A few months after I was first elected, back in 2010, I met with a town planner. He had been asked to come and look at Kidderminster and he was astonished by what he saw. How, he asked, could a town turn its back on its waterways? How could a ring road not be a ring? Where was the gateway to the town centre?
All seemed good questions. I have long lost his contact details, but I would be fascinated to meet with him now and bring him to Kidderminster.
A couple of week’s ago, I toured the areas for investment in Worcestershire’s second biggest town. Kidderminster is on the receiving end of around £40 million of inward, government investment.
Long gone is Crown House, described by (then) Prince Charles as the second ugliest building in England. In due course, the site will be developed into an open space. But in the meantime, there are four projects under way.
The old magistrates court, empty for some 20 years, is due to become a centre of creative arts, with an open air food hall and spaces for business to build their creative credentials and share ideas.
The town hall is being developed into a performing arts hub, with cafes, coffee shops and improved facilities.
The Piano Building, adjacent to Tesco, has plans to be utilised in way that will draw more people to the town centre.
And the old Woolworth’s site has been cleared to open the town centre up, and link the commercial centre to the upper area adjacent to the former Glades leisure centre site, in itself destined to be redeveloped for housing.
This is all a significant investment and represents the biggest centre of government improvement funding in the whole county. This is just the last few years. Go back further, and we have seen investment in a new railway station, the Silverwoods development together with the Hoobrook link road, and new traffic infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Bewdley is receiving £10 million of flood defences, to balance the defences put up a couple of decades ago on the west bank.
Investment is important. It acts as a catalyst to further, private sector investment, that brings jobs and training for skills. When the virtuous cycle gets started, everyone benefits.
It is heartening to watch what is going on. But there is always more to be done, and I am keen that Stourport, that has seen little investment since the canal basin was refurbished, gets its fair share in the future.