There’s a famous old parlour game called Twenty Questions which encourages deductive reasoning and creativity. One player chooses an object but does not reveal it to the others, who then ask questions which are answered with a simple "Yes" or "No." The idea is to guess the subject in twenty questions or fewer.
We were reminded of the game when we read through Lincolnshire County Council’s evaluation of the Boston Market Place public realm improvement project.
The preamble to the county’s game of twenty questions – or 21 if you include “do you have any other comments to make?” – tells us that “the objective of the project is to deliver a high quality public realm scheme in the market place, returning it to its rightful position as the centrepiece of the town.”
We’re uncertain about that choice of phrase, because – as far as we were aware – the Market Place has always been the town’s centrepiece, and as it had never moved, it could scarcely be “returned” to this position.
“Detailed evaluation work is required to confirm that the money invested in this project has been well spent and delivers significant benefit to the local area,” the county claims in the introduction to the survey – which has clearly been drawn up by someone in Lincoln who knows little about Boston - and unlikely to achieve anything much by way of deductive reasoning and creativity.
All they really needed to do was to read a few back issues of our local papers if they wanted to obtain some heartfelt opinions about the success or otherwise of the refurbishment.
If people answer questions about the quality of traffic management and the pedestrian environment in the survey in the way they have complained locally, the answers ought to send County Hall scurrying back to the drawing board to rethink the mess that they have got us into.
A question about the availability and schedule of events and festivals ignores the fact that they are virtually non-existent.
The arrival of the craft market was a welcome addition – but we wonder how long it can survive as a weekly attraction.
But people seem to have forgotten that only six months ago, Boston Borough Council was considering re-designating a number of streets for traders to set up on non-traditional market days in line with suggestions in the Mary Portas report on town centre improvements.
A report to the cabinet said: “The new Market Place will provide a shared space and space that can be utilised for a variety of town centre uses, including opportunities for events, new trading and new types of markets that can assist with the vibrancy and attractiveness of Boston.”
So where are they?
The combined effect of the two year road improvement scheme, coupled with the Market Place refurbishment has driven a worrying number of town centre shops out of business.
Our attempts to shop in Boston on Saturday were thwarted by the Into Town buses.
Although we recall the claim that the frequency of vehicle through Strait Bargate would not exceed one bus every thirty minutes, at one point three buses in succession came through from opposite directions. The noise and disruption had to be heard and seen to be believed.
On Sunday, the first thing we noticed as we walked into town was a County Council maintenance team repairing the latest damage to the pedestrian surface caused by the weight of the buses.
The next thing that we noticed was the number of empty shops in the Market Place.
After that we were struck by the random movement or vehicles across the area, and amused by the fact that one driver had simply abandoned his car slap bang in the middle of the Market Place – not, as the county council survey called it at times, the Market Square.
We are sure that when the results of this survey are published, the people of Boston will have declared the Market Place refurbishment a massive success, and wept openly with joy and gratitude at the generosity of our masters.
That’s what surveys such as this are for – to provide a sufficiently large array of answers that the surveyors can cherry pick the once that suit their needs.
The fact is that the county council has delivered a double whammy in Boston – aided and abetted by successive local administrations.
The introduction of the bus route through Bargate went through virtually in secret – and subsequent protests have been ignored. We suspect that it had more to do with strengthening the county hall argument against spending more on Boston’s roads than anything else.
And now the Market Place “improvement” – a disaster for motorists, pedestrians visitors and residents alike … yet one we are sure we will be told that we heartily approve of.
The deadline to send your views is Friday 19th October.
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