Warwick Portas Pilots.
Well the dust has settled, and you would think it's all been quiet in Warwick since the YouTube video was posted and we submitted our proposal to the Portas committee. You'd be wrong if you did, because Warwick has been far from quiet.
Over 370 towns have submitted a proposal for the Portas Pilot scheme. Presented on YouTube we have watched many of them. There are some great ideas out there, and of course some are similar to ours. So what makes Warwick stand out, and why choose Warwick to be a Pilot Town?
The success of any community project is down to the energy and commitment of its people, and within such a small space of time Warwick proved it has that in abundance.
Walk around Warwick today and you can visually see the mark the Portas Pilot project has left on the town. #WarwickRocks, once just a Twitter hashtag amongst friends, has become a poster campaign showing support for the Portas movement. Hatton & Harding, local bakeries, sports shops, the racecourse, local hotel and church, Underwood Wines van and even Caffe Nero have put a Warwick Rocks poster in their window, uniting the town. Very cleverly the designer and printer Liquid Blu and Ginger the art of Print only allowed red, blue and white to be used, making them perfect for jubilee celebrations. They're here to stay, just like our new-found enthusiasm and newly-formed Town Team.
The media train hasn't stopped either. The success of the community story and Warwick Rocks campaign has received attention from local media and businesses. As I help to run WarwickTweetup, local businesses and the media contact me for help or stories on local issues, but Warwick Rocks has been incredible. This month we are featured in Warwickshire Life magazine, and next month we will be in a new magazine called Edge. I'm also in talks with a new magazine who contacted me to offer help to local businesses totally on the back of the Warwick Rocks poster campaign. We've had interest in the idea of a town mobile App from a local developer, and many new people have joined Twitter and attended Twitter School to keep up with the super fast grapevine, so we have the makings of a great follow up campaign.
The great thing about Warwick's efforts on this Pilot proposal are that everything is open. It's live on Twitter, Facebook, this blog and others too. We completely share what we are thinking and doing. Communication is so key to the success of any community, and this has been proven with the movement in Warwick. The campaign has forged new contacts, and we have more information fed to us from new areas - this is a brilliant step forward. Win or lose this Pilot, we have already won so much for our town in terms of brilliant relationships and our fabulous Town Team.
Unfortunately there has been a set-back this week. Disaster struck in the form of traffic. Bad traffic - the enemy of our medieval town, which was never designed for the motor vehicle. Before Easter, roadworks began, designed to improve the pedestrian experience and slow the high street traffic down. Views are split on the works, and obviously nobody likes sitting in queues. The car is our way to get freedom, and when something stops that from happening it angers us. There was disruption before this week, but the return of the school traffic after the Easer break added to the rainy weather forced many more cars into Warwick's road system. More people drove than walked or cycled as the weather was so poor.
Something had to give. Bursting at the seams, Warwick's morning queues spilled onto the neighbouring bypass and motorway, network causing the A46 and M40 to halt. That was the final straw. Once you upset the bigger road network, something simply has to be done - and fast. The decision to stop northbound traffic on The Butts was taken. The give way system at the top of the Butts (due to the very narrow entrance) meant that by making it one way, incoming traffic flowed better. Although at first this confused and surprised motorists, it did alleviate the problem on the A46 and M40. The Highways Agency had spoken, and poor Warwick suffered.
What we have to remember is this: the works being carried out are to make the high street more pedestrian friendly and safe for the walking trade. The Portas 28 recommendations include:
"Town Teams should focus on making high streets accessible, attractive and safe."
The works were already planned, but at least they are for the future good of the town and not going against what we are trying to achieve with the Portas Pilot...despite the immediate disruption to the town. Bad timing? Well, I guess it depends which way you look at it - or indeed how you spin it!
One thing's for sure, Warwick is certainly vocal and that's great. If it wasn't, it would mean we didn't care. Warwick Rocks even when it's blocked! Let's hope that the works and the disruption leave us with a safer place for visitors, and encourage more people into our wonderful town.
What do you think about the works in Warwick? Will the final product be worth the pain? Comments welcomed and indeed passed on to those who care.
Thanks for reading;
Todd @UnderwoodWines & @WarwickTweetup