Speakers at the “Opportunity Hayes” seminar last night spoke up in favour of strong collaboration between the public and private sector organisations involved in Hayes as a key factor in the success of the regeneration activity proposed, but warned against compromise and cost-cutting on the town’s new Crossrail station.
The seminar (pictured right), organised by Lookwest and Place West London, and hosted by The Old Vinyl Factory, aimed to explore what could be achieved, in regeneration terms, in Hayes – a town just 15 minutes from Heathrow, but which still scores high on multiple indices of deprivation.
Collaboration would be key, felt all speakers, between those who have a stake in the town, but all felt it was a real possibility. However, while there was unanimity around the desire to invest in the public realm, to deliver transport improvements, to give young people educational and aspirational possibilities, there was real concern that the “most powerful catalyst for regeneration in Hayes”, as Cllr Douglas Mills (pictured above) described it – Crossrail – could have its impact compromised by poor station design. The prospect of £16bn spent on Crossrail to halve the time taken to travel from Hayes to Canary Wharf being lost in the “value engineering” of the connections from the platforms to the pavement outside was a major worry for delegates and speakers alike.
The importance of improving the connection of the town to the station was emphasised by John Dales of Urban Initiatives (pictured left), who also showed how, with some rethinking of the strange ‘Lobster Pot’ that is the Hayes road network – preventing traffic from crossing the town centre, but concentrating parking demand on the High Street stretch least able to accommodate it – the town could begin to breathe again, and the traders on the high street could look forward to growth in footfall. This, combined with the council’s work, described by Cllr Mills, on helping those traders improve their shopfronts and “visual merchandising”, could help produce a step change in the Hayes town centre experience.
However, the concern over the station design was real – and the promise to focus on securing a good outcome strong. Hayes is one of eleven stations on the new Crossrail line which require “significant” reworking – it’s that it’s on multiple levels that produces the problem – but there was little enthusiasm for Network Rail’s present proposed solution of a simple box, and the demolition of the historic Victorian parts of the present station. This would not help the station link to the town, or play a useful part in the provision of an arrival experience – the best public plaza in the World would not compensate for a poor station design, thought the speakers.
Turning to The Old Vinyl Factory – the hosts for the event – there was great enthusiasm. The attitude of developer Cathedral (Martyn Evans of Cathedral pictured right) to the site’s history won plaudits, the nod to the former EMI Factory site’s long vinyl heritage that is “The Groove” – a winding path through the site ornamented with lyrics carved into the paving – was even “smilied” by one attendee on twitter. Cllr Mills said : “I’m delighted Cathedral are in charge of this site – they have a vision for its future”.