There is a feeling of security, people visit its shops and cafes and enjoy lingering on Byres Road…
What makes a great street? Looking at Academy of Urbanism nominations for Great Street 2012, perhaps being built on a hill is a big help: two out of the three streets up for award this year require a bit of a climb. Only Glasgow’s Byres Road offers what you might call an easy stroll.
In fact, the winner announced at the academy awards ceremony in London last week, was Lincoln’s (very) Steep Hill. With roots in an old Roman Road, the street combines business with history and a sense of local pride. Thanks to the Business Improvement District, money is well spent on conservation and routine maintenance. As the academy puts it, retailers see themselves as ‘stewards to prosperity’
That sometimes indefinable sense of place is an essential part of any great city. Take a quick look at the two runners up in this year’s awards. Edinburgh’s hilly Cockburn Street, winding through tall buildings, has had (sorry, got to say it) its ups and downs . Scotland’s answer to Carnaby Street in the 60s looked decidedly shabby during the 80s but combined efforts of city council and conservation bodies (and money) have created an elegant one-way street with cafe culture, creative local enterprises and a sense of history.
Not so much a street as a neighbourhood hub
In contrast Byres Road lacks some of the visual ‘coherence’ of its two competitors. But here the academy focuses on a greater strength. This is not so much a street as a neighbourhood hub of interconnecting alleys and lanes; a community neighbourhood buzzing with local character, not least the ‘passionate’ Friends of Glasgow West, who are working in an ‘exemplary way to improve the character and heritage of their local area’.
It’s uplifting stuff. If you want a feel-good read just download the full report on these three streets. As the gap between North and South shows signs of widening again, it acts as a timely reminder that there are streets and towns worth exploring throughout the UK.
Which would you nominate, where is your favourite street? We’re spoilt for choice but right now we’ve picked Edinburgh’s Victoria Street. Ok, we’ll come clean, that’s partly because it’s one of the destinations on Edinburgh Comedy Tour (between shops and cafes, Jamie and Harry dig up the Wizard of West Bow while Susan and Bruce delve into the murky world of the Underbelly) but it is definitely one of the city’s most vibrant streets. And it is on a hill.