Tuesday, 16 March 2010

And the Band Played On...But Probably Not at Victoria Embankment

The next battle in NCC's blitzkrieg against the city's arcitectural heritage looks set to be over the 1930s bandstand on the Victoria Embankment.

You may have heard that there is a major project being undertaken to revamp flood defences along the Trent's left bank (taken as if you are facing downstream so the city side). It's already run into a few problems upstream at Attenborough with pesky locals getting in the way and demanding a say.

The scheme extends along the Victoria Embankment and will therefore help protect the meadows from flooding. NCC has teamed up with the Environment Agency to redevelop the park area nearby. All good stuff so far.

Unfortunately, as it's laconically put by NCC (para 1.11), the final plans have

"...until now been based on the demolition of the bandstand, which is not currently a listed structure..."

which seems a bit of a shame. It's not clear as to why this assumption had always been made and there's no argument in the report that such a route is vital. Apparently a listing application has since been submitted and is being considered 'urgently'.

A campaign has been put in place and NCC's comments on that look a little sinister (para 1.12)

"Furthermore, a local resident has been campaigning to save the bandstand. He has collected names of 500+ people suggesting they are in favour of saving the bandstand and may be submitting this to full council in the near future. However, the 'Friends of Victoria Embankment' (FOVE) held a meeting to gauge opinion on the future of the bandstand on 2n February; despite the 500+ petition only 22 people attended the meeting."

Ooh sneaky, you see what they've done there? Rather dishonestly suggesting that the petition may not be all it's cracked up to be because 'only' 22 people turned up to a meeting.

NCC knows as well as anybody else that getting people to go to a meeting for a cause is very difficult and not necessarily representative of prevailing opinion. People tend to have lives to lead and stuff like that. And anyway, the petition is now up to 1200 signatories.

The report continues (para 1.13)

"In order to address this question more directly it is proposed that a more focused piece of consultation will take place to determine people's opinion on the future of the bandstand which will better inform any decision being made following on from the English Heritage assessment."

Call me a cynic but this seems to me to be code for 'doing a Viccy Baths' i.e. when faced with a grassroots campaign that appears to be gathering momentum, NCC uses its vastly superior resources to rig the vote and get the answer it wants. And remember, they are not averse to manipulating schoolchildren in order to achieve this. If your child goes to school in the local area, expect to have to help them with their 'Why Bandstands are Stupid and Should be Pulled Down' essays imminently.

As a side issue I hope that English Heritage do list the bandstand. It is one of the precious few art deco structures in Nottingham (not that anybody at NCC knows their art deco from their arse) and, as far as I know, none of them are listed and to me that's a major omission. It's not as if bandstands per se are not worth listing, both the Arboretum and Casle bandstands are Grade II listed and the latter is little more than a store room for stacking chairs. Both of these are of the more 'traditional' bandstand style but that adds to the argument for listing the Victoria Embankment bandstand because it is of a markedly different architectural style and one that is pretty rare in Nottingham. Furthermore it's a strong argument for it not to be buldozed.

A BBC report on the campaign.

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