What York can learn from Altrincham (part II)…

IF you want people to read your blog, write about food and not politics. That at least was my experience last month.

The blog in question was headlined “What York could learn from Altrincham” and the readership graph went crazy that day, attracting around 1,500 readers within hours, while another 200 or read the blog over the next few days.

Write about politics and you’ll be lucky to get 50 people along to your party.

To briefly recap, a visit to Altrincham’s now acclaimed food market made my mind up in favour of the Spark:York plan for Piccadilly, where the aim is to use old shipping containers to house a collection of shops and food outlets on the old Reynolds Garage site.

It was pointed out by some that I wasn’t playing fair, as Altrincham had a head start by being able to repurpose its old wooden market. A fair criticism, but my point was more to do with the entrepreneurial boost that a trendy foodie market can bring.

York has so much going for it as a beautiful old city. Most of our Airbnb guests fall in love with the place, and it is rewarding to be an impromptu guide, if only from the breakfast table.

But here’s the thing about being a famed old beauty (York, not me, you fool): sometimes you don’t have to try as hard as others to attract attention. Flutter your medieval lashes and the tourists come running.

This is something to celebrate, but York also needs to stay vibrant, and to encourage one-off local businesses. To my now converted eye, Spark:York offers just such an opportunity – a chance, as in Altrincham, for young people to set up fantastic food businesses to compete with all the national franchises hogging every other corner of this city.

I kept an eye out for news of this development, and was heartened to see that backers of the food complex had been given planning permission for a temporary development.

I was less heartened to read earlier this week that the architect Matthew Laverack was threatening to take this planning decision to judicial review. While wishing to offer no further opinion of Mr Laverack, it is fair to say that he has a long history of being an irritant to City of York Council.

In my old newspaper, it was stated that a council spokeswoman banged her head on the wall and said: “Oh, not him again!” All right – I made that last bit up. What the supplier of quotes to the council reportedly said was: “We are confident that we followed all stages of the planning application correctly. We will respond robustly to defend this decision if there is a legal challenge.”

I truly hope this proposal won’t end up bogged in the legal mud. York needs something like this – an exciting, young and different development. It is fair to say that not everyone will be happy, and equally fair to point out that grumpiness is an art form for some.

Well, we all feel dyspeptic on occasion, but I am raising my half-full glass to the success of Spark:York, whatever temporary impediment may be put in its way.

Important footnote: moods can go up as well as down, and pessimism is not obligatory.

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