Whilst attending yesterday the New Swindon Company’s exhibition on their plans to emblandise Regent Street, I learned a new bit of developers’ fake psychology. What the man from their consultants said was that the current paving in Regent Street — and elsewhere in the town centre for that matter — is too ‘busy’. Apparently, it’s too distracting and takes people’s attention away from the shops. By making it blander, they think people will look more at the shops and their ‘interesting’ architecture, and go in to buy something. This does, of course, presuppose that there are rather more shops open in Regent Street than there are at the moment. It also presumes an interest amongst shoppers in paving that, I suspect, only a street designer would have. And it’s surely only such a designer that could convince themselves that something — lighting in this case — is ‘inspired’ by a tramway, simply by virtue of being in a straight line.
This exercise in repaving — like others before it — is expected to achieve a miraculous transformation.
The concept design for Regent Street aims to provide a vibrant, accessible street scene, encouraging visitors and shoppers to come to Swindon town centre as an exciting destination in its own right as well as for its many shops.
That, you may notice, is what was said about repaving Canal Walk.
So next time you’re wandering along Regent Street, engrossed by the paving, please look up. The street designers expect nothing less of you.