Planning around Sunny Colch continues apace. One week it’s Col U and Tiptree, the next and it’s the old Police Station along Queen Street. We really should re-brand The Chronic as a Hyperlocal Planning Blog for Local Authority Planning Database Portal Lovers.
Add in the Fool’s Gold of the Cultural Quarter, plus the confusion of a planning application submitted by Colchester Borough Council, to be considered by… Colchester Borough Council and you’ve almost got the perfect blog post, Comrades.
If only the prose could match the potential.
And so yep – the app has been submitted to CBC, by CBC to covert the old Police Station at 37 Queen Street in to a Creative Business Centre.
Let’s overlook the slightly less than creative name (um, @37QueenStreet anyone?) and see if the creative potential matches what the Town Hall planners have in store for the old Police Station.
The background is that CBC owns the building. It is integral to the regeneration of St Botolph’s as part of the Cultural Quarter. With the collapse of Western capitalism [YEAH] the project has stalled.
We’ve already celebrated the setback of a hotel chain pulling out of the Cultural Quarter and make it about as radical as a cold cup of tea. Keen observers of hyperlocal cultural theory (hellooo!) have long since been waiting to see what our friends at CBC have in store for the old cop shop.
And whaddya know:
“The brief and subsequent consultation set the programme for 37 Queen Street as a creative business centre, with space for hot-desking, start-up companies, social enterprises, business incubation, grown space and SME anchor tenants. There was a need for exhibition and showcase spaces, and a café and meeting spaces for networking.”
Which sorta sounds rather SEXY.
The application adds:
The temporary bus station will shortly cease to operate, and plans are being mooted to demolish the 1960s buildings further up Queen Street, St James House and Roman House, to be replaced by a hotel [you sure?] All this is in line with Ash Sakula’s 2007 master plan for the St Botolph’s Quarter, which foresaw its development into Colchester’s creative quarter.”
Put simply, the old Police Station needs to work if all of the dots are to be joined to creative a Cultural Trail [STOP IT] from Colchester Town Station up towards the Golden Goose.
It’s a slightly sensitive application with the building being Grade II listed, as well as lying in the Castle ward Conservation Area. Look around the rest of Queen Street however and you can soon see that the patch needs some hyperlocal love right now.
Twenty-three studios are being proposed, as well as an incubation [URGH] cafe, reception area, and outdoor work areas. No suggestion is given in the application as to what type of art will be welcome within.
Art or arse?
Or even ‘messy art’ – y’know, the sort that involves grand splattering of materials and boiler suits to be worn.
That’s what we call a true creative economy, Comrades.
Employment opportunities are mentioned – six people are currently employed in the building, presumably at the downstairs bar currently leased out to TP’s. A whopping 80 employment opportunities (all self-employed) are referenced in the planning application.
Which is more or less what is currently available just up the road @15QueenStreet – the difference being that it is our friends from CBC that wants to manage the creative process in Sunny Colch…
The highly successful model of 15 Queen Street has been managed by Marc De’ath of the Colchester based Creative Co-op organisation. Local creative businesses can rent out affordable studio space and use the creative networking environment to help grow their businesses.
Will this work at 37 Queen Street?
The Chronic caught up with Marc to find out his thoughts on the application.
“I haven’t been involved in forming this planning application, or formerly in any capacity to look at grass roots management models except for an early conversation with Ash Sakula, the talented Architects who submitted the application, and of course The Creative Coops work on 15 Queen Street, which has hopefully fed in ideas.”
Is this the right application for Colchester and St Botolph’s right now?
“Since I wasn’t involved, I can’t comment on this until I have re-read it, but I am sure there are things I would have done differently… for example how the space was utilised on a meanwhile basis ahead of the refurbishment works and investment being secured.
Based on my limited knowledge of the application, it certainly has much needed ambition, that could elevate Colchester and boost its creative economy by attracting new business into the town as well as continue The Creative Coop and firstsite’s work to support what is already here with 15 Queen Street. I also feel we are lucky to have Ash Sakula working on the project.”
Marc has blogged before about how he sees the old Police Station as the “tipping point” as Colchester strives to reach some of cultural identity. He has argued for risk taking in these challenging of times.
“As my blog says we are at a tipping point for Colchester’s regeneration. CBC’s vision for the old Police Station, I think, has the potential to galvanise the community… if they can effectively manage and engage the stakeholders involved and harness the huge amount of good will.”
As for clues as to what is yet to come?
“The old Police Station important because it’s a statement of intent. It shows how CBC is planning to learn lessons from – and build on the successes of- the firstsite project. It also shows how they intend to approach the rest of the regeneration in what is a very tough economic climate.”
Which we think is an endorsement, of sorts.
What would be… criminal at the old Police Station is if the ‘creative’ vision of CBC ends up being just a bunch of market rate priced desks for architects to rent out. CBC is at least showing some vision in planning to use one of its assets in a creative environment.
Will it help kick start the Cultural Quarter?
It’s got to be better than bashing out blog posts all about planning and hotel chains.