Eastbourne Life with Graham Walker: The Wish Tower – what are WE going to do now?

It was sad to hear of more national chain store closures in town last week. Fingers crossed that all of our local retailers have a better 2012. Personally, I won’t miss La Senza as at my age I am much more likely to pop into Millets for a romantic present for the wife. Who wouldn’t be happy with a new head torch for Christmas?

I had a walk around town on Sunday and the high street was buzzing with activity. One thing I couldn’t help noticing were the large number of new independent cafes and retailers that opened in 2011. I am not going to list them all here but it’s a positive sign that we have so many local entrepreneurs willing to make a go of new businesses in tough trading conditions. The challenge for all of us is to spend our cash in local independent shops, particularly during the quieter winter months.

We need more reasons for tourists and locals alike to spend time and money in Eastbourne. It’s got me thinking about the sorry state of the Wish Tower Restaurant. Strikes me this is not a time for the blame game. Our collective focus as a town has to be on what to do now.

We have a huge opportunity to show what Eastbourne can do. If a new building emerges that is loved by locals and attracts more visitors then we will have succeeded not only in rebuilding the Wish Tower Restaurant but also confirming that Eastbourne is a place that can get great things done!

It would be foolish of us to encourage local politicians to continue throwing mud at each other (or even worse join in!) when we face the challenge of redeveloping the Wish Tower site in tough economic times. There is no harm in learning from past mistakes but political point scoring is not going to attract new ideas or investment to redevelop the site.

Eastbourne Council has made their case over the past weeks for demolishing the existing Wish Tower Restaurant structure. We should support the Council on this and accept it is a better option than spending £400,000 to repair the current building. In return for our support, the Council should publish both the full surveyor’s report of the estimate of repair and the advice to date provided to Councillors on the costs of demolishing, and the options for redeveloping, the Wish Tower site. Transparency builds trust!

I recently got involved with a new community group called Eastbourne Can that aims to celebrate the great things about Eastbourne, provide a forum to share constructive ideas and promote great design in and around the town.

They are proposing a ‘Community Design Day’ with some local young architects for all of us to get our views across about what we want from a new Wish Tower development. I have already pledged my support. If you want to get involved visit www.eastbournecan.com/wishtower and leave a message. Wouldn’t it be great if all of the local political parties, the Council and the Herald got behind this community led event?

Talking of support, thanks to all of you who have been following my previous columns online. The lovely people at the Herald have promoted me to the paper this week. My brain tells me that more people will read this column online but my heart will skip a beat when I see my name in the paper. Why is that?

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• Email: grahamcwalker@googlemail.com

• Follow Graham Walker on Twitter @EastbourneLife