Watching David Attenborough’s film ‘A Life on our Planet’ and meeting Bill Grimsey from ‘The Vanishing High Street’ when he looked at Worksop and Retford, it is clear we are at a tipping point where we will thrive if we focus on working with the natural world and how we can regain balance and true sustainability. This is the time to build back better and give everyone in North Notts a stake in our place and the environmental issues we know we can improve if everything we do is for our community. Localism on steroids is the best way we can all drive the economy from here.
We have a head start over other areas. With 15 new faces on the Place Board from the private, public and voluntary sectors and new Chair Jon Rogers from Createinn Ltd and Vice Chair Rebecca Morris-Buck from Creswell Crags we are well positioned. On one hand we know we have better stories, the breathing space and connectivity to cities. On the other, we know our shortcomings and we owe it to younger generations to make changes. They will not tolerate the damage of previous generations homogonizing every high street to look the same around the country, the dominance of the car in our lives, having no seasonality in our food, the inequality, lack of diversity and to constantly see money spent in the area going elsewhere and not supporting the community.
Perhaps we have lost track of our identity over the past 50 years – the things about our place that make us unique. Stop and think about all the good things a town like Worksop, a village like Barnby Moor or the Welbeck Estate offer and you soon realise we have an embarrassment of riches here.
What’s the plan then? Let’s take stock of where we are, be honest about our strengths and weaknesses and decide as a group of residents, businesses and visitors how we dream our community could look and feel. We need all ages, viewpoints and backgrounds to be part of this - the more diverse the ideas the better. We need to open up green spaces to our canal and river banks. Worksop flooded in 2019 because our Victorian ancestors built over the top of the River Ryton and never thought climate change would threaten the world the way it is now. Imagine if we opened the river up again and did away with some of the buildings, the pedestrianised streets, the tarmac and concrete to make way for natural spaces and wildlife.
We must make an inventory of all the property on our high streets to flush out absent owners who do not care what happens to the buildings. That may mean we lobby for compulsorily purchase of all buildings and dream of being waterside communities - such healthy and happy places to live, work and visit.
Covid-19 has moved us all 10 years into the future with our use of technology. It was already there and lockdown forced us to use it to live, work, shop, stay in touch with loved ones and our healthcare. Some habits have changed forever now. Walking, cycling and green space are more important than ever for our health and well-being.
Imagine Retford market square and Worksop cinema square packed with bars and restaurants. High tech libraries, hot desk work spaces and business incubator hubs, adult training facilities and mobility centres for our ageing population at the heart of our towns. Driverless electric cars and buses ferrying us around. Food from our land being prepared and delivered to our homes. We could make this happen so let’s start dreaming it now.
We need place-shaping in our hearts and minds right now so we can all play a part in shaping what our community needs to be from now on. In my experience of place-shaping on North Notts for over the past five years it is only successful if it serves the community and has a good team of leaders who are custodians of North Notts – a mix of residents and the businesses. In that short time, I’ve been part of the team that launched the BID that has brought over £3m of investment into our towns and villages including events like the Party in the Square last summer. It’s time to do more.
We need your help. We know that in your everyday life, you make North Notts a hero by singing its praises. You are always happy to offer anything you can yourself, or through the organisation you represent to help make things happen. You can offer your opinion, knowledge, experience and personal contacts. You may be a family business and you certainly know the area extremely well and care deeply for people and the area’s future.
More than anything, you want to be a responsible and contributing member of your community and you want to support the decent places there are to go out for dinner, the cinema, theatre and independent shops. You would hate to see them go after all the fun you have had there over the years. And you would like to see them improve and offer more.
Consider becoming a North Notts Envoy to reimagine our community as we reset the balance with the natural world. Covid has forced us to dream of better times, better health and equality. Place-shaping improves perceptions of North Notts and contributes to its future.
North Notts Envoys are proactive ambassadors for the area both nationally and internationally, with the power to influence what is said about us, how we are marketed and how we get known and thought about by people that matter.
North Notts Place Manager