Chance to develop our creative talents

Malone Road

Belfast

I have never lived in Halifax, but I have known the town for over thirty years. In the recent past, I have made frequent visits with overnight stays.

Throughout 2009, I watched the work of the Don’t Bulldoze Our Library campaign. I saw how the campaign attracted the support of many; I was impressed by the diversity of views which were offered in support of the campaign. It was truly a citizens’ movement; an example of informed and concerned democracy in action.

It is therefore with dismay that I hear the threat to the library has returned, this time in the context of a larger scale regeneration of the area.

I have read carefully and sympathetically the contributions to the Halifax Courier during this week. The contributions of Ms Linda Riordan and Dr Hargreaves are valuable, and need to be taken seriously. Each steps back from the immediacy and asks the citizens to think carefully about what they want central Halifax to be.

This question is one which citizens everywhere, not just in Halifax, need to answer. We are at a critical point in human affairs.

The present financial crisis has now been with us since the late summer of 2007, and has not been solved. The price of energy is rising, and the era of cheap oil is probably over. Together with large scale public expenditure cuts and redundancies, these factors will limit people’s spending power into the indefinite future.

Urban regeneration from now onwards will have to be about more than shopping. It will have to be about creating an environment which will provide for the needs we have beyond being consumers and recreational shoppers.

It need not be bleak. We have an opportunity to develop our own creative talents; to foster conviviality. How this can be done is not easy, but it is where the public debate needs to be. It will require more facilities like those offered by the Central Library. It will need spaces and encouragement to meet and understand each other and our histories; for the performing arts; for recreation and fostering good health, physical and mental.

Mr Gregg’s arguments for the future of the town centre (28 January) are too narrow in their scope; too wild in their unsubstantiated assertions that ‘retaining [retail] market share’ is the future of Halifax.

We citizens – everywhere - are being led, too quickly, to accept proposals which limit rather than widen the debate which is needed for our times. The urgency is fake: beware!

(Dr) Tony Weekes