Momentum is gaining in the campaign to try and keep the Quayside Cafe open down by the Hythe. With our friends up at the University of Essex majoring rather well in Economics, but not so in Community Studies, locals around the Hythe, St Andrew’s and Wivenhoe are stepping up efforts in highlighting how Town ‘n Gown has become rather one sided of late.
You may remember that the University confirmed at the start of the year:
“It is correct that the Quayside Cafe will be closing at the end of this term, in March 2012, as it is making a loss and our priority is to invest in providing facilities for our students. We recognise that this will be a disappointment to the small, but committed, number of cyclists and walkers using the Wivenhoe Trail, but we do need to prioritise our spending on the needs of our students.”
It now seems that the small and committed are becoming slightly larger, with growing support from across the Town side of the equation to try and keep the Quayside Cafe open. Local councillors from neighbouring wards have put aside any party differences and spoken out against the decision. Labour’s Cllr Julie Young [broken CBC links ahoy!] from St Andrew’s stated:
“I am very disappointed that the University are removing this community facility that is used by walkers, cyclists and the large number of students at The Quays. The University is developing new social facilities as part of The Meadows Development but this is the other side of the Railway Line and in my opinion not convenient for the 800+ students that live at the Quays.”
Meanwhile, LibDem Jon Manning of Wivenhoe Cross has questioned how and why the University is treated as a special case when it comes to planning in Colchester:
“What this really shows is that despite its claims that it is an education first establishment it works very much on a business footing. The University clearly puts money over the community well being of its students. The recent planning app saw the University get permission (deferment conditions dependent) to put more rabbit hutch style bedrooms near to the Knowledge Gateway with little social space. A common room was part of the plan but here they are closing a current community facility to turn it into bedrooms.
Should the University therefore act like a business and be treated as all other businesses in Colchester, or should they be treated as a community asset. I would be interested to hear views on this as it has always been a conundrum to me.”
Even the most definitely overtly non-party political Mayor of Wivenhoe, Cllr Bob Needham, has written to the University, expressing the concern of the local Town Council.
And just to prove how such a hyperlocal issue has legs, local poet Mr Mule has managed to raise the issue to a wider audience with his always engaging weekly column in the East Anglian Daily Times. Appearing over the weekend were the following words [slightly edited down, and posted with the very kind permission of Martin.]
“The Uni giveth and the Uni taketh away. May I be the first to say that I’m beginning to get a bit fed up with the University, their Knowledge Gateway, the attendant tearing up of lovely old trees and the hideous new access road which cuts onto Clingoe Hill. I’m also sick of them gnawing big chunks out of the green buffer, which separates Colchester from the rest of Tendring. I hate the arrogant way they just bluster in, knock things down and put up ugly blocks of buildings without anyone calling them to account. How does that work, precisely? Is it all in the sacred name of education?
The Hythe, Colchester’s ancient former engine room, is in transition. It’s being re-tailored for the future. The regeneration of East Colchester is a serious ongoing project and very much a long game. Now, much as this may surprise certain people, the old Hythe does actually have a community what the much-misunderstood unfinished symphony which is the new Hythe doesn’t yet possess are enough of the amenities which constitute normal street life.
The Quayside Cafe, functional, neutral and more importantly, open, is one of the Hythe’s few such assets like many sophisticated things, it’s very simple. You can sit outside it when it’s sunny and you can nip indoors when it’s cold. There are loos there, too. It’s the right thing in the right place. Remove it and you’ll give all the doubters yet more ammo with which to whinny about why the new Hythe is never going to work.
Worth much more to society, than any money it might make, the Quayside Cafe only needs to tick over. And I’ll bet you anything that there’s someone, somewhere in Colchester who’d love to run it. Maybe those Colchester Slackspace people would know? Perhaps Matt, the young man who was temporarily installed at Colchester’s old Bus Station Cafe, could run it? Until recently, when his lease expired, Matt served coffee and cake from a tiny kiosk and also ran a bicycle repair shop next door.
Town and Gown should not just mean occasionally inviting a few of the locals in for a big backslap and bow-tie dinner. Nor should it suffice simply doling out the honorary degrees like dog-treats once a year to a touchingly grateful hoi polloi. Much better if Gown were to ask Town: Look, we can’t really use this cafe at the moment, but we know you like it. How would you like to rent it?” Come on guys. Play fair.”
Large, international economic organisations such as the University of Essex are unlikely to listen to local unrest over how student facilities are managed. But when a facility is also supported by the local community, allowing a little leeway to show genuine community co-operation would stretch a mighty long way.
All the way from Wivenhoe, St Andrew’s, the Hythe…