Monday, 21 April 2008

The Winckley Debate

Since the Council announced proposals in February to radically transform Preston’s Winckley Square, one of the recurring criticisms from opponents of the scheme is that the history of the landmark will be destroyed.

Are these people drastically over-traditionalistic or do they have a point? To find out exactly where the history of Winckley Square begins, we need to travel back over 200 years.

In 1801, under the reign of King George III, the construction of the Square began in an affluent area of Preston, named after wealthy land owner Thomas Winckley. This would soon become renowned as “the finest example of a privately planned Georgian development with open space in the North of England.”

The fact that the Square has been around for two centuries would be enough for some to object the plans for redevelopment. Very often, we take age as the overriding factor when it comes to the “history” of particular sites.

Some would quickly point out that Preston has many much older sites than Winckley, though. So is age really a factor here?

Perhaps the objections have more of a green basis instead. It is particularly fashionable to campaign for the environment in today’s political climate.

The announcement that many green areas of the Square will be covered in granite and tarmac walkways would certainly leave a bitter taste in many a Greenpeace campaigner’s mouth.

So is it history or the environment that is really the cause of many people’s objections at the proposals?

Surely the answer has to be both. There have always been a substantial traditionalist element in Britain. It is part of our culture, this reluctance to change or modernise. We would all be rich if we had a pound for every time someone mentioned the “good old days.”

Similarly, we have a section of society that would recoil in horror at any report of the felling of a tree or even a flowerbed.

So, to refer back to the question of what the root cause of people’s objections to the plans, the answer is actually our own culture. After all, we wouldn’t be British if we didn’t have something to have a good moan about.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Winckley Revamp Met by Mixed Reaction

The proposed multi-million pound redevelopment of Winckley Square in Preston has attracted a mixed reaction from UCLan students.

The £3m project would see the 200-year-old landmark transformed by the introduction of granite footpaths, metal artwork and a central fountain which doubles up as a stage when dry.

The audacious plans would also see the square flattened out and new trees and flowerbeds planted to replace old ones.

The plans have prompted criticism from many leading fugures. Leading conservationist Mike Turner described the idea to hang metal letters on trees as "daft" and "self-indulgent."

Darryl Stott, 21, of Marsh Lane, Preston, echoed Mr Turner's views. He said:
"I don't think anyone can doubt that the square needs a lot of work to spruce it up, but the proposals just seem a bit arty-farty to me.

"Why do they want to hang letters from trees? It won't have any benefit for the overall state of the Square. It's just ostentatious in my opinion."

Another concern is that many of the green areas and several trees will have to be cleared to make way for the granite walkways and central fountain. There are already plans to fell 13 trees whose roots have been damaged by decay.

Mike Haigh, 20, of Leighton Street , Preston, said:
"I can't see how reducing the green aspect will have any benefits. I love sitting in Winckley and watching the squirrels on a sunny day.

"If the proposals go ahead, I don't see how any of the wildlife could survive. The only thing I can think of is that they replace all the green areas they want to take away with new trees and flowerbeds."
Despite the criticisms, there are many people who believe the revamp will bring Winckley Square into the 21st Century.

David Priest, 21, of Eversleigh Street, Preston, said:
"I saw the artists' impressions in the paper and I thought they looked amazing.

"I hear some people say that the plans might destroy the history of the area, but it's clear that it needs a big face lift to survive.

"Some of the trees are full of decay and many areas are overgrown and untidy. The new Square will help regenerate the whole area."

Winckley Square Slideshow

This slideshow looks at the current state of Winckley Square, Preston, and how the proposals for its redevelopment will change it. It is a multimedia accompaniment to the two articles above, that I wrote as part of my Digital Newsroom module. All the photos are my own, which I took on April 17th 2008.

Monday, 24 March 2008

The Orient Express

Anyone who has read a newspaper or seen a news bulletin in the last week will know that there is unrest in the Far East.

Beijing has come in for heavy criticism from various nations after its reaction to Tibetan protests after undercover journalists managed to produce footage showing Chinese military patrols on the streets of Lhasa.

The extent of Chinas's supposed tyranny stretches further however. A report on the Chanel 4 News last Thursday (C4 News, 20/03/08) suggested that Tibetans who had gone missing were most likely captured by Chinese authorities for torture or even execution. The report claimed that the missing had virtually no chance of being seen by relatives again.

The Chinese regime has been criticised many times before for its human rights record and the Riots and protests in Lhasa have done nothing to quell the accusations.

Gordon Brown stated in last week's Prime Minister's Questions that he opposes Beijing's approach to Tibet and this attracted a response of condemnation from the Chinese government. Indeed, a BBC News report (BBC News, 21/03/08) described China's message to the rest of the world as one of "mind your own business."

It is perhaps unsurprising that China's state-controlled media has blamed the Dalai Lama for the troubles, given the icy relationship he has endured with the Chinese administration. The rest of the world seems to have sided with Tibet's spiritual leader, whose name means "Ocean of Tranquility."

The global response to the riots is extremely expected, but less so is the future of the relationship between China and Tibet.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Nicolas Swear-kozy

The outcry over French President Nicolas Sarkozy's outburst seems to have caught the media's attention well and truly.

Mr Sarkozy was caught on camera verbally insulting a man at a farming fair in Paris for refusing to shake his hand. Analysis of the footage shows the man saying: "Oh no, don't touch me, you'll dirty me."

Sarkozy responded by saying: "Get lost then you bloody idiot, just get lost!"

The incident has given the media a field day, with newspapers and online news sites giving much attention to the incident.

Indeed, Mr Sarkozy has been a storming success in the press, particularly with regards to his romantic involvement with former model Carla Bruni. Sarkozy has been given the sort of publicity usually reserved for A-list celebrities.

Admittedly, Sarkozy's home life is unorthodox for a world leader and many sections of the media have seized on this. The Daily Mail, for instance, has been highly critical of the relationship. Many french newspapers have also reportedly been less than complementary about Ms Bruni.

Whether or not Sarkozy's politics will replace his personal life as the main focus of the media remains to be seen, but given time, the press will surely tone down their emphasis on his private life.


Wednesday, 13 February 2008

McCain vs. Obama?

Super Tuesday left an anticlimatic aftertaste for the media. It was supposed to be the defining moment in the US Presidential election.

Instead the last few weeks have proved far more conclusive as to who will be running for the White House in November.

Republican John McCain now looks certain to win his party's nomination after main rival Mitt Romney suspended his campaign on February 7. McCain has a large lead over Mike Huckabee, and it would take a miracle for him to be overtaken.

The Democratic race remains too close to call, though. Barack Obama's recent momentum has given him a slight lead over Hillary Clinton. Clinton's campaign depends on next week's vital primaries in Texas and Ohio.

The media believe she needs to win both states if she to have a realistic chance of defeating her rival. Obama's momentum may prove the difference, though, and next week should provide a clearer picture.


Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Not-So-Super Tuesday

It was billed as the day that would reveal the two White House contenders. Instead, it left us exactly where we started – with no idea who would get the chance to run for president.

So-called “Super Tuesday,” where 22 American states went to the polls for their presidential primaries, turned out to be something of a disappointment. The media had billed it as the defining moment in the campaign trail, the day when two clear frontrunners would emerge.

The Democrat race proved to be particularly fraught, with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama almost neck and neck after all results were in. Both candidates claimed victory, although both were to some extent right in doing so.

Clinton won more delegates overall, although Obama claimed more states. The intense battle between the two looks certain to go all the way, with neither managing to enjoy a clear lead.

Worryingly for the Obama camp, though, his recent surge in momentum was unable to produce a clear advantage for him, and that should give Clinton fresh confidence.

The Republican campaign proved slightly more conclusive. John McCain was the happiest of the candidates, gaining a lead of several hundred candidates over nearest rival Mitt Romney.

Even so, McCain is still nowhere near the number of delegates needed to secure victory, and his rivals will no doubt continue to push him hard. And despite his healthy advantage, Romney and Mike Huckabee will still feel they have a part to play in this election.

So, while “Super Tuesday” turned out not to be the climax of this fascinating election, it does leave an exciting battle ahead for both parties.