Today sees the first of many big steps in the creation of the ARTches project, the cultural quarter of Portsmouth to be located at The Round Tower and the Hotwalls in Old Portsmouth, with planning approval given for the plans. You can read what looks like the press release from Portsmouth City Council on a few local websites for more details and quotes. But what now?
Over the last few months the application for this project saw a real spike in engagement by local people in the planning process. This engagement in itself is a positive thing, more than ever it is important for people to have their say in what happens in their city. On a not so positive note, this application became a particularly contentious issue with first an opposing petition on the popular social activism website 38 Degrees, swiftly followed by a pro-development petition. As the weeks went on the issue polarised local opinion, seemingly splitting the local community in two, which can only be a bad thing. With the dust settled, hopefully both sides can come together again and find a way where the residents around the development can feel engaged and that in other ways their opinions may be aired too…because in many ways the success of the project must depend in part on the involvement (and hopefully acceptance and approval) of the people who live and work around it.
The next step from here seems to be the application for significant funding for the project, beyond that a not-for-profit business must be created that will oversee the development and the running of the entity once complete. Personally, the part of the plan for the project that hasn’t yet been gone in to detail is the business plan. We know that artists will be able to rent the studio spaces but as of now the details of the selection process, the residency duration, the type of art & craft to be showcased and how these studios will be sustainable and even profitable isn’t clear. Likewise the business(es) who will provide the eating and drinking facilities, etc. Hopefully in the next weeks and months the details will be released.
Personally, I back the creation of a cultural quarter in the city (you can read my thoughts in a previous article on Strong Island HERE) and I hope that moving ahead a split community can come together and back a sustainable business that will not only support arts and crafts in the city but also become a new tourist destination and attraction for Portsmouth.
Having spent 14 days and nights debating this planning application with thousands of people from all area’s of Portsmouth using social media websites I would conclude that support of this planning application was as high as 80% which was in line with the public consultation carried out by Portsmouth City Council. The community was not actually split at all, if anything it was united.