Tuesday, 14 August 2012

From Paris plages to River Roch, Rochdale

IT is some months now since Colin Lambert, leader of Rochdale Council, and I, were both sitting on a 471 bus as it began its depressing descent down Drake Street, past the wire-netting landscape that surrounds the high-vis jacketed labour force planting the new Metro tracks, approaching Rochdale Town Centre (see posting Tuesday, May 29, 2012:  'No threat to Touchstones').  On that very day Councillor Lambert, disturbed in his game of Sudoku, had assured me that by this Christmas the River Roch and its Medieval Bridges, covered by concrete early in the last century, would be uncovered and at last be visible to the townsfolk to enjoy. 

In 2010 in Northern Voices No.11, I argued that the River Roch ought to be exposed in the Town Centre, basing my argument on an article in the International Herald Tribune on July 16th, 2009 by Andrew C. Revin, in which he wrote:  'The restoration of Cheonggyecheon (river in Seoul) is part of an expanding effort in cities around the world to "daylight" rivers and streams by peeling back pavements that was built to booster commerce and serve automobile traffic decades ago.'

If Rochdale's Labour Councillor Lambert carries through his promise to open up the River Roch and creates his socalled 'culture corridor', he will, perhaps unwiitingly, be reflecting what the current Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, is now intending to promote with 'Paris plages (beaches)' and other planning decisions.  Bertrand Delanoë is reversing a previous era of urban planning in Paris brought about in the 1960s under president Pompidou, in which both banks of the Seine were paved to become urban expressways.  Mr. Delanoë says:  'We are committed to transform the road along the riverbank into a place of life, beauty and culture.' 

In September, a kilometre, or just over a mile of the right bank, starting at the City Hall, will be sharply narrowed, with a series of six new traffic lights designed to slow traffic.  Along the riverside, there will be more pedestrian walkways, pontoons for electric boats, riverside cafes and bars.  Next spring, two and a half kilometres of the left bank will be shut entirely to cars, from between Musée d’Orsay and the Pont de l’Alma, converted into an 11-acre park with volleyball courts, sundecks, and floating gardens perhaps including a branch of the well-known cafe and restaurant from the Buttes Chaumont Park in the 19th arrondissement, Le Rosa Boheur:  this has been nicknamed 'guinguette' and is an informal place for eating, drinking and dancing.   Elsewhere in France there are other attempts to take back the city rivers as in Bordeaux under Mayor Alain Marie Juppé, in Lyons and Toulouse, where there is a project to build a riverside park the size of Central Park in New York.  I wonder if Councillor Lambert's 'culture corridor' and the Council's exposure of the River Roch in Rochdale, will match any of these French projects?   
The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES No.13, now on sale with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:
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