Friday, October 27, 2006

Couple In Conversation

Newbury's latest sculpture, part of the Town Trail and called 'Couple in Conversation', is aptly sited on the main roundabout in Newbury. I say aptly since I know what they are talking about, cars. Newbury has an unhealthy interest in that form of personal motorised transport: an obsession some might call it.

The main points being debated this week in the letters column of the Newbury Weekly News, the town's main newspaper, concern the daily traffic chaos brought about by the pedestrianisation and temporary closure of two of the main parts of the town: its central shopping area and the market place. There is also fervent discussion on the merits of a single or two way bridge over the Kennet, and plans for the Wharf, an historic area of the town which is bisected by the approach to said bridge.

In all of this debate there is a lot of support for the use of the car and the benefits of being able to drive through the heart of the town and park a few footsteps away from the shops. Newbury famously had its last battle over the provision of a bypass to take through traffic away from the centre, and having won that the car lobby is fighting to take back control of the centre. Surely this is an opportunity to be grasped to get people out of their cars and to make more environmentally friendly journeys within the town. Hasn't anyone heard of global warming here?

I am pretty sure that people don't visit Newbury to see the car parks, but from the tone of those letters in the local press, it seems that residents think that they are preferable to a canal boat basin which is planned for the Wharf area. This would complement the beautifully paved square that the Market Place is set to become, and would really provide a destination, somewhere worth visiting, and would bring increasing prosperity to the town.

It is ironic that the only people who will be able to get a good look at the new sculpture are drivers, as Newbury is fast becoming a place that people will just want to pass on through and not stop at. Has anyone rung Jeremy Clarkson? Perhaps he might like to bring back Top Gear with a special feature on Newbury: Car City.

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