You probably have heard about the #SaveCQ campaign and the push to submit objections to the developers by Monday 3rd April. As per my habit these days, when I submit to a public consultation I will also blog it… you know so someone will actually read it.
As the pre-planning consultation for the demolition of the Cathedral Quarter draws to a close, hundreds of people have already submitted their objections, many of them using the amazing template drawn up by #SaveCQ. I'm going to use this as a template but I will also add the following...
Dear Castlebook Investments,
In addition to the 10 points that have been compiled by #SaveCQ, which are all relevant and in particular outline the way in which this development falls outside the bounds of policy and the law, I would like to add another objection which is difficult to tie into legislation but that I feel is just as important when we consider how this area can be best developed.
Seventeen years ago I was working on the Shankill Road and a flyer appeared in my office for something called the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. It was the first time I had heard the name ‘Cathedral Quarter’ but over the next three years I became aware of a part of the city where key figures in the arts were driving regeneration. Three years later I was on the board of the festival attending meetings in the North Street Arcade and involved with the ‘Let’s Get it Right’ campaign relating to the proposed Royal Exchange project.
In the subsequent fourteen years a succession of developers have made profits from speculating on this site while arsonists, vandals and weak legislators have done their best to begin the demolition before planning is in place. Throughout this time, despite these problems the arts community has continued to invest their time and passion into the area. I have continued to work with CQAF, I have run Culture Night in the area, showed hundreds of adoring visitors round it’s streets but most of all I have become part of a community.
The Cathedral Quarter is not just buildings, it’s a place defined by the people who use it. This is my community and one of the places I belong. Over the last 15 years countless people have strived to build this community, this sense of place. It is written on the walls and steeped in the bricks. This wholesale demolition of 12 acres of the Cathedral Quarter will rip that community apart and the years of work by hundreds of people will be lost.
That’s not to say that we can’t rebuild. A sympathetic development would have arts provision in it. It would have units suitable for small traders and craft producers not big brands. It would have residential units at it’s heart, units not just for students but for families and retired people. A good development would look to build on the amazing energy that pumps through the streets, a celebration of what Belfast does well - it would look to facilitate the community that already calls the Cathedral Quarter home.
This proposal has no consideration for the ecology of the city, the balance and the rhythms of the Cathedral Quarter. It is a plan that is rooted only in greed and maximising profits. Ironically it is doomed to failure in even this regard. The roots of these plans are over a decade old. The world has moved on and Belfast has moved on too. Creative and culturally led regeneration has worked all over the world while these sorts of developments are being sited as outdated, pointless and most of all bad business.
I would therefore like to register my objection in the strongest possible terms to the core ideology at the heart of this plan. This is not a plan that will help Belfast. As a businessman this is not a plan that will help me. This is a plan that will end the community that I and hundreds of others have helped to build and a community that is working despite the failures of investors.
To be blunt I don’t believe you know our city and I don’t believe that you care about our city. I will appeal to you as businessmen then to consider that the people who do care and do know the city might have some idea about how a successful and profitable development might work.