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Wouldn’t people throw rubbish into River Wye if they open it up?
10:02am Friday 11th May 2012 in Editor's Chair
I RECALL once moaning to an elderly friend, who had lived here all his life, that it was stupid the River Wye was covered up in High Wycombe town centre.
His reply shocked me. Apparently, many locals had welcomed the move in the 1960s because people threw rubbish into the water and the river stank as a result.
I mentioned this recently to advocates of opening up the Wye, and they scoffed this wouldn’t happen nowadays in our eco-friendly modern-day world.
I’m not so sure. I have visions of drink cans, half-eaten kebabs and general detritus being found floating there every Saturday morning after the normal Friday night revelries.
Still, that’s no reason not to support Wycombe District Council’s move to uncover the river which would massively enhance the look of the town centre.
The idea is one of many in the current district ‘masterplan’ which also suggests getting rid of the Oxford Road roundabout and possibly demolishing the Abbey Way flyover. The plan is to make the town centre more pedestrian-friendly.
And it all sounds great and most of us would support it in principle.
But progress is a funny thing. Some older inhabitants of High Wycombe tend to look back with rose-tinted spectacles to a better era and yearn for the good old days.
New developments are often looked upon with cynicism and are opposed on the basis they are somehow ripping out the soul of the area.
You will hear talk in some circles of how the Eden centre has helped to destroy the town centre. Certainly, we have seen major decline in the High Street and some of this will have been caused by the displacement of shopping activities, but isn’t this also partially due to the rotten economy?
When I first came to Wycombe in 1989, I couldn’t believe how limited the town centre was. The variety of restaurants was woeful and there was no department store. Everything seemed to close up early, and I found it a bit of a one-horse town.
Then Eden was built, bringing new shops, restaurants and a grand library. The town centre positively now throngs at weekends and is pretty busy at nights. But you still hear the complaints about how it was all much better years ago.
Certainly, High Wycombe must have been a better town when all of its furniture industry was booming, and when the jobs situation wasn’t so dire.
However, the actual infrastructure of the town and the various facilities it offers have improved massively in the 23 years I’ve been here (and no, I’m not taking the credit for that).
People slag off the London Road and its multitude of annoying traffic lights. But I’ve travelled that road daily for more than two decades and can honestly say it flows better than it ever has. Yes, the bus lane is horrible, but there are far fewer snarl-ups these days.
I once coined the expression ‘the lunacy of the London Road’ to describe my daily trip, but as main town roads go, it’s not actually that bad any longer.
So what else is there to moan about? Wycombe Wanderers have been relegated from League One, so that’s depressing, but when I got here they weren’t even in the Football League.
What I’m trying to say is that we all moan about changing times, but if you take a long hard look, you will see many aspects of High Wycombe are better than ever before.
It’s good to look back at the past and yearn for the old days. But sometimes it’s worth remembering that these old days were often quite bleak and dismal. So dismal in fact that town planners decided to cover up a river because it smelt.
I look forward to the day when the Wye is uncovered, and I genuinely look forward to what the future has in store.
I know our councillors sometimes get things spectacularly wrong, and I’m the first to criticise, but Wycombe has improved in my short time here – and I reckon it’s going to get a lot better in the years to come.