Chamber Chat with Alistair Eagles
In a few days time, the M6 Heysham link road, known as the “Bay Gateway” will open and will fundamentally change traffic flow in the Lancaster region. It will massively improve access to Heysham Port for the growing number of HGV vehicles using it, while also ensuring that private motorists can move more freely in the local area. I have no doubt that from a road congestion viewpoint it will dramatically and positively change the current situation, which will be just brilliant! However we need to be careful that we do not sit back and expect the road to be in some way, ‘magical’.
The day the road opens we will not automatically see new businesses locating to the area, new hotel and leisure facilities will not automatically appear and a line of coaches full of tourists wishing to sample our delights will not automatically thunder relentlessly over the horizon.
The road will absolutely be a major catalyst for growth and economic development, but this can only be achieved if ‘we’ make it happen.
Simple plans are always the best and here is what I think we should be doing in three simple steps;
Firstly, we should be getting out of the armchair. Rather than sitting back and expecting things to come to us we should be leaping upwards and shouting from the very top of our voices about what an amazing area this is. We simply do not do enough to tell the outside world about us.
Secondly, we need to shout with a collective voice. We spend too much time squabbling about the local detail rather than jointly pushing a strong message. Frankly it is not about if Lancaster is better than Morecambe, if Cat Smith is more or less attractive than David Morris or indeed if the visitor economy is more or less important than commercial business activity. Rather than raising constant issues with the City Council we should all get behind the new Chief Executive Susan Parsonage and her team. Together with a simple understandable vison we are much stronger.
Finally we should think big. Someone recently said to me that Lancaster should try and be more like Preston. Well no disrespect to our near neighbour but as life goals go, I think we should be setting our sights a little higher! We are different and we should celebrate ‘our’ strengths. This area should be more like Chester, or York or Bath?
The Bay Gateway will be fantastic. Together we now have within our power the option to grasp this huge opportunity and makes things not just fantastic, but also utterly fabulous.
The road will not be magical in its own right, but with it as a catalyst and by working closely together and shouting loudly, we can indeed make the magic happen.
If you are sat down, then get out the armchair, let’s work collectively and think big!
Now is our time. I’m up for it, are you?