Next is off. Meh.

So Next, TK Maxx and H&M are planning to move out of the city centre and onto the ESG shopping complex. As you would expect, a lot of hot internet air is flying over this (and probably even some real life hot air too! Oudafortit!). But does it really even matter?

The shop floor staff will most likely keep their jobs and in fact, if bigger sites are secured, more jobs will be created—a bonus for working class people then. At the very least shop employees will be largely unaffected by the possible moves.

As for the claims that High Town will become a ‘ghost town’ if more shops are allowed to move out … well, we’re sure something will fill their gaps. It is likely that with the lack of demand for city centre premises rents will be dropped and become affordable for local businesses to operate in once again.

It seems that some sections of the local population (maybe once including us) moan that the city centre has become a ‘clone town’ taken over by chain stores but then moan again when those same businesses decide to fuck off.

So which one do we want, a High Town affordable to local businesses or one where only multinationals can afford to operate?

Or maybe that’s something for middle class businessmen and women to worry about, because news like this doesn’t really affect the little people like us does it.

Hereford Racecourse: To Close or Not to Close?

Last week news broke that Hereford Racecourse is set to close at the end of the year.

Tony Kelly, managing director of Arena and Northern who operate the course, said: “Hereford is owned by Herefordshire County Council and run under a lease arrangement.

“Attempts to extend the lease, which has 17 years remaining, have been unsuccessful. Despite being unviable for several years we have supported the racecourse but much-needed investment, required to breathe new life into the racecourse, cannot be justified in the absence of a long-term future for the business.”

Since then, there has been talk of alternatives to closure, such as the proposal for a hotel to be built as part of a 125-year lease on offer from Herefordshire Council.

If it does close, not everyone will be sad to see the racecourse go. In recent years, the horse racing industry has come under scrutiny from numerous animal rights groups and campaigns, one of which being Animal Aid and their ‘Race Horse Death Watch’ campaign.  This has followed a number of high profile falls and deaths at races, notably the Grand National earlier this year.

We will have to wait and see what becomes of Hereford Racecourse, but it does raise the question; if it is to close, what will the council do with the space? A large housing development? A recreational space with top sporting facilities? A second (or by that time, possibly a third) city centre? Time will tell.

Hereford Heckler #21 out now!

The latest issue of the Hereford Heckler, and the last in its current format, is now available online and will soon be hitting the streets.

This issue includes;

  • An exclusive article on the council sell-off of all its service
  • Taxpayers to pay for £27m new road
  • Child poverty ‘significant issue’ for Herefordshire
  • ‘We’re back!’ – the low-down on the Heckler, what we’ve been up to and what we’re doing next
  • Charles Pickles, executive board member of ‘Hereford Futures’ and blood-thirsty huntsman
  • City printing firm closes
  • The campaign against the government’s Workfare schemes
  • The battle over supermarkets in the county
  • and much more

To view or download this issue, click on the image below-

A Question of Democracy – A Critical Look At It’s Our County

We anarchists are often ridiculed and criticised for our attitude towards voting and to representative democracy as a whole. We view the system of having individuals representing us in council or government as giving up our freedom. We all know that these people do whatever they want once elected and rarely keep the promises they made in order to win votes. Anarchism comes from the Greek an-archos meaning without leaders.Democracy to us is everyone having an equal voice. If we organised in our communities and workplaces into groups and made decisions based on consensus we could do without those people who claim to represent us.

An example of what we mean can be seen from the It’s Our City anti-ESG campaign. This group was set up by people, including but not exclusively councillors, in order to stop the destruction of the city centre. Around 16,000 people agreed with them and signed a petition to show their support. At this point, we believe, the democratic thing to do would have been open public meetings to decide on the direction of the campaign. We would have pushed for the picketing of council meetings, city centre rallies and other forms of direct action. Not everyone would have agreed with us, but at least in open meetings people could have shared their ideas.

Unfortunately the self appointed leadership of It’s Our City decided that 16,000 signatures meant 16,000 votes. Behind closed doors they turned a vibrant community wide campaign into a political party. This was anything but a democratic decision. Cynics would say they let their egos and hunger for power get the better of them. In the end they failed to win the election. But it would make no difference if they had won control of the council; people who claim to be the solution always end up as the problem. Tony Blair and Barak Obama are evidence of that. Leading members of the It’s Our County party supported the election of Jesse ‘sod the poor’ Norman, so it’s clear their political views aren’t very different to the people they claim to oppose.

When It’s Our City was being wound up, Hereford Solidarity League tried to push for an open and democratic continuation of the campaign, but organisers refused, thinking that we wanted to take over. We thought that there would be support for direct action, as numerous community based campaigns have successfully used this in the past. This would have allowed supporters to use their own voice, rather than rely on other councillors to talk for them. As we now know only a lack of money stands between the council and their ESG plans. We hope that future campaigns learn from the mistakes of It’s Our City and not allow politicians to get in the way of democracy.

Council’s war on open spaces

Council plans to sell off or build on green spaces in the county are once again hitting the headlines.

In Ledbury there have been fears of a new housing development on the town’s cricket and football pitches off New Street for some time. There are currently major plans to build 800 new homes in the town, most of which will be around the Viaduct to its north. However, there are fears that public spending cuts may force the council to sell off the cricket and football pitches, leaving them to the mercy of developers.

A meeting has been called in Ledbury for Monday 24th January to discuss the town’s lack of parks, and the possible development of the town’s cricket and football pitches. It will be held at the Burgage Hall at 7pm.

Meanwhile, Herefordshire Council has admitted that discussions are underway regarding the sale of the Bishop of Hereford’s Blue Coat School’s playing fields. It is believed an offer has been put in for the site, which could be used to build more houses.

The playing fields are currently used by the school for many sporting activities and also by Herefordians Cricket Club, which plays its Marches League matches on the site. John Escott, a sports teacher at the school for 31 years, has said the plans would ’cause outrage’ if they were to go ahead.

Residents living in Newton Farm have also been dealt a blow in their battle to save a patch of open land near Argyll Rise from development. The near 5-year campaign of the Newton Farm Town Green Action Group to get the area registered as a town green and therefore protected, was dismissed by the council’s regulatory committee last week.

Martin Gilleland from the action group said that the ruling ‘adds to the distrust that communities have with local politics.’ Herefordshire Housing, the landowner, said that it may be some time before the land is built on, but certainly didn’t rule it out.

It is clear that Herefordshire Council’s commitment to protecting green, public spaces and school playing fields is a secondary matter when faced with the prospect of money from property developers. It also shows that all kinds of community resources are being hit as a result of government public spending cuts. We must defend our open spaces, sports fields and school playing fields, which are currently in place for the benefit of everybody!