ON OCTOBER 8 I attended the presentation of a Vision for Kendal in the town hall. There were well over 100 Kendalians present, most of whom, like me, had contributed previously to the research and discussion sessions on which the vision was based.

The vision was evolved by a small group of out-of-town consultants, most in Kendal for the first time. Their fee, rumoured to be £50,000, was paid by local big business owners and not from the public purse. So, firstly, a big thank you to the sponsors for their altruism and to the consultants for their work.

Secondly, what was it all about? The presumption was that, in the vision, the reality of Kendal as it is could be rubbed out and the wishes and desires of the Kendalian respondents, adults and children equally, could be fulfilled; what would an ideal Kendal be like? All constraints of cost, planning and disruption and displacement of people were put aside to derive the ideal.

From this emerged themes important to respondents and which may have value when transposed into the reality of moving Kendal forward. Several strong themes were almost universally acclaimed; the parking "omnishambles" and the need for an eco-friendly public transport alternative; the waste mileage engendered by the one-way system and the need for a radical re-think, and easier and safer walking and cycling routes; and a more vibrant "scene" in the town centre re shopping, nightlife etc.

Harder to grasp for me, and I guess for many others present, was the value of the proposed "ideal plans" for key areas of the town; the "station quarter", the "canal quarter", Waterside and the Westmorland Shopping Centre. These areas exist as they are, like it or not, and in the cases of Waterside and the shopping centre they were the result of planning processes of yesteryear not dissimilar to this "visioning"!

In the case of the "canal quarter" most of us will have lived through the "visioning" of about ten years ago based on the Tesco/Premier Inn/canal reopening/posh flats plan of that time which "came to nowt".. The one area of the vision which intrigued me was the "station quarter". That might just be a runner.

Finally, hardly one word was said about the fantastic opportunity the £72 million flood prevention scheme affords Kendal and surroundings to achieve so much of what most respondents were asking for and, most importantly, to give protection to more than a thousand families, to key businesses and to our valuable infrastructure. Greening of the riverside from Sandy Bottoms right through the town, with new public spaces, new facilities, through routes for cycling and walking, protected recreation areas alongside the water, more than 3,000 more trees and many more benefits.

This is real, costed and happening development that will re-vision and better protect Kendal for the benefit of generations to come as our climate evolves. It was a pity to see the consultants trotting out tired, discredited theories such as digging down the riverbed so the floods fit under the bridges and/or planting a million trees upstream which will magically "drink the floods".

In summary, an exciting presentation of a worthwhile exercise that has cost us, the taxpayer, nowt.

But if it were a pint of ale, I would be asking the barman to blow off some of the froth and top it up with a bit more substance when the full report is produced before Christmas.

Ian Kell