Beeston in the 2020s – a Lesson from the Past?
Those you who have read my book will be struck by Beeston’s resilience and ability to adapt to the many challenges it faced over the 120 years that I covered. New and innovative industry came, brought good jobs and helped develop new skills; there was a revolution in shopping habits, from one-to-one personal service to self-service and on-line buying; bold housing initiatives provided improved conditions for existing residents and places for the many incomers to live; the arrival of the University as a neighbour brought a new dimension and newcomers - many temporary but some who stayed; four cinemas, activities for young people and a network of private initiatives kept the population busy in their spare-time.
It was a combination that worked for the most part and produced generations of Beestonians that were, in the main, proud of their town, proud of their local independence and content to enjoy what it offered. These are also factors – as I have myself observed – that continue to attract many into the town. They appreciate its opportunities and the friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
Now, as we enter a new decade, with its many new challenges – demands for more and better housing, continuing pressures on local shopping, the need to protect the environment, pressures on jobs from increasing automation, the effects of artificial intelligence – as yet, perhaps not fully understood - and the need to provide for increasing leisure time. These have all come together to present new challenges. In a fast-moving world, these evolving challenges cannot be ignored. We must recognise and respond to the changes that are all around us.
In the recent past there have been important examples of what can be done by local initiatives. The High Road has seen many changes from retail to eateries and perhaps there is room for widening this trend by incorporating a mix of housing. And, the excellent redevelopment of the Canalside Heritage Centre recognises the river and canal as important leisure facilities. But, ultimately, of course, almost all major change will be defined by Local Government and implemented by those whose initiatives they are. The tram and the expected additional developments on the Station Road site and the Plessey site are examples. But input from all who care about our future – and that should include all of us – is essential and can make a difference by developing ideas and driving them forward.
History, I would venture to say, is on our side. Beeston folk have always shown their resilience and their goodwill and I am sure, they will rise to the challenge that this project defines.
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