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.
- A Waste of Space
- ReSpacing Conference at The Hive
- Temporary closure and uncertain future of Aldershot job seekers project