I’m not really sure what the hell is going on here. I noticed on Saturday that there was scaffolding erected around one corner of Ravens Court, the very nearly empty shopping precinct in the centre of Brownhills. This is a square where there are few units still occupied, with crumbling paving, graffiti covered, permanently shuttered shops overlooked by abandoned, boarded-up flats. I tend to think that it is symbolic of the state of our town; once bustling and the focus of a community, the precinct now mainly plays host to bored, spaced gangs of teens, a publicised cottage (google it yourselves) and piles of urban detritus that are probably best not probed too closely.
It seems like the owners – not the council, by the way, who have nothing to do with this deteriorating edifice – have belatedly decided that it needs tarting up, and seem to be covering the decaying fascias with shiny new ones. Whilst I welcome any movement to tidy up and enhance the area, I do wonder if a wrecking crew wouldn’t be more suited. If they really want to bring Ravens Court up to modern standards, it’ll take more than a bit of hastily nailed, shiny white plastic.
I have been idly wondering if Ravens Court was the prospective ‘market square’ that Councillor Adrian Andrew was suggesting that benevolent old uncle Tesco might like to provide in their Brigadoon-like masterplan for Brownhills. It would accommodate a handful of stalls at a pinch, and would certainly take more money to renovate than Walsall Council would be prepared to provide. Since the suggestion was clearly drawn up on the back of an envelope to sweeten bad news, I doubt if we’ll ever know for sure. This consultation document (.PDF file, Adobe reader required), published by Walsall Council way back in 2008, had other plans for Reavens Court, which are now clearly in the toilet, which is unfortunate considering its’ reputation.
‘Ravenscourt is in poor condition with many vacant retail units. The shops units are not well suited to modern retail formats and the scheme backs onto the canal creating a poor environment on Silver Street. There are no clear pedestrian links to the canal with only poor quality steps from Ravenscourt to the superstore car park.
There is a great potential to create a new high quality pedestrian shopping street through Ravenscourt creating a major link between High Street and the canal basin on Silver Street. A new scheme could include a mix of modern shop units, bars, restaurant and cafes. Contemporary apartments above shops will be great places to live creating much needed activity in the town both in the day and at night. A large public space could extend between the new buildings down the slope to the canal basin, a space that could be used for weekly markets and special events and festivals.’
If the owners of the precinct are reading this, and do have a plan, this would be a great opportunity to share it.