GRAPHIC designer Harriet Laurie is one of the leaders of the fight to save Dorset’s only indoor skate park from destruction.
The Trick Factory on St Michael’s Trading Estate in Bridport is in danger of being knocked down so that landowners Haywards (originally teamed up with West Dorset District Council) can build flats on the site.
Ms Laurie is involved because she has three sons. She says, “If they weren’t doing this, they’d be at home trashing the house. This [place] is geared up for testosterone, and my home is a little bit of a cosy cottage where three big boys are just busting out at the seams, so they come here, they get it all out of their system, and they come home and they’re lovely.”
One of her boys, Caspar, admits: “I can skate, which I like doing, and I’m tired out when I get home, so I don’t stay up late, and I’m ready for school and stuff like that. It’s just a lot easier to come here and it’s something to do at night rather than going out around the town.”
The Trick Factory is thronging with boys trying out risky sporting moves. There’s plenty of fallings-off but no visible fallings-out.
Ms Laurie says: “There’s an awful lot they’re learning about how to co-operate with other people, and how to be generous, you know, allowing other people the space and the time to do their stuff and they all really encourage each other, there’s a wonderful kind of bonhomie.”
More activities for teenagers a West Dorset priority
The last major survey of public opinion in West Dorset was bmg research’s Place Survey, carried out in late 2008, published in full in October 2009.
According to this survey, residents’ two top priorities for improving life in West Dorset are more affordable decent housing (47% overall – 57% in Bridport) and more activities for teenagers (43% overall – 45% in Bridport).
This is why the future of the Trick Factory has become such an explosive issue – because it brings the two priorities of affordable housing and activities for teenagers into direct conflict.
(This is also why it’s remarkable that the Trick Factory should – until recently – have been so ignored by West Dorset District Council planners and landowners Haywards: – so casually earmarked for destruction – or so it seems to everyone I’ve spoken to about it…)
Should one priority give way to the other? Harriet Laurie: “Affordable housing is really important, but I think there’s not much point having affordable housing and then having that all full of kids who’ve got nothing to do, who are going to trash the place. You have got to get a balance, haven’t you, between keeping people busy and positive, as well as housing them. I don’t think one has to give way to the other. You can create a scheme that works for everybody.”
But is it now possible to get a scheme that works for everybody? Haywards’ planning appeal – against district councillors’ refusal to allow the transfomation of St Michael’s Trading Estate and the South West Quadrant of Bridport – will begin in West Bay on January 26.