutive year in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide (2015) and the latest accolade saw it rise to a staggering 15th place in the Guardian league table of universities – the highest place ever achieved by a former polytechnic and a better performance than many Russell Group universities. This success is reflected in the growing footprint of the university in Coventry city centre. The latest new building project is in Much Park Street, where a state-of-theart Science and Health University building: Portal Building is currently under construction and scheduled for completion in 2017. This will add to an impressive list of new buildings completed in recent years – including the spectacular Engineering and Computing Building (2012), the stylish student union building known as The Hub (2011), the cavernous Student Centre building in Gulson Road (2006) and the award-winning Lanchester Library (2001). In addition, a number of existing Coventry buildings – like Portal House - have been given a new lease of life by the university and these include iconic buildings like the former Odeon cinema complex, the William Morris Building and, more recently, Elm Bank - once a school but later a training centre for teachers and

council staff. Coventry University has also transformed the former Rolls Royce site in Parkway into a large Technology Park. Future plans include the purchase of the city council’s large estate of civic centre buildings in Little Park Street, which will result in a major redevelopment of the area after the council moves to new offices at Friargate. The university has also said it wants to buy the shops in Earl Street and the flats above to include that area in any new development. Alongside these initiatives has been a massive expansion of student accommodation with a number of new buildings and the conversion of many existing buildings into student halls of residence – many of them managed by private companies. Taken together, all of these developments have obviously had a huge impact on Coventry city centre and have inevitably generated some criticism. The Coventry Society has already raised questions about the wisdom of plans to demolish the distinctive post-war buildings in front of the Council House (see Newsletter, April 2015). And some critics have questioned the continued encroachment of the university into every corner of the city centre. But whilst such criticisms are perfectly fair, they should not obscure the fact that Coventry University is a major success story and ought to be loudly applauded. Its influence upon the city centre – economically, socially, culturally and academically – has been enormously beneficial to the city, bringing a spark of vitality that would otherwise be lacking. And the quality of its architecture and urban design has been of the highest quality. It is also quite possibly the only organisation in the city capable of taking over some important heritage buildings, if it has the will to do so. Whitefriars is an obvious example, and the listed Sports Centre might be another candidate if the council abandons that building. Yes, there’s an urgent need for other institutions to invest in our city, particularly in the retail sector, and one hopes that City Centre South will soon get off the ground. But meanwhile let’s be thankful that Coventry University is doing so much to create a more vibrant city. John Marshall

A group of eight dedi ated olu teers asse led at Ce tral Li rar o Ci i Da , “aturda Ju e 20, to lear ho to do a proper sur e of War Me orials. It as part of the Co e tr “o iet ’s halle ge of re ordi g the o diio of all of the First World War Me orials i the it . A a Wilso , Ci i Voi e’s “e ior De elop e t Oi er War Me orials , pro ided the trai i g a d led us arefull through the pro ess of o plei g a sur e a d pui g the results o to the aio al o li e data ase. Ater lu h our i trepid sur e ors e t out i to the it e tre to sur e a ariet of the it ’s e orials. I total i e e orials ere sur e ed o the da a d our olu teers o ited to re ordi g a other 25 as ho e ork. We are o ell o the a to eet our target. The all e jo ed the e perie e a d lear i g a d are e thusiasi a out helpi g i the future. Our ater oo sessio as so e hat afe ted i di g out that our a ess to the War Me orials O li e We site as lo ked the Contacts Cou il’s ire- all! We a aged to sort out a Postal address: ork-arou d usi g our o laptops tethered to 77 Craven Street, Coventry CV5 8DT o ile pho es – a it Heath Ro i so ut it Chairman’s tel: 024 7640 2030 orked ell e ough to de o strate ho to put Email: info@coventrysociety.org.uk our results o li e. If Twitter is your thing, you can follow us The e orials proje t has rought so e posii e at https://twitter.com/#!/CovSoc We also have our own page on pu li it to the “o iet , i ludi g a i ter ie o Facebook. BBC Co entry and War i kshire, a ideo o the You can also follow us there at BBC fa e ook page a d a ari le i the O ser er. http://www.facebook.com/ John Payne CoventrySociety

53 july 2015  

The July 2015 edition of the Coventry Society monthly newsletter.

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