From Barrie Bertram.
MANCHESTER is a place that I normally avoid like the plague. However, for reasons partly connected with Jersey, I ventured there last week, and in so doing, realised that Manchester might also present a vision of what Jersey could become with what appears to be a dash for development in the Island.
Granted that my journey was just to that city’s western suburbs, it was still evident that there have been numerous steel and glass developments such as the Beetham Tower, the Lowry and the Imperial War Museum North, multi-storied hotels, and of course, the temple of kitsch, better known to most as the Trafford Centre.
Undoubtedly, these have sprung from the fertile brains of world-class architects for whom money was apparently no object although the well did dry up for Libeskind at IWM North.
Sat alongside some of these developments there remain magnificent buildings from Manchester’s time as an inland port and a centre of manufacturing, most of them now bereft of purpose and thus empty, forlornly awaiting entrepreneurial vision and funds to bring them back to useful life.
If the old, yet still sound, buildings of the industrial age need investment, what of residential and commercial properties? In Salford and Eccles, many are run-down, boarded up, covered with graffiti while in some side streets, the few wheelie bins that may still exist appear to have given up the unequal battle to contain rubbish that provides the wherewithal for vermin to breed and feed.
There has been undoubted financial investment in Manchester, but somehow one gets the impression that the benefits have not flowed down to the lower echelons of society. And to contradict Marx’s view that ‘religion is the opium of the people’, sizeable churches are similarly boarded up after ‘enjoying’ congregations that could be counted on the fingers of one hand!
But of course, it could never happen in Jersey? Yet, developments are under active consideration with La Collette, the Esplanade Quarter and a National Art Gallery just to name a few, and in the current financial climate these will carry a high risk of cost and schedule overruns, coupled with major disruption to St Helier and beyond for years to come.
One might wonder whether or not embarking on all of these projects will fulfil their purpose and improve the average Islander’s quality of life greatly or would they come to be regarded as monuments to political vanity and machismo. There can be a down-side to development and even a slightly darker side if Manchester is seen as the model. Perhaps Jersey could come to be known as Mancunia-super-Mare!
22 Hornby Road,