Posted by: The Prince of Whales | November 7, 2010

Moseley and The Mars Bar

Think about Moseley As a Brand

I hate buzz words and jargon as much as the next man, but Moseley has definitely got a case of “strategic drift”, a gradual change that occurs so subtly that it is not noticed until it is too late.

In a town planning sense, we are drifting, somewhere between the Moseley Society’s quiet Edwardian suburb and a half-hearted, never properly resourced, never properly thought out, now dead in the water Creative Village concept. If you didn’t know about the Creative Village, don’t worry as by and large, neither did anyone else.  After nearly 10 years, its only legacy is a few hot desks and meeting rooms at Moseley Exchange.

The result of this is strategic drift, a lack of clarity to guide our decisions. We have neither the vision nor the strategy in place to tell us that a Tesco on St Mary’s Row is wrong: to help us find a civic purpose for the Jug of Ale site or to focus funding on the Christmas Lights. We have made the mistake of focusing on the detail and neglecting the big picture. We spend time telling the Java Coffee House its shop sign is too bright but fail to object to the yuppie flats next to the Prince of Wales.

Take the Jug of Ale and the Meteor Ford sites, I believe it is no good bleating on that “anything is better than the current mess” or “we are stuck with what the developer wants”.  There are only a handful of major sites in Moseley and each one could play a vital role in shaping the future of the village. If we had consensus around a vision for Moseley, we would know what type of development would help us realise this goal. We could look to take a number of steps to actively take us forward:

  • Put together a task force of highly talented business people to get inward investment in the projects we want
  • Put together an arts task force to do the same
  • Give our Councillors a clear brief on how to get the best out of the city
  • Focus the efforts of our civic organisations
  • Get real traction with a broader cross-section of the community.

This last point is really important. We need to engage the whole community; every type of stakeholder.

One current exercise demonstrates how we fail to do this … The Big Plan.  Over the past year Moseley Regeneration Group (who?) have been working away to create planning policy using The Big Plan. Any one with a little more than a basic knowledge of market research will tell you the methodology is rather flawed.  There was no quantitative work to underpin the exercise, no analysis to generate any hypothesises and no qualitative to explore the attributes/makeup of the winning idea.

Rather than Big Plan, a better title for the exercise might be “The Itsy Bitsy Box Ticking Exercise”. Yes there will have been consultation, but not much beyond the established civic regime. And there will be no big idea that can shape the future of Moseley.

If we want to regenerate Moseley; if we want to boost the daytime economy; if we want to have a Moseley we can all be proud of; we need to think about how we attract new retailers, new businesses, public sector investment and more visitors.

We need to ask ourselves which aspects of the “Moseley brand” will be more attractive, most successful at pulling in this new investment? The quite Edwardian Suburb is an important attribute of Moseley, but it’s not a leading attribute when it comes to attracting investment. We need to look to the creative, cultural, Bohemian side of our brand. These are the attributes that differentiate and these are the aspects of Moseley we need to strengthen to create a vibrant future for everyone.

So lets stop debating the Special Policy for Alcohol, the CCTV scheme and other stuff that emphasise the negatives and damage our brand. Lets get folks engaged in creating a vision for Moseley that will take us all forward.

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