What to do with a dead shopping centre?

The Galleries

The Galleries

The Galleries

The Galleries

The Galleries

The Galleries

Aldershot is a dead town, boarded-up shops, charity shops, betting shops, fast food outlets. A very depressing place to visit. Which is why few do. The dead town centre the result of decades of bad planning decisions, a dysfunctional local council that has not a clue what constitutes good town centre planning, how local economies function.

In the midst of this desolation is an empty shopping centre, The Galleries. It could be the film set for a post-apocalyptic movie. The occasional zombie is even seen to walk through negating the need to hire extras, though could hire locals and ask them to be themselves, no acting required. The shopping centre has been derelict for years, is likely to be for the foreseeable future.

What to do with this empty space?

The local council claims to have plans for redevelopment.

This should set alarm bells ringing.

This is a local council that has:

  • got into bed with a developer and destroyed Farnborough town centre
  • got into bed with a developer and destroyed The Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s
  • got into bed with a developer and destroyed Firgrove Green to erect an eysore Premier Inn
  • got into bed with a developer to construct Wastegate which has laid waste to Aldershot town centre

Hence the last thing we need is the council involved in redevelopment of this dead shopping centre.

The top down approach of the council, contempt for the views of the local community, has been an unmitigated disaster for Aldershot.

In is now time for an alternative approach, bottom up, the local community in charge.

First, as it has been empty for six months, the dead shopping centre should be designated as ReSpace. This opens the way for negotiations with the property developer for use by the local community, for social enterprises that contribute to the common good, irrigate the collaborate commons. These social enterprises would pay a peppercorn rent, the property developer no business rates.

There is already one social enterprise occupying the dead shopping centre, TechStart.

TechStart, run by volunteers, recycles computers, carries out repairs, provides training and help, a net café is available for walk in use.

TechStart last Saturday, closed, its funding had been pulled. Luckily, common sense has prevailed, and a four month extension of funding has been made available.

We now need to build on TechStart, open the dead shopping centre to other social enterprises.

The claim in the local rag that TechStart is ‘unviable’  is simply not true.


Tags: , , ,

12 Responses to “What to do with a dead shopping centre?”

  1. Peter Coulson Says:

    Selling computers at £50 a time means you need to sell a lot to stay open even if you get them all for free. If you pay three staff minimum wage, that’s £150 a day, so they’ll have to sell at least five computers a day, every day, once you’ve added a Windows license and some rent, electricity, insurance and so on. So, probably 30 a week. I wonder how many they actually sell?

  2. keithpp Says:

    Completely missing the point of social enterprises, collaborative commons.

    People contribute for free, people withdraw for free.

    The Hive in Daltson, located in a derelict office building, started with £250.

    They recycle everything, people. materials, buildings,

    They have an arrangement with Travis Perkins, to take offcuts of wood.

    Everything is salvaged, recovered, donated.

    They have built a recording studio, a TV studio.

    They have run conferences, mounted exhibitions.

    The Hive, a not-for-profit, is self-financing.

    The space is available for other groups to use. All these groups have to show is that they contribute to the common good, the collaborative commons.


    TechStart may no have shifted as may computers as ideal, but that is because they have a very low profile. People look beyond WHSmith and see a dead shopping centre, they have no reason to venture any further.

    Techstart is run by volunteers. They install Open Source Software. It is not about making money. But yes, they need to be self-financing, not dependent upon the whim of a dysfunctional council.

    If there were other social ventures, business start-ups in the dead shopping centre, the central space used for music, art meetings, exhibitions, it would draw people in, and all would benefit.

    The policies the local council has imposed on Aldershot have been an unmitigated disaster.

    – decades of bad planning decisions

    – one and a half million squandered on repaving the streets

    – at least four worthless reports from consultants

    The result, boarded-up shops, the streets deserted.

    It is time local people said enough is enough.

    The dead shopping centre should be seen as an opportunity.

    That an alternative is possible.

    TechStart was a beginning, now needs to be supported and built upon.

  3. Peter Coulson Says:

    I thought they put Windows on their computers rather than open source? If it’s Linux, that’s probably half the problem. The majority of people won’t buy that! I was interested, but not now.

    I’m not convinced how far the taxpayer should go to fund the staff and premises, it needs to self-finance.

  4. Peter Coulson Says:

    It’s a shame that there’s not an event for World Book Day today, a missed opportunity that could have brought people to the centre.

  5. keithpp Says:

    I did not say they put Linux on the computers.

    Computers have Windows 7, everything else is Open Source.

    And yes, TechStart needs to be self-financing, as is The Hive.

    That is why a review is taking place. Begs the question who carries out the review. Dysfunctional local council that has destroyed Aldershot lacks the capability, and no more public money should be squandered on consultants. .

    There is nothing wrong with public money funding the common good. What is wrong is when public money is squandered on consultants and cosmetic changes to the town centre. A gravy train for consultants and contractors.

    And to put the one and a half million spent relaying paving slabs in context, it is costing one million to relay the setts in Guildford High Street.

    TechStart are not doing themselves any favours by not re-opening until May.

    And at the very least they need an A-Board outside WHSmith to indicate something does exist beyond, as no one ventures any further as all they see is a dead shopping centre.

    Currently the local community does not have control of the dead shopping centre, just one unit is leased. Therefore not possible to put on any event in the central space.

  6. keithpp Says:

    There is an environmental cost when we dispose of toxic waste via incineration or landfill.

    There is a social cost when we have have idle hands, idle minds.

    There is a cost to the public purse when local Job Centres squander public money sending job seekers to bogus scam training courses.

    TechStart pay no rent. They do pay for non-existent security.

    At The Hive, volunteer security live on site.

    TechStart employ at least one person. Could make all volunteers but run the risk of losing one highly qualified person,and TechStart collapsing.

    TechStart do though need to visit The Hive, which is self-funding,and see what lessons can be learnt.

    If more social enterprises take up residence in the dead shopping centre, the greater the chance of success and being self-funding, as they will be able to offer each other mutual support.

  7. Alison Says:

    Keith. Does the council continue to receive rates from the owner of the empty shopping centre? Is there a case for doubling rates on property that remains empty. There are shopping centres owned by pension funds who’s only interest is long term investment in the land and therefore don’t care that shops remain empty. Perhaps financial penalties will lead them to do something positive such as letting for a peppercorn rent to projects like yours.

  8. keithpp Says:

    I do not know if The Galleries pays businesses rates or not.

    When a greedy developer kicked all the small businesses out of The Arcade, the dysfunctional local council advised them what to do to avoid paying business rates.

    When empty, pay half business rates.

    By stripping out certain facilities, pay zero business rates.

    Many are kept empty to offset against tax. Often owned by offshore shell companies, using laundered money.

    When units are boarded-up in the centre of a town, as we see with Aldershot, they blight a town.

    Those you see in Aldershot town centre, are not fit to be let, as in appalling state of repair, and who ever rented would have repair obligations.

    The Galleries is a different kettle of fish. Sitting empty, it is not blighting the town. The units are unlikely to be let, as no demand.

    Look at Aldershot, the streets are deserted, the demographics of those on the streets, is that they have no money in their pockets, and the only money they do have is courtesy of the state or pay day loans.

    Across the country there is surplus retail space. Shopping centres that have planning permission, that will never be built. Shopping centres that have been built that sit empty.

    Yes, you could penalise the property developers, but what good would it do?

    You are though correct, greedy developers do not care about the damage they do.

    One only has to look at Farnborough: Half the town centres demolished, many small businesses wiped out, social housing demolished, The Tumbledown Dick destroyed for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s, Firgrove Green destroyed for an ugly multi-story Premier Inn. Greed writ large, an example of what happens when a dysfunctional local council, a planning department unfit for purpose, gets into bed with greedy developers and councillors stick two fingers up to the local community they allegedly represent.

    Far better, to follow the example of The Hive in Dalston and work with an enlightened property developer who wishes to contribute to and work with the local community.

    In The Galleries, even if units let for nothing, retailers would still make a loss.

    It is not only retail space, it is property per se, there are office blocks sitting empty, vacant land.

    The first step, local councils need to maintain a public database of all vacant space.

    It is then, what do we do with that vacant space?

    Next step is to designate as ReSpace if empty for more than six months.

    And please sign the petition, share with your friends, calling for ReSpace to be written into planning law. Give The Galleries as an example of why we need ReSpace written into planning law.

    Once designated as ReSpace, community groups, social enterprises, small businesses start-ups, open coops, can move into this avaible space, paying a pepperconr rent. The only criteria, they must contribute to the common good, to the collaborative commons.

    The property developer pays no businesses rates for ReSpace.

    Empty property deteriorates, it is vandalised, it requires security.

    At The Hive, volunteer security live on site.

    It is a win-win for everyone.

    Please check out the ReSpacing Conference at The Hive for more information.

    At a meeting in London a couple of weeks ago, Yanis Varoufakis suggested two ways the economy could go (gist not verbatim):

    We can have a future of coops, open coops where the community has a say, which contribute to the collaborative commons, where information flows freely, where we do not require large companies, where with high information content, we can assemble locally or even print with 3D printers.

    An alternative future is that of atomised individuals, serfs to apps, Uber drivers, task rabbits, transfer of wealth from the poor and exploited, where people work to the command of robots.

    Who decides: the people or corrupt politicians?

    In Barcelona and across Catalonia, it is common to find empty space put to use, a network of cooperating social enterprises, open coops and small businesses. Where a need is not being met, a social enterprise or open coop will be formed. This is starting to happen in London.

    Can we do it ourselves?

    We know the polices pursued by the dysfunctional council have been a failure. We do not want more of the same.

    The dead shopping centre provides the opportunity to try something new. Something that reuses dead space, that puts idle hands, idle minds to productive use.

    And we all benefit.

    It is up to local people if they wish to seize the opportunity.

  9. Peter Coulson Says:

    Rates are still payable on empty units, but rates are reduced (I think to 25%) for the landlord if a property is let to a charity. That’s why so there are so many charity shops. Landlord still owns the property, probably part of a pension fund,and costs are reduced. Of course, if it’s council owned the net result is zero, let or not.

  10. keithpp Says:

    I have already stated what happens to business rates.

    If lies empty pay half, if rip out certain facilities pay zero.

    Charities are a special case.

    Yes, there is a special rate. I believe it is 25%, but we need facts, not speculation.

    Erroneous information is irritating noise.

    Whatever the rate charities pay, is of no relevance to The Galleries.

    If The Galleries were designated ReSpace, the rate would be zero.

    What would be useful to know, what if any business rates is being paid by The Galleries, and who owns The Galleries.

    Charities often have temporary leases, zero notice can be given to quit. In return, they do not pay a commercial rent.

    Too many charities, are simply big business, operating under a charity label. They would not be welcome in The Galleries.

    There is also a massive scam involving charities.

    They occupy an empty property, stick up a board, in reality do nothing. Landlord gets a massive reduction on businesses rates. The two divvy out the proceeds.

    It amounts to little more than fraud on the public purse. A similar sort of racket to tax dodging.

    Contrary to the nonsense peddled by the Aldershot Civic Society, the dead shopping centre is not killing the town. What has killed the town is bad policies from a dysfunctional local council.

    The Galleries lying empty has no impact upon the town. What it does is provide an opportunity to try something different to the failed polices that have destroyed the town.

  11. keithpp Says:

  12. keithpp Says:

    Even the charity shops are leaving Aldershot

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: