Who benefits from these so-called regeneration schemes?
Well clearly the developer, else if there was not money to be made they would not be there, although as we have seen recently, they will quickly pull out if there is no money to be made, often leaving a wasteland behind them.
The High Street retailers also benefit, else they would not lease the retail space.
What benefit is there to the local community?
The purpose of regeneration is to benefit the locality, the local economy, the local community.
This is not happening. High Street retailers drain money out of the local community, town centres are destroyed, to be replaced by ugly retail centres, local businesses are destroyed, clone town writ large.
In Aldershot, a project called Westgate was planned next to the edge-of-town Tesco superstore. The Tesco superstore has all but wiped out Aldershot town centre. Westgate would have relocated the retail centre of gravity away from the town centre and towards Tesco (much to Tesco's delight), the High Street retailers would have drained money out of the local economy.
Fortunately Westgate has collapsed. One of the developers, Linden Homes has pulled out following the collapse of the market for yuppie flats. The dimwitted councillors are now slagging each other off for the collapse of the scheme. Not a single one seems to have the brains to see the scheme was not wanted.
Ten years ago Farnborough had a viable town centre. Yes, it was grotty 1960s era architecture, but at least there was a wide mix of retail, shoppers on the streets, now there is nothing but a ghost town.
Last summer, half of Farnborough town centre was demolished leaving a large demolition site. The rest of the town consists of boarded-up and empty shops, junk food shops, charity shops, card shops, all the indicators of a failing town centre. Many more shops are expected to pull out.
Hatfield, as the local paper has reported, is on its knees: 'Smashed windows, 'closing down' signs and boarded up shop fronts scrawled in graffiti clearly show the town centre is on its knees. ... Remaining businesses have now been left in limbo surrounded by derelict properties.' [Ghost town revealed, The Welwyn & Hatfield Times, 4 June 2008]
The developer, St Modwen, has now pulled the plug, telling the local council if they wish to see any work in progress they will have to make a 'substantial investment'.
Bognor Regis, Upton Park in East London, Walthamstow, are threatened with similar regeneration schemes.
In Liverpool, as exposed by Mike Lane in his excellent documentary The Regeneration Game (now available on DVD), vast swathes of Victorian housing, social housing, demolished or to be demolished in the name of 'regeneration'. In reality, creating development opportunities for developers and housing associations.
In Farnborough, social housing is being demolished to provide a car park for a superstore, part of the unwanted town centre regeneration. To add insult to injury, the hoardings surrounded Firgrove Court, the social housing being demolished, are plastered with posters for yuppie flats. The yuppie flats will sit atop the superstore with enticing views of the back service yard and its 24-hour lorry deliveries. To increase the profitability of the development, social housing was not part of the development, even though the norm for a development of this scale.
Why do local councillors fall for these schemes, eagerly climb into bed with the developers, not only climb into bed but go out of their way to promote the schemes? Can they see no further than the nose in front of their face, are they blind, stupid, naive or just corrupt?
A regeneration scheme, if it is to benefit the local economy, the locality, would involve the local community, but it rarely if ever does.
If a town centre is clone town, full of High Street retailers, then it matters little where people spend their money as wherever they spend it, it flows straight out of the local economy.
The towns lose character, all sense of place. It could by any town, anyplace.
What we should be moving towards is the creation of sustainable towns and cities.
We will only get sustainability when we have the full involvement of local communities, participatory democracy.
What is being delivered is not regeneration, but an opportunity for a developer to make a fast buck.
One such developer is St Modwen, claimed to be 'regeneration specialists', but universally derided wherever they operate.
St Modwen now seems to have got their cum uppance. Earlier in the week they announced a half year loss of 20 million, they have been forced to write down the value of their assets, their share price is down at around half its previous high. The Independent commenting on St Modwen said 'burying cash in the sand would be a more fruitful option for punters'.
Across the country, around half of the planned town centre regeneration schemes have been shelved or scrapped. What was planned was based on a flawed business model, it depended on ever rising retail spending.
In the past, an economy grew following investment in industry. For too many years the economy grew because of consumer spending. The High Street sneezed and the economy caught a cold.
WE have been building on economic sand. And at what cost?
People have had to work their bollocks off for little reward in soulless dead-end jobs so they could keep their levels of consumer spending; massive personal debt around their necks, so they could buy into the latest fashion, the latest techno gizmos. The earth has been plundered for resources, emissions and pollution grows. Town centres scarred, raped and pillaged, local businesses driven out of business. Dysfunctional communities, disaffected youths, soaring juvenile crime rate.
One big inflated oily bubble that is about to collapse with a bang.
Reference and background
Lester R Brown, Plan B 2.0, Norton, 2006
Paul Burnell, Retail slowdown hits construction, BBC news on-line, 8 July 2008
Alistair Dawber, St Modwen stricken by the property malaise, The Independent, 15 July 2008
Fight The Height Walthamstow, St Modwen set to invade East London - 18 storey tower block planned, Indymedia UK, 30 April 2008
Naomi Klein, No logo, Flamingo, 2000
Mike Lane, The Regeneration Game (DVD)
Keith Parkins, Localisation: A Move Away From Globalisation, November 2000
Keith Parkins, A sense of the masses - a manifesto for the new revolution, October 2003
Keith Parkins, Curitiba Designing a sustainable city, April 2006
Keith Parkins, Redevelopment of Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 9 April 2008
Keith Parkins, Farnborough town centre in its final death throes, Indymedia UK, 21 April 2008
Keith Parkins, Farnborough town centre - unsecured demolition site, Indymedia UK, 28 April 2008
Keith Parkins, More shops to close in Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 23 June 2008
Keith Parkins, Firgrove Court demolition to begin soon, Indymedia UK, 23 June 2008
Keith Parkins, Aldershot Westgate Scandal, Indymedia UK, 26 June 2008
Keith Parkins, Aldershot ghost town, Indymedia UK, 30 June 2008
Keith Parkins, Farnborough town centre crisis worsens, Indymedia UK, 3 July 2008
Keith Parkins, Yuppie flats for sale, Indymedia UK, 8 July 2008
Keith Parkins, Collapse of town centre regeneration schemes, Indymedia UK, 14 July 2008
Keith Parkins, St Modwen financial crisis, Indymedia UK, 17 July 2008
Project on hold after 20m losses, BBC news on-line, 14 July 2008
Andrew Simms, Tescopoly, Constable, 2007
Andrew Simms, Petra Kjell and Ruth Potts, Clone Town, New Economics Foundation, 2005
Daniel Thomas and Amanda Vermeulen, St Modwen to reduce debt level after loss, Financial Times, 15 July 2008