I just had an email through from petition site 38 Degrees about petitions regarding the Portsmouth Arches.
They wrote that “Anita”, the petitioner who wants to “save” the arches, argues:
“Please do not allow Old Portsmouth’s historic arches to become low-rent art studios, cafes and a brasserie. Residents are objecting to this development for the same reasons that any person would object to a proposal to plant a café in the middle of Stonehenge.
What we have now is an area of international repute and interest. Once it has been tampered with, it will have gone forever.”
Here is what I wrote back:
Thanks, I have already voted.
I will be clear about this. Those arches are NOT comparable historically to Stonehenge – making such a statement is idiotic and shows a lack of understanding of the relative importance of 1) a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site on the one hand and 2) a cleared building site that has been too long neglected on the other.
The Barracks whose foundation outlines can be seen on the ground outside the arches were knocked down in the 1950s. The arches are all that remains of that complex of buildings, being the place where the gunports designed to protect the harbour were sited.
If your nimbyist is so keen on historical authenticity, then I suggest she petitions to get the barracks rebuilt, a thousand or so soldiers billetted there, the pubs reopened down the road, the brothels opened at Point and some good old-fashioned interservice fighting arranged for the weekends.
The cleared ground that sits by the arches at the moment is prime development ground, and the current empty space exists at a transitional point between developments on the site. It has been left like this for far too long and people have simply got used to it. Its current status is that of an abandoned development site.
The phrase “low rent” arches implies a certain snobbishness in your petitioner’s attitude, as if somehow that is a bad thing. Drawing artists into areas has been shown time and time again to be an asset to an area. Viz St Ives, Hackney, Brick Lane, etc.
I believe that development at the arches in the manner suggested will have two positive effects:
1) it will support art in the area, hard on the heels of which will follow money and will raise property prices even further in this area.
2) it will put good use to a dust-blown empty space that reeks of piss after a Friday night, while protecting it from being developed more fully.
A win all round.
Anita can swivel.
To vote – here are the two petitions: