Farnborough - empty streets, boarded-up shops
Aldershot - closing down shops
Aldershot - empty streets, charity shops, boarded-up shops
It is difficult to know which is the strongest, the all pervading stench of dead and decaying town centres, or the stench of hypocrisy emanating from local councillors.
Last month, Aldershot was reported in the local press as the third best performing town in the country. The news was met by howls of laughter and derision by the local community. An April Fool's story published on the wrong day.
It was even claimed Aldershot was out-performing Reading and Oxford.
The leader of the council Peter Moyle then put in his ha'peneth, claiming that following massive investment Farnborough was performing almost as well.
Farnborough and Aldershot, two towns that come under the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor (as it is known locally) are dead and dying. They have all the indicators of dead and dying towns – disaffected youths hanging around looking for trouble, charity shops, pound shops, tacky junk-food takeaways and boarded-up shops.
Farnborough town centre is owned by KPI (a St Modwen front-company financed by Kuwaiti money).
The entire northern half of Farnborough town centre is earmarked for demolition for a superstore. The superstore will face out of the town. An estate of 28 maisonettes, social housing, is earmarked for demolition for the car park for the superstore.
Not content with destroying Farnborough town centre, St Modwen, with the help of the local mayor, is now intent on destroying the century old Queen's Market at Upton Park in the East End of London.
Sustainable development it is not.
Councillors are now wringing their hands, shedding crocodile tears, and wondering what to do.
There is talk of bringing in more major chains, talking to developers (maybe that is why the Council is willing to waste £170,000 of taxpayers money on the municipal golf course). There is even somewhat belatedly recognition that superstores destroy town centres.
And who is responsible for this sorry state? Why none other than the self-same councillors.
It is they who pushed through plans for the destruction of Farnborough town centre, turned a blind eye to the developer emptying the town of shoppers and shopkeepers, pilloried local activists who tried to save the town.
The leaders of the three parties are to hold talks with each other.
No talk of working with local retailers, no talk of working with the local community.
Leader of the council Peter Moyle was keen to downplay the issue. We wonder why?
David Cameron spoke at the Tory Spring Conference on urban regeneration, the need to work with local communities. This simple message has not filtered down to the grass roots. In Farnborough, one of their candidates is distributing a leaflet attacking members of the local community who dared to object to the destruction of Farnborough town centre.
Dotted around the borough are stickers urging its citizens to Take Pride in Rushmoor. These are appropriately stuck on rubbish bins!
Lester R Brown, Plan B 2.0, Norton, 2006
Ghost Town Britain, New Economics Foundation, 2002
Andrew Milford, Calls for action over decline of town centre, Farnborough News, 7 April 2006
Julian Oram, Molly Conisbee, Andrew Simms, Ghost Town Britain II, New Economics Foundation, 2003
Keith Parkins, Community activist threatened with an Asbo, Indymedia UK, 11 November 2005
Keith Parkins, Tragedy of Firgrove Court, Indymedia UK, 30 January 2006
Keith Parkins, Public Inquiry into road closures in Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 30 January 2006
Keith Parkins, Curitiba – Designing a sustainable city, Biotech Indymedia, 5 April 2006
Keith Parkins, Curitiba – Designing a sustainable city, April 2006
Keith Parkins, Council increases risk of flooding, Indymedia UK, 7 April 2006
Andrew Simms, Petra Kjell and Ruth Potts, Clone Town, New Economics Foundation, 2005