Adam Bird

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Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Angels and Demons

In the middle of last year, sometime before the football season started I wrote about how Gravesend and Northfleet had changed there name to Ebbsfleet United and how wrong I believed it to be.

Well according to the BBC in this article, they were actually paid by the developers of Ebbsfleet to undertake this bastardisation of their name and confirms my feelings of distaste about what my home town club has become.

However, this blog posting, rather than rant on again about those so called "future-thinkers" from Stonebridge Road is regarding the main focus of the above BBC article.

Five artists have been asked to design a sculpture measuring 50 metres (165 ft) that will be visible from road, rail and air.

An estimated 40 million people a year will ride past it on trains and in cars, and the landmark must create a sense of pride and belonging for the planned new town of Ebbsfleet. Ten thousand homes are being built in the next 20 years as part of a huge regeneration project.

Now, initially that sounds quite exciting! I have driven past the Angel of the North, which has become an icon to the locals, as demonstrated in the film Purely Belter! Something similar a bit closer to home would be a great idea.

However, reading from the above quotation "the landmark must create a sense of pride and belonging for the planned new town", I couldn't help but think that the planning people, or powers that be may have got a bit ahead of themselves.

Ebbsfleet, according to the official development website, (which rather interestingly covers all aspects of the project) reveals that the completion date of works is not for another 20 years!

Does this mean that the planners want their designated designers to design something for all these new people who will be arriving over the next 20 years, and feel a sense of pride straightaway?

If I moved to Ebbsfleet when the new houses are built, would I feel that I was moving town? No. I would be moving to another part of Gravesend, no matter what a town planner would tell me. Like moving to Riverview Park, Denton, Singlewell or Painters Ash.

What about those from another area? If I was a Londoner for example, looking to move down to Ebbsfleet for whatever reason, would I feel a pride in the area? Not really I suppose. I would be living there out of a lifestyle choice, as a commuter most probably and my real ties would be elsewhere, and so my home, is just that, a place to eat and sleep.

Or is it for the locals benefit, those people who currently live in Gravesend, Swanscombe and Northfleet and are looking for something that we can all feel pride in, something that will celebrate the fact that 40,000 people over the next 20 years are going to be using our already cramped and busy roads, education resources, medical resources and take over our green spaces?

I realise that millions are going to be spent on additional medical, educational and business facilities, but can you imagine what Bluewater is going to be like with another 40,000 people next door?!

I am by no means a tree hugger, I think that the Ebbsfleet project is rather exciting, I just hope that there is money there for Gravesend, Northfleet and Swanscombe because there are areas in all three towns that are desperate for money to be invested for regeneration. Putting all the eggs into one basket springs to mind here.

The "Angel of the South", could be a good idea, could be a GREAT idea, but I do think it is somewhat premature. Placing it in a field next to a train station will initially attract the wrong kind of attention. But I guess by doing it now, 40,000 people are going to be moving to the area without worrying about the eyesore overlooking there property, rather than trying to get 40,000 people to agree on something that they will never agree on.

It will be interesting to see what designs are put forward, these type of things nearly always cause controversy, and invariably go wrong. One local example that springs to mind is Maidstones Sheep sculpture made from flowers or something and wasn't exactly welcomed by all!

Reading the BBC comments in response to this article makes for some interesting reading. There are certainly some strong opinions about, which is good to see, especially from local people opposing the plan, and agreeing with my point in which anything of this ilk should not be considered when compromising local resources for hospitals and education.

As to what it should look like? Well the Kent Invicta Horse would be an apt choice, especially as it is also part of the Gillingham FC badge - serving those fools from "Ebbsfleet United" right!

Alternatively, randomly pick someone from Gravesend, Swanscombe or Northfleet from the polling records and immortalise them as a 50m brass statue. It would be a completely random brainstormed idea, in fitting with most of the other ideas coming forth from the Ebbsfleet development team!

*There are more details, including the location of landmark on the official landmark site (which by the way, along with ALL of the other Ebbsfleet sites are in flash, and therefore not web accessible, another topic which I won't go into).

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