by Colin Campbell
HELEN Smith, who organised a 3,000 strong petition against the Gathering Place, says what’s going on at the riverside site right now is a disgrace.
huge concrete bridge-like structure is being implanted there which bears no resemblance to the pretty picture illustrations of the development presented by the council. Neither does Ms Smith believe the addition of thin stone panels is going to make it much less ugly than it is.
As predicted by so many, a £300,000 concrete monstrosity is shaping up on the former beauty spot site. Only it’s worse.
However, the few in favour of the Gathering Place would say it’s early days yet and let’s just see how it looks when it’s finished. What else could they say about a site decorated with huge concrete blocks and the rest of it strewn with dirt and rubble?
But that’s also a disgrace. The council said when work began early in April that it would take 12 weeks and would be finished “by early summer”.
But now we’re near the end of July and this project is nowhere near finished. In fact apart from the section of concrete hammered in it barely looks like it’s been started.
There are legitimate questions to be asked about the ludicrously inaccurate timescale given out by the council and how long the site would remain a barricaded off building site.
But we’re under no illusions about where things stand now. Questions there certainly are, in multitudes, but they won’t be asked and if they were they certainly wouldn’t be answered.
The council is maintaining its stance throughout by treating the public with utter contempt.
With one or two honourable exceptions councillors have given up on this issue, are turning a blind eye and if they went along for a look at the site would seek out a pile of dirt to bury their heads in.
If work at the site is still going on next year – which does not seem wholly unlikely – I doubt if there would be any questions asked as to why.
And if what finally appears as artwork bears little or no resemblance to the illustrations of what it was supposed to look like, I doubt if that’ll be greeted with much more than a shrug.
It may well be that the controversy over the Gathering Place has dragged on for so long that many people who initially were engaged – and enraged – by it got fed up and switched off.
If so, they were worn down by council intransigence.
It gradually became clear that senior officials and the small number of councillors actively in favour of the Gathering Place, as opposed to those who were either browbeaten into supporting it or reluctantly went along with it, had absolutely no intention of brooking any dissent on the issue.
And that the protesters would have been as good saving their breath.
And now we are where we are, with a huge concrete apparition being implanted in a barricaded off building site with work months behind schedule, and no one apart from a handful of opponents raising so much as a murmur about it.
The council clique who were determined to force this through have got clean away with it, even with the current unholy mess on the riverside and that utterly ridiculous timescale. Neither I believe will they be in the least concerned about public reaction to the finished product. Criticism will just be ignored, drowned out by fake plaudits from the arts “experts” and others involved.
The battle to stop the Gathering Place being built has obviously been lost as the current state of the riverside all too clearly shows.
But the council have set down a marker there as these massive concrete blocks are embedded in what was once a much loved beauty spot. It is: “We can get away with anything and don’t bother trying to stop us no matter what you think.”
Compare the grassy riverside beauty spot that was there with the concrete, rubble and dirt travesty that is there now, which will never be restored to the scenic riverbank site that existed before.
Shame on those responsible for what Helen Smith so rightly describes as a “disgrace”. There has never been a time when those who were supposed to be our servants look more like our masters now.