The news that the demolition of Teville Gate has finally been approved by councillors is clearly a huge step in the right direction – decades late, but still a positive move.
I’m of a generation that can recall a time when Teville Gate had businesses operating out of it, but no one can say it was ever a thriving shopping hub. And at the end of this century and the 200th anniversary of the town, the words Teville Gate will be inextricably linked with two other words: white elephant.
But it could have been so different, and that’s the really frustrating thing. Decades of ineptitude and mismanagement have seen the whole scenario move as quickly as a lumbering dinosaur. What was the original vision for the ‘shopping centre’ back in the late 1960s? First and foremost, I can’t see why they put it there in the first place.
Granted, the town had already shot itself in the foot when they turned down the chance of a glass roof on Montague Street in 1967. But even back then, surely the most sensible option would have been to move the bus garage to a then state-of-the-art hub next to the main railway station, something you will find in most major towns and cities.
Another opportunity was perhaps in 1980, when Tesco first suggested the out-of-town superstore at Durrington. Why didn’t the council say, ‘Actually, don’t go to Durrington, we will get you the Teville Gate site and let you build your superstore there’? The same could have been said a decade or so later when Sainsbury’s wanted an out-of-town site.
Both, times if we’d put a superstore there it might have help preserve the majority of the footfall in the town.
A multiplex cinema would have been another option, but it’s 30 years since they knocked the Odeon down, and while Crawley, Brighton and Chichester have all got state-of-the-art multiplexes all we’ve ever done is talked about it.
But enough of this negativity. The future is bright, hopefully, and after so many wrong turns and near misses, this is real opportunity to move forward.
Please, don’t mess this up...
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