A sense of well-being

Brighton guitar shop

Brighton guitar shop

Brighton Infinity Foods Café

Brighton Infinity Foods Café

Sincil Street

Sincil Street

What makes one place better to live than another, what makes a viable High Street, what provides a sense of well-being?

The answers have been known for a long time, but we still focus on growth for growth’s sake.

In the US, each generation had a sense they were better off than the previous generation, but not any more.

Once people have progressed beyond a certain material level, where they are not starving, where they know they will keep warm, accumulation of stuff as an end in itself becomes pointless. In a finite world, it also has dire consequences.

When large corporations move into a town, they destroy. They have no sense of community. All that matters is profit on a balance sheet. They have low pay, poor working conditions, the classic McJob. The sense of place is destroyed when all towns look the same. Money is drained out of the local economy.

For a over a decade, New Economic Foundation has been publishing research on viability of town centres, on well-being.

More recently, Mary Portas has been saying the same thing on what makes a town centre viable.

Recently published research from the government, is also saying the same thing.

What therefore are they all saying, and why is no one listening?

We need variety, we need small businesses, we need sense of community, we need heritage, we need green space, we need art and culture.

When we look around, we can find places where this is a reality.

North Laine area of Brighton. Variety, individuality, heritage.

Sincil Street in Lincoln. A Victorian Street, though the street is much older, running parallel to the High Street, the street is a bustle from 10am until 4pm, more people on the street, than in the High Street. The High Street, Clone Town writ large, the same High Street Chains, as every other Clone Town. The one rare exception, Stokes on High Bridge, an indie coffee shop. Sincil Street has individuality, indie coffee shops, a couple of butchers, a baker, a market (though thanks to the crass stupidity of the City Council, the market is a shadow of what it once was), heritage, a sense of community. The City Council, rather than recognising the jewel in the crown in the City centre, has blighted Sincil Street, by earmarking for demolition for a shopping centre.

Market Rasen, a small Lincolnshire market town, has pulled itself up by its bootstraps by focussing on what matters: small shops, mutual support, community, cultural events. This has been achieved without any input from the local council, by local businesses, local people, working together in partnership.

To look at the opposite extreme, visit Aldershot and Farnborough on the Surrey-Hampshire border. Both towns have been trashed by crass planning decisions, a council in bed with developers and Big Businesses, to the detriment of the local community, a council that destroys heritage, a council that is practicing ethnic cleansing of local businesses, a council that has arrogant contempt for the local community.

Westgate Centre (Wastegate as local retailers call it), is ruining Aldershot town centre. The latest small business to close, was Paul’s Copy Shop on Thursday. He put the blame on the local council, the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor. As do all the other retailers who are suffering. There was once three copy shops in Aldershot, now there are none.

In Farnborough, planning consent has been given to destroy Firgrove Parade, destroying four local businesses (the few local businesses remaining in the town centre), and destruction of the only green space at the northern end of the town centre.

Planning consent granted to destroy the c 1720s Tumbledown Dick, a once popular live music venue, for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

The green light given, we want to shift Farnborough downmarket, to increase the spiral of deprivation, drain money out of the local economy.

A 99p Store has now opened. A planning application has been lodged for an Adult Amusement Arcade, weasel words for a gambling den.

Not surprising, a sense of alienation, crime rates high, poor health high (especially obesity and type 2 diabetes). Those with the means, visit nearby towns, Farnham, Godalming, Guildford, anywhere other than Aldershot or Farnborough, or Farnburger, as it is now called.

Farnborough and Aldershot form case studies in how to destroy once viable town centres.

It will come as a surprise to most people to learn that in the 1950s and 1960s, Aldershot was seen as the place to visit. People came from Guildford to Aldershot. But that was before the ghastly shopping centre was built, ripping the heart out of the town, when Aldershot was still recognisable as a Victorian town.

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