The Oxford Living Dictionary defines the heart as “a hollow, muscular organ that pumps blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation”. It’s not a particularly romantic notion, I’ll admit! Of course, it’s more than that—the heart applies to communities as well as individual people or animals. Just as we can’t live without a beating heart, a pulse of life, nor can our communities.
In days gone by, the Church or the Pub were often the heart of a community. Church attendance has fallen sharply as our society becomes more secular and diverse, and pubs are also struggling to survive. What still lives, however, is the human spirit of people helping each other. We see this spirit where people look out for those less fortunate than themselves—the isolated, the homeless, the depressed. The spirit of helping those in need provides a life-blood that brings us together and helps our community thrive, just as the heart pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
What keeps the community heart healthy? Research shows that the physical environment—the buildings, parks and public spaces—of a community is vital to a community’s heart health. Communities in good health have welcoming spaces that draw people together and encourage people to explore their world. Even the little details matter. For example, a pavement riddled with cracks could keep an infirm person indoors and on their own, rather than taking a walk that could help them make friends and get needed exercise. Imagine, then, what happens when shops, community facilities and parks and other public spaces are replaced with homes and little else?
As but one example, this is how many Windsor residents feel about the actual loss of Squires and the anticipated loss of Wyevale Garden Centres. Squires was far more than a Garden Centre. It was a place where people could go and wander around, bump into others, have a chat or a cup a tea. It was a place where those with learning difficulties could learn and develop new skills. It was a focal point for many local residents and its loss is felt strongly.
Similar examples can be found across the Borough. In Maidenhead, residents worry about the loss of the Bowling Alley and the closure of the Magnet Leisure Centre, which will be replaced by the Braywick Leisure Centre outside of town.
So what can be done to put the heart back into our community? Above all, we need a vision—a vision created with members of the community rather than a model imposed upon them. That vision, coupled with evidence of our community’s needs, will help us create places that bring us together. We can build an environment where young and old can mix, where a person on their own can enter comfortably, where those with physical challenges can easily access and where costs aren’t a barrier.
We as a Borough have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make our community more welcoming, more inspiring. We also have a stark choice in the ballot box in May: Replacing community spaces with towers of expensive homes that isolate us, or creating new, vibrant public spaces that pump life throughout the Borough.
the BOROUGH first... The Party with a heart.
Helen Price is a Windsor resident and a tBf candidate for the Clewer & Dedworth East Ward.
Published and Promoted by Charles Hollingsworth on behalf of “the BOROUGH first“, both of PO BOX 4919, Maidenhead, SL60 1LS