Consultation Begins on Binley Cycleway

Binley Cycleway at Stoke Green

Further to our recent publication of plans for cycleways in the city, the City Council has published its plans for the first phase of its proposed cycle route from the city centre to University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

The plan is for a 3.75 mile long segregated cycleway from the city centre to University Hospital with a detour to the Binley Business Park on Harry Weston Road. It will be positioned between the path and the road and will be physically separated from both using kerbs.

The first phase starts on the south side of Binley Road from Gulson Road running eastwards, At Humber Road there is a joint cycle / pedestrian crossing which senses the approach of cyclists and gives them priority.

At Biggin Hall Crescent, the route crosses to the north of Binley Road via a traffic signal controlled junction. At Church Lane there is another controlled junction. At Momus Boulevard the cycleway replaces the footway and pedestrians use the pavement along Momus Boulevard. The cycleway then moves onto the main carriageway and replaces a traffic lane (reducing the road from three to two lanes) as it runs down to Hipswell Highway where there is another controlled junction.

From Hipswell Highway the route continues on the north side of Binley Road, turning left along Brinklow Road as far as the junction with Clifford Bridge Road. Phase 2 of the route runs along Clifford Bridge Road and will be the subject of consultation at a later date.

At the Brinklow Road / Clifford Bridge Road junction there is a cycle / pedestrian access to Binley Business Park, the details of this are yet to be developed.

The cycleway has been developed and designed to accommodate the needs of people that do not usually cycle. In a recent survey across the West Midlands, the biggest reason people gave for not cycling is that they are concerned about safety, followed by a lack of confidence. These proposals aim to reduce those concerns and encourage more people to cycle.

People on cycles will have priority over traffic entering and leaving side roads. In some cases side roads will become closed to vehicular traffic. At signalised junctions the cycleway will have its own set of traffic lights to ensure safety across the junctions.

Consultation is now taking place on these plans and a “Street News” has been delivered to 6000 residents living near the route. The deadline for comments is 31st October 2020.

Binley Cycleway at Raleigh Road

Lighting the Way

Proposed lighting scheme in Greyfriars Green.

The City Council has unveiled plans for an eye-catching trail of light which will guide people between Coventry’s railway station and the city centre. It is set to be installed before this Christmas.

The illuminated route will run through Greyfriars Green and up Warwick Row to create a warm and inviting setting at night.

A number of themed variations to the lighting scheme are planned to coincide with events such as Christmas, Pride and the City of Culture celebrations.

The project is part of a £44 million package of public realm improvements being implemented in the city centre in the run up to City of Culture. Other lighting schemes will show off some of the city’s cultural and heritage assets, including the canopy at Hertford Street and the Whittle Arches.

Other Public Realm projects include environmental schemes in the Upper Precinct, Smithford Way and Market Way, publich realm works in Bull Yard and outside the new Wave, the refurbishment of Hertford Street and the upgrading of walking routes across the city centre. A major refurbishment of Pool Meadow is also planned.

Alan’s Latest Creation

Local community entrepreneur Alan Denyer has expanded his restoration company, AWD Restorations, by setting up a community support operation to help local grassroots cultural projects in the city.

Named AWD-CP (CP is short for ‘creative projects’), the company will be giving spare time and expertise (restoration, makeover/set-dressing, branding, venue management, curation, promotions & marketing) to help local community groups transform buildings and spaces into places where the public can enjoy culture.

Alan is well known in the city for his support for local cultural projects. He was the driving force behind the CET Popup back in 2017, co-ordinating a 12 month ‘culture takeover’ of the disused Coventry Telegraph office that attracted 25,000 people and provided opportunity for over 500 local arts and heritage practitioners – young and old.

More recently he has helped Holyhead Studios in Lower Holyhead Road to transform large derelict basements into a venue space. He has also provided support for the West Indian Community Centre in Spon Street and assisted with the re-launch of the Priory Visitor Centre.

Alan’s 2020 project has been the restoration and re-imagination of Earlsdon Carnegie Community Library. AWD donated 8 weeks labour and materials to the library, which has been taken over by community volunteers. The outcome has included an extensive makeover with new Internet café style workstations, ICT equipment, a new reception area and the creation of an Edwardian styled ‘reading room’ and events space including a William Morris wallpaper frieze, chesterfield sofas, dado detailing and several signature period antiques.

Alan Denyer is a force for good in our city and the Coventry Society wishes him well with this latest enterprise.

Geoffrey Clarke – A Far From Pointless Artist

Coventry Cathedral Windows and Altar

It would make a good question for Pointless! Name the famous artists associated with Coventry Cathedral. Sutherland and Epstein would probably score 80 closely followed by Piper and perhaps a bit lower for Hutton. But how many would Geoffrey Clarke score? Would it be a pointless answer? How many Coventry people have even heard of Geoffrey Clarke?

But Geoffrey Clarke is far from pointless! Arguably he is the most prolific artist associated with the Cathedral. He was one of the most powerful and innovative British artists of the last century. He is mostly known as a sculptor, ever open to the challenges of new materials. But study of his huge output reveals wonderful and imaginative works in stained glass, enamel, mosaic, as a medal-maker and on paper: watercolours, drawings and many prints, mono-types being a favourite medium.

Work on the new cathedral began in 1956. The architect, Basil Spence, had given the commission for making 10 stained glass windows for the nave to the Royal College of Art (RCA) in 1952. The Head of Stained Glass at the RCA, Lawrence Lee, had overseen a new progressive phase in the department and encouraged students to experiment with contemporary materials and concepts. He divided the commission between three artists, himself, and two of his recent students, Geoffrey Clarke and Keith New. Each would do three windows and the tenth was to be a collaborative efforts. Other students at the college would help and support the initiative.

The Coventry commission lasted five years from design to completion; revealing, on installation, a coloured progression from childhood to the wisdom of maturity, with one side assigned to God and the other to Man. The stained glass windows are 25m-high and rise from floor-to-ceiling. The windows which Clarke made are – Wisdom of Man, Wisdom of God and Man in Maturity. Two of the windows were purple and the other was multi-coloured.

For Clarke this led to other stained glass commissions, such as the west window at All Saints Church, Stretford, and other churches in the Manchester area, and four Treasury Windows for Lincoln Cathedral.

But it wasn’t just these three windows that Clarke was responsible for. He also designed the 26m high flèche, or hollow spire, on top of the Cathedral roof. This was known as the flying cross, and had to be lowered onto the Cathedral roof by a RAF helicopter.

Two other pieces by were the High Altar Cross and the suspended crown of thorns and he also designed candlesticks for the Altar.

 

Geoffrey Clarke was also responsible for the cross and candlesticks for the Undercroft Chapel of the Cross. After the Second World War, the congregation had been worshiping in a small crypt chapel under the Ruins. From January 1959 until the completion of the new Cathedral in 1962, services were transferred to the Chapel of the Cross, a larger temporary chapel in the recently-completed Undercroft. The architect, Sir Basil Spence, invited Geoffrey Clarke to create a cross and candlesticks for the altar. The result was spectacular. The giant cross, over 2.3 metres tall and suspended on wires in front of a gold curtain, was fabricated from narrow strips of nickel-bronze, radiating out from the form of a Latin cross and inset with pieces of crystal, lit-up from within by their own integral lighting system. This cross now hangs on the basement wall of the Cathedral by the Chapter house.

lightgallery1

Clarke pioneered a modern variation of the ‘lost wax’ method using shaped polystyrene moulds set in sand, which vaporised upon the casting of molten aluminium, a metal increasingly favoured by a number of post-war sculptors.

geoffrey_clarke

Clarke continued over several decades to employ aluminium for some of his finest reliefs and free-standing pieces. The first of the latter was in 1961 for Sir Basil Spence’s house at Beaulieu in Hampshire.

In 1962, the year that the Cathedral opened, Clarke was working on a 10 metre tall sculpture called ‘Spiral Nebula’ for Spence which is located outside the Herschel Building, Department of Physics, at Newcastle University. The sculpture’s title particularly brings to mind the growing interest in space amongst physicists; Britain’s first satellite, Ariel 1, was launched in 1962. This large, bold sculpture, whose modern appearance, like an abstract receiving dish, electrical coil, and antenna, the use of textured and pegged aluminium panels, a handcrafted quality and a humanity to this man-made structure apparently communing with outer space. ‘Spiral Nebula’ was created in polished steel to adorn the exterior of the building but Basil Spence felt it would detract from his architecture so asked for the piece to be painted a dull grey and sited at ground level in front.

After Coventry Clarke won many major commissions including Candles and altars for Chichester Cathedral; 30 relief panels for the Canberra liner; doors for two London banks; a light fitting for a bank in Liverpool; a mosaic for Liverpool University; a tapestry design for a sheikh’s palace in Kuwait; aluminium reliefs for two Cambridge colleges; screens for the Royal Military Chapel, Birdcage Walk; and a relief sculpture for the new Nottingham theatre.

Geoffrey Clarke died aged 89 in 2014. Perhaps he should be better known in Coventry?

Two Friargate Gets the Go Ahead

The City Council has given the go ahead to the construction of Two Friargate, the second building in the Council’s ambitious business quarter development, adjoining the railway station.

Two Friargate will deliver 134,000 sq .ft. of lettable Grade A office space on 12 floors as well as a high quality café or restaurant offer on the ground floor. Two Friargate is due to start on site during Autumn 2020 and be completed by Summer 2022. The Council makes no claim about the number of new jobs to be created, but the development will create 700 new jobs during the construction phase. If fully occupied, the building will generate £1.4 million per year in rate income to the Council.

In what must be regarded as a high risk development, the council is investing £68 million of public funding for the development – £51.2m of grant funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority and £17 million of Council funding raised through borrowing. The Council is also contributing an undisclosed amount into the Joint Venture Company that is carrying out the development. The delivery of the Friargate business district is regarded as a key corporate priority for the Council.

Other current elements of the Friargate masterplan include Council HQ “One Friargate”, the expansion of the railway station, a bus station, car parking, a boutique hotel and the completed pedestrian link to the City Centre.

The Friargate business quarter development, adjacent to the railway station, was foreseen as the creation of a major city-centre employment site with superb local and national access. Developers foresaw the building of 14 Grade A office blocks, 2 hotels, 2 car parks and at least 10 residential blocks. However, the global economic crisis of 2008 and economic conditions for the last dozen years have conspired against a rapid build-out and the developments to date (now including Friargate 2) have all required public subsidy. Indeed, One Friargate was originally intended for private occupation, but when tenants could not be found it was part-occupied by the Council allowing the release of the civic centre sites to Coventry University.

The Council is making the assumption that things will return to normal after the Coronavirus epidemic. The Council report states “As the city moves to post-COVID economic recovery, investment in the Two Friargate scheme provides a fantastic opportunity to secure significant jobs growth and be a visible symbol of confidence in Friargate and the city.”

We would wish the Council’s optimism to be correct. Yet the current Coronavirus crisis – and its implications for office-based employment – poses many risks for 2 Friargate and the whole future development of the other Friargate office sites. Working from home is now a cheaper option for firms rather than leasing offices, while Zoom conferencing undermines the benefits of being located near a transport hub. And the hopes for Civil service decentralisation from London to Coventry look as far away as ever. The office elements of the original Friargate development now look unachievable.

The Coventry Society earlier this year in a paper ‘Creating a different vision for Coventry’ raised the need for a debate about what Coventry should become, post-lockdown, and how we might build back better.

The problems besetting the City Centre led the Coventry Society to take the view that we need a city centre of greater diversity, meeting the needs of residents through shops of modest rental suitable for smaller, diverse independent retailers, with a food and drink offer to appeal to residents and visitors, and with significant new social housing. The Council’s latest Strategic Housing Market Assessment shows the need for an additional 12,000 affordable houses by 2031. New health and leisure facilities could be located near the city centre, in a reversal of recent trends. In such a vision modest further office employment would still have a place as part of a wider mixed-use development of the Friargate sites. The opportunity to ‘build back better’ would provide not only for private housing for sale and rent but also for Coventry’s identified housing needs – for social housing and retirement living.

As we struggle to emerge from the Coronavirus epidemic and try to assess its implications, surely it is time for this city to reflect on what it is to become, and reshape its vision and reality with the economic and social changes now upon us?

Link to Council Report