Some readers will recall this blog’s solicitude for the good old High Street (LSS 6 April 2020 The Empty High Street..) We frankly own to liking high streets. Not just the bright busy shops, but the way they provided a community hub where neighbours could meet, and real forum for activities like music, charity, politics religious revivals and buying and selling in little street markets. And, gentle readers, you will recall our gloom in that little piece, not entirely in keeping with our usual optimistic spirits.
Now Larry Elliott of the Guardian has come up with a Cunning Plan, or rather, reports on the several Cunning Plans of others, who are in the business of offering hope to this much-loved but battered old friend. Once again, we tremble in to stand in Larry’s way, instead offering you the link below.* But for those of you frantic to dash off to the shops, here is a brief summary.
Elliott concedes that the problems are grave. Any short-term sugar rush of spending, as people bounce back from lockdowns, will be soon offset as problems like the end of furlough and return of business rates return-like the shades of gloomy ghosts around the cradle of a sickly infant. And behind that lie the deep structural problems of the shift to out of town retailing, and on line shopping.
His solution, heavily citing experts whose reports you can reach through the links in the link, is to return High Streets to the people who own them. That means getting people to work and live there. It will mean returning powers to councils so the local community can decide how the spaces are best used. Maybe they can even take derelict areas over by compulsory purchase to chase out speculators and other creators of property blight.
You know why we think these areas work. To leave them to fall into dereliction would be a criminal waste of infrastructure and investment. Thriving towns which are worth inhabiting will take the pressure off of rural areas. And if we are going to avoid a global climate catastrophe, we are going to need every blade of green grass we can find.
#larryelliott #highstreet #urbanregeneration #planning