Our city's future

I wonder what 1717's Derby Civic Society equivalent made of a plan to build a factory on the banks of the beautiful River Derwent.

Did John Lombe have to wade through dozens of committee meetings and explain that his silk mill would be at the forefront of world discovery?

Did a group of borough elders gather in the back room of Ye Olde Dolphin, stroke their chins and agree to fight this new-fangled building because it would spoil the vista?

They might have gathered again in 1725 when James Gibbs was commissioned to update the main body of Derby Cathedral, complaining that his concepts did not nod heartily enough to the 10th century designs.

It would be fascinating to turn back time to understand how planning decisions were made in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries but, of course, that will never be possible.

But we should remember that our history was once our future and that the present will very quickly be our past.

Therefore, in my opinion, Derby Civic Society undermines itself by using pictures from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries to illustrate its objection to plans for a 17-storey tower in the city centre.

Indeed, this constant use of heritage arguments to prevent the natural transition of our city is becoming tiresome.

There is room for both. Regeneration is fundamental to Derby's economic progress. Without it the city will wither and decay.

The city council's tall buildings strategy will be essential in Derby moving forward and I believe planners should have need, viability, demand and land availability at the forefront of its thinking before getting too worked up about height.

However, I know that traditionalists will already be preparing counter-arguments.

They will want to preserve the views of key buildings such as the cathedral and the Silk Mill but, let's be honest, it is not practical to see them from everywhere in the city centre.

In 1938, architect W Godfrey Allen, realising inevitably high-rise development in London, outlined eight protected-view corridors which allowed St Paul's Cathedral to be seen from vantage points in London. 

Allen's proposals were accepted by the City of London Corporation are were upheld by a gentleman's agreement between the City Corporation and developers.

It was not until the 1980s, protected views were given policy status in statutory development plans and are currently implemented through the City of London's core strategy which guides development until 2026.

What is good for the capital, should be good for Derby, ensuring there is always an eye towards history while allowing progress.

However, for any new tall building in the city there should be an insistence on quality.

In my opinion, the University of Derby's copper building and Quad have set the bar in terms of modern, interesting structures, turning heads and provoking debate. They may not be everyone's cup of tea in terms of their looks but nobody could doubt their quality.

We cannot hold back. I am a passionate believer in the Derby story of 300 years of learning and making but we cannot just rest on the past.

If we are going to be progressive, we have to deliver the buildings which current demand requires and find sites for them.

In the here and now we need to provide residential accommodation for workers in the city centre and for university students and to do this we have no choice but to consider high rise.

But Derby is rightly heralded as the capital of innovation and visitors should be able to see this demonstrated on our skyline.

Through remarkable renovations such as The Roundhouse or eye-catching new designs, the next chapter of our exciting story can be written, making both traditionalists and modernists proud.




newspaper article
Stephen Salloway
Contact Details:
Tel 01332 298000

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