There’s a maxim in politics: perception is reality. It’s a way of saying that it doesn’t matter what the reality is, the perception that people have is all that matters. It’s true because people vote based on their perception, not based on actual facts.
It’s a warning I raised when the Borough Council’s Executive Committee passed a report on the Redditch Town Centre ‘Conservation Zone’ and in doing so declared it ‘at risk’, which is a term used to describe the risk to the conservation aspects of the town centre.
It’s true – there is a real ‘risk’ that we could lose some of the conservation and heritage aspects of Redditch Town Centre over time if we don’t preserve it by way of a Conservation Zone. Within that zone we have to be particularly mindful of what we allow to happen so that we can preserve what we’ve got and even enhance it for future generations.
Declaring the zone ‘at risk’ does not mean the Town Centre is at risk. It just means we’re in danger of losing heritage aspects if we’re not careful and we might need some more money to make sure we can preserve what we’ve got.
There is a perception, however, when using the term ‘at risk’ and applying to an area in the town centre. It might make people think we are talking about commercial aspects or other measures of success within the town centre. Whilst undoubtedly there are struggles on the high street – as there are all over the country – in this context the report refers to the Conservation Zone and heritage aspects only.
Work is underfoot to bid for up to £25m of funding to invest into the town as a whole as part of the Town’s Fund from HM Government. If Redditch is successful the council will look to implement plans in conjunction with a local ‘Towns Board’ that is chaired by a local business leader. In carrying out any plans it will be important to have due regard for the Conservation Zone.