As the last of the of the valley settlements to become a town, Rawtenstall has seen constant changes over the last hundred years, all driven by over-ambition. These are evident in the Library, which stands alone from the great civic project of the 1900s, to the loss of New Hall Hey Hall and the creation of the huge centre island (gyratory) for a bus interchange, and the proposals for the extension of the M66 which has left the dual carriageway ‘by-pass’ ending in a bottleneck at Tup Bridge.
The clearance of the town centre and desire to see an all-singing, all dancing, shopping and leisure complex is the current manifestation of this. The fact remains; if it had been possible, both financially and in terms of access and viability, appropriate development would either have happened a long time ago, or punters would be now be queuing up and vying for favour with our beleaguered Council.
It can’t help but be said that successive Councils have all missed the point; speculation gets you nowhere; what is needed is positivity. Although, some time ago, Lancashire County Council put forward plans and finance for a perfectly functional bus station, RBC’s attempts to make this into something much grander has spiralled into a plethora of overlapping proposals that most people have now lost track of, and put Rossendale in the firing line for most of the possible expense.
In their present form, the plans have mutated into a bus station that will demand road closures, traffic restrictions and multiple control systems, a ‘town square’ shrinking to little more than a widened pedestrian street cluttered with planters and accessed by ramps and steps, and two huge blocks whose uses are still not determined. So how can parking and servicing be anticipated? Royal Mail have made it clear that their early morning activity needs to be catered for, and Lancashire County Council have already said that deliveries must be between 12.00 midnight and 6.30am.
The statement from Councillor Alyson Barnes that none of the new build will be started until takers are found is good common sense, but it rests on the assumption that, despite all the hurdles of access and service, someone will take the risk. Maybe, some day, the present approach to shopping trends and private and public transport will change, but until then, it looks as if Rawtenstall’s future is being shelved for yet another dream based on speculation and uncertainty.
If RBC could accept that the current use of the open space of the square for events and community activities is the demonstration of public ideals, and take this forward as a positive long term factor, it would not only avoid the pitfalls of speculative investment, but bring some stability and assurance. let alone confidence, to a town which desperately needs it. Anything more will surely evolve, naturally, from there.