Sunday, 12 December 2010

Closing Leek's Tourism Centre would be folly

Leek is in a very fortunate position for a town of 20,000 in terms of media coverage. How many towns of a comparable size can boast the positive publicity that Leek has received in the last 12 months from the national media? The Times opined last February that "Leek, known to the locals as the Queen of the Moorlands, might be the ideal base from which to explore this beautiful part of England, but it is also a town that you will be glad to return in time for tea". About the same time the Guardian journalist drawn by the Sir Gawain legend remarked "Leek is quite everyday – pleasant, with a strange touch of the northern mill town about it for one so south. Yet even here there's a flash of magic: around the summer solstice" and many visitors to the town have remarked to me the attractiveness and charm of the town. The folksinger Johnny Coppin at the Christmas event at All Saints last weekend called the place a " little bit of Old England".

And yet the District Council is about to make the foolishly short-sighted proposal to review with the intention to remove the Tourist Information Centre from the Market Square and house it in the council offices. This in enacted would be a very ill judged suggestion.

Leek stands on the edge of a national park. I cannot think it conceivable that other towns of the same population that stand on the edge of an area of outstanding national beauty would consider such a proposal. In my view Leek should be increasing its efforts to attract visitors to the town to those unique qualities that make Leek an interesting place to come to. Its history, its association with people like Oscar Wilde, William Morris, Tolkein and John Betjeman. It’s good food and great pubs. Its buildings and character remarked upon by many writers. Its location between the white and dark peak landscape.

 The potential for development with the Staffordshire Hoard being based partly in Stoke, the matter of the James Brindley the great canal builder tercentenary in 2016 and the Churnet Valley railway developments. All these and more could a great springboard to attract people into the town. But all we get is retrenchment, retreat and resignation when what is wanted is renewal..