COMMENT: Shoreditch style and chin rubbing as the task force comes to town

By Peter Madeley | Opinions | Published:

Puzzled looks were etched across the faces of a good few shoppers in Bilston when a large group of 'experts' appeared to run the rule over the state of the town centre.

The task force took a stroll through Bilston to get a feel for the place

And it's little wonder – a well heeled looking lot stroking their chins as they gaze at the boarded up remnants of Bilston's "retail offer" is always likely to have that effect.

The town centre task force was in town, and it was clear from their Shoreditch stylings and impressive CVs that they meant business.

While well meaning, and forming part of a welcome £4 million funding boost to revitalise the town, there was a slightly patronising air to the whole affair.

In some respects, it is likely that few – if any – of the task force had ever been to Bilston before, and so getting a feel of the place they have been hurled in to help may well have been beneficial.

But as one local put it to me as he stared at ensemble as they gathered outside Argos: "What the bl**** hell does that lot know about Bilston?"

It was a fair question. Take task forcer Jake Heitland, for example, a commercial manager at London-based project managers Lendlease, who describes himself as follows: "Urbanist believing that through intelligent design, meaningful stakeholder engagement, and viewing complex problems through new lenses, better places must be created to allow for happier, safer, more beautiful and more equitable cities all while addressing the impacts of climate change at scale. All this whilst still achieving financial feasibility in order to bring these lofty yet worthy goals into reality."

Nope, me neither.


It is hard not to think back to the work of High Street guru Mary Portas, who turned up in Wolverhampton in 2012 with 100 grand stuffed into her Prada handbag and a mission to breathe new life into its recession hit city centre.

Her plan to bring the city's dozens of empty stores back into use never quite got off the ground, and she eventually tootled off back down the M1 having achieved nothing.

Hopefully the task force will have more success, and their next visit to Bilston is a celebratory trip to watch the Steelmen followed by a night out in the Market Tavern.

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.


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