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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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Must we end up in terminal decline?

We’re not very good with big pictures in Cumbria. There’s something in the DNA that resists them – a built in mechanism that swats them away, as we might flail angrily at annoying bluebottles.

Perhaps it is that we’ve been promised the earth before and received nothing more than a few paving stones.

Maybe it’s that we don’t trust the people we elect as our trusted representatives, or it could be that we simply hate – and probably fear – change.

Whatever the reasons, the fact of the matter is we’re a glass half empty bunch of folks. And we rarely aim high enough to make a difference.

So, when councillors published their vision for a regenerated and revitalised Carlisle city centre, it will have surprised no one that initial reactions to plans for a vibrant central hub of increased retail and enhanced leisure amenities were, to say the least, grumpy.

Characteristically negative observations have sprung from common trains of thought. Don’t like it; don’t want it; don’t need it; can’t afford it; Renaissance promised similar gifts and sank like a lead balloon. And who wants more empty shops, anyway?

All rather depressing, to tell the truth. Personally, I’m really excited by the whole idea of having sufficient faith in the city we call home to want to plan for its protected and reshaped future. But that’s just me.

I’m a bit of a sentimentalist that way and my glass is probably too frequently half full for my own good. I’ve always believed, perhaps a little romantically, that if you love a place well enough you’ll want it to compare with the best – and outshine the rest. And if that’s what you want, you’ll fight for it.

If we’d care to study it, Cumbria’s big picture has potential other counties would give up their boundaries for. An energy coast with national and international importance gives rise to prosperity possibilities way beyond our customarily limited dreams. Our tourism know-how is ripe for development and growth. We could have an airport, if only we’d stop arguing about it and with Carlisle as our county’s shiny new capital, we’d be smiling from ear to ear.

Other cities have successfully reinvented themselves but most have had to be on their knees before realising rescue was in their own hands. Do we also have to sink to the final gasps of terminal decline before we understand the necessity of life-saving action.

If we were honest, we’d all accept Carlisle – though a much loved border city – is a bit down at heel these days. Our city is in need of some tender loving care; some investment of imagination, modernisation... and money.

To avoid it settling into the comfy old slipper realms of outdated small town, Carlisle needs to rise bravely to the future’s challenge, sooner rather than later, because chances have already been lost.

Yes, we have tried before – via the disastrous Renaissance project – and failed miserably to lift Carlisle to her rightful position. But that’s no reason never to try again. In fact, it’s precisely why we should ensure we never make the same mistake again.

When we aim low we risk hitting rock bottom. Aim high and there’s chance of grabbing substantial benefits. If investors and developers want to sink money into our city, who are we to send them away with fleas in their ears?

Carlisle’s future is in our hands. We can craft a bigger and brighter tomorrow or stall all our tomorrows (again) with negativity. I want Carlisle to climb to the top of the city league, proudly boasting an unbeatable, utterly unique character and quality. I believe that aim is worth fighting for. So guys, you can count me into your vision.

Not much perhaps, as the consultation period opens, but it’s a start. The rest is in the hands of a population now asked to grapple with the choice of reaching ambitiously skyward – or sinking fast.

Have your say

West Cumbria, Carlisle & Furness let the rest of the County down.

Posted by Guiy de Montfort L'amaur on 12 August 2014 at 13:41

Carlisle needs to change & be brought into the 21st Century. In the 1980's Carlisle got its act together with the Lanes etc, how ever it is falling behind again. It is in reality a small town not a City.

Posted by Amerindo on 11 August 2014 at 16:19

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