Article for the Hereford Journal

Jesse Norman in HerefordHereford is a gorgeous city, full of beautiful buildings and open spaces and terrific independent shops. One of my proudest moments as an MP was in helping to plant a line of new trees on Whitecross Road.

I always get a thrill when visitors remark on how lovely the city is—and it looked especially fine during the magnificent recent River Carnival.

But the burned-out shell of the River Island building in High Town is an eyesore and an embarrassment. It’s now four years since the blaze took place. The Booth Hall has reopened. Yet virtually nothing has been done to rebuild its charred next-door neighbour.

It’s an issue I have raised with Herefordshire Council, as well as with the owners—and full credit to Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, Lucy Hurds, for giving it another push recently herself.

The Council have statutory powers to compel the owners to sort the site out. But the process is costly and difficult, and with public money at stake they have tried to persuade rather than compel.

They need to turn up the volume, fast. The local firms behind Hereford’s Business Improvement District proposition are determined to improve the site. Council officers have visited the site. They should now serve formal notice requiring repairs.

The Old Market development is pulling more and more people into Hereford, and across Newmarket Street and into the mediaeval centre. Let’s get this wreck sorted so that both local people and visitors have a High Town fit for them to shop in.