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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Clean up if you want to attract business

Plans have been unveiled to transform Carlisle’s distinguished old Post Office building into a stately, dignified and much-needed vodka bar.

That is just what that area around the top of Botchergate needs isn’t it?

Another bar.

A bar that specialises in selling spirits and in dealing in special offers for those spirits.

To be fair, it is good news that one of the city’s empty buildings could be renovated and reborn.

The bar would be on the ground floor and there are hopes of a restaurant and offices or apartments could transform the upper floors.

The area around the old post office building has been regenerated in recent years, thanks to the arrival of the Andalusian bar and Nando’s and the establishing of Dempsey’s bar and Ruen Thai on the opposite side of the road.

But as Carlisle’s nightlife struggles for survival, is yet another bar really the answer?

It was hoped that an upmarket hotel chain such as Malmaison could be lured to take over the building, but there were no takers.

Of course, it is all down to market forces and you can’t dictate to a businessman which enterprise he should invest his money in and what wouldn’t be a good idea.

But certain businesses are attracted to certain towns and areas for certain reasons.

It’s not surprising that Malmaison or the like were not interested in the site when Botchergate has such a bad reputation and the city council can’t even keep the streets clean.

The walkways of Botch have long been paved with chewing gum, kebabs, curries, chips and worse.

The situation has improved over the past year or so, but other areas are a disgrace.

John and Liz Bird have complained about the state of Victoria Viaduct underpass after finding human poo, broken glass, pools of urine and generally grottyness when they use it to visit the swimming baths.

The city council has apologised and says keeping the underpass clean wasn’t top priority at a time when the Olympic torch was in town.

Which simply isn’t good enough. What is the point of the underpass? If it is a vital and valued public right of way, then it should be maintained and policed properly.

If it is unnecessary, then why bother at all? Fill it in and encourage people to cross this area of the city at traffic lights and pedestrian crossings.

The same goes for the Hardwicke Circus underpass.

The obvious answer is for us all to have a bit more pride and respect in where we live and for each other.

Sadly, that kind of thinking doesn’t go for everyone and the council has to pick up the pieces.

There is much talk of rebranding the city, of giving it a higher profile nationally, of creating a more go-ahead look and feel.

This is all very welcome and should be encouraged, but it all falls a bit flat when our streets and walkways are such a disgrace.

Councillors have praised the city’s street cleaning team and there’s no doubt they work hard at a grubby, nasty job and Carlisle did look neat for the Olympic torch relay.

But it seems that if you scratch the surface you find another story...

If we want to attract upmarket developments and brands to Carlisle and all the money and opportunities that they bring, we have to provide a setting that suits them.

If we can’t do something as basic as clean up our streets, there’s little chance that the city will be able to move forward, attract new business and new jobs.

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