Negative mindset stifles city's heritage
By Plymouth Herald | Saturday, November 03, 2012, 05:30
A RECENT editorial in The Herald called for further comment on the airport inquiry. I make the following points.
Photomontage of how the Plymouth Breakwater might look with a giant curtain of spray, as suggested by Jaime Lerner
The Herald recently waxed eloquent over the unusual "attractions" proposed by the distinguished visiting architect Professor Lerner, who pointed out what dramatic improvements he thought Plymouth needed.
His proposed Breakwater light show would be pretty on a balmy summer night, but Plymouth's seasons get confused and the massive costs to the ratepayers in these depleted times would mean an unaffordable mission and a great burden on a city which cannot even afford a basic upgrade of its depressing 'Skid Row' Bretonside bus station.
The professor would not know that the city fathers will not release their frantic grip on anything to do with the much-needed proper development of this besieged city.
Professor Lerner's observations may have merit, but there are those of us of this city who have also lived in great places across the world, and coming back to this sad, deprived and once-proud place, feel an acute sense of loss and frustration at the infra-structural damage and architectural vandalism which has been inflicted on Plymouth since the Blitzes by certain vested interests.
The demolition of the Mount Batten RAF seaplane base, which held a unique place in aviation history, denied the city of a truly valuable international tourism asset. The circular medieval tower built there served as an ack-ack gun emplacement in WWII. It still has great potential as a most interesting attraction and museum.
On the western precinct, over the Stonehouse bridge, carved under a rocky outcrop, is the WWII Combined Ops HQ in a network of bomb-proof offices, briefing rooms, barracks and an operational deployment centre, still to be reclaimed as an intriguing tourist feature. But that would be a forlorn hope, given the council's negative mindset and its well-developed facility for finding reasons why positive projects should not be permitted.
Proposals I submitted to the council and to the 'disappeared' so-called Plymouth Development Corporation elicited no reactions. It had moved into a small part of Devonport, took up residence in Admiralty buildings, took over former naval/marine housing, manicured some homes, sold them and were suddenly, gone! (Apparently after having received EU development funding).
There are at Mount Batten, Staddon Heights, near Plym Bridge and Plympton, opportunities to fully research and develop ancient tourist attractions of great interest, and given that most English schools do not consider historic knowledge as relevant, children are missing out, as are tourists.
At an ancient site not 300 metres from The Herald office and several hill fort sites around Plymouth there are probably amazing discoveries yet to be made, all which could add to the this city's already rich, but now sadly ignored historic heritage.
So, city council and leader Cllr Tudor Evans, please stand to... heed good advice. Engage with those of us who were launched into life from this port, have seen bits of the world and who know what works. Give me a year as creative consultant and I begin by producing a Festival of Plymouth with an old-style Barbican Regatta, (after a de-con operation to clear the pollution in the harbour), traditional Barbican street sports, military tattoos, a "son et lumiere", a period costume ball on the Hoe and other events which could form the basis for further festivals.
But first we need to unlock the deadlock which has been created to delete Plymouth's airport and its status as a regional airline centre.
From the profile of events which have resulted in the closure, I believe that certain unusual procedures and sequential practices have been used.
The vectors employed in the strategy, such as SHG negotiating to sell Air South West to the Hull-based Eastern Airlines and the commissioning of a firm of Westminster-based accountants to produce figures to 'prove' Plymouth's inability to utilise its airport and to show that its airline was not able to operate at a profit, by setting out preloaded 'negative' findings beforehand, should be raising questions, as I do.
Since Plymouth's rail and road links are highly expensive, costly in man hours, it is time that Plymouth be free to function by recovering its regional airline service . A proper city council has a duty to its 350,000 citizens and its industries to provide all support and encouragement for its aviation services, and this includes a flying school, perhaps under the auspices of the University.
And since Plymouth was one of the original Cinque Ports of Departure from Britain by Royal Warrant, (as once remarked the Warden of the Cinque Ports, Winston Churchill), it ill behoves any council to block that access. And in terms of the prevention of vital operations of the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the Queen's Flight from using Plymouth Airport, this closure could be seen effectively as an act of sabotage against the state.
As a veteran soldier I am particularly interested in this aspect and suggest that the appropriate military, Naval and RAF authorities at staff level, as well as the Civil Aviation Authorities, commence investigations without delay, so that all operations at Plymouth's Airport can be resumed and both and regional and cross-Channel passenger services can be resumed under professional aviation management. without further delay.