Posts Tagged ‘Portas Towns’

Portas Pilots: failure or success?

May 30, 2013
Westgate ugly eyesore on edge of Victorian town centre

Westgate ugly eyesore on edge of Victorian town centre

In May 2012, the government announced twelve English High Streets would share £1.2 million of cash to rejuvenate their town centres.

The money allocated was trivial. Divvy up between twelve towns, and it was less than a High Street chain would spend on a store refurbishment.

Research for BBC Radio 4 You and Yours would appear to show that from vacancy and occupancy rates, the Portas experiment has been a failure.

Market Rasen appears to be a success. Was it the money, or the community spirit, and the lack of input from the local council?

300 towns applied for a share of the money. One of the unsuccessful bidders was Aldershot, a dire place to visit, boarded-up shops, betting shops, charity shops, fast food outlets, all the indications of a dead and dying town.

A local councillor in Aldershot has woken up to the fact that a shopping centre is sitting empty. He claims the developer is letting down the town. A clueless idiot if ever there was one. Developers destroy town centres. They are only interested in a fast buck, a quick return, extraction of the maximum amount of money from the town.

It is a bit rich coming from a local councillor. Who gave planning consent for the shopping centre? Why would any retailer wish to move into a dead and dying town centre? A situation caused by decades of poor planning decisions.

If anyone has let down the town, it is local councillors, like the clueless idiot now shedding crocodile tears.

Why would any retailer wish to move into a dead and dying town of boarded-up shops? The best use of the derelict shopping centre would be to turn it into something else. Anything other than retail.

The question this clueless councillor should be raising is the dire straits of local retailers.

Only a few weeks ago, the chief executive said Westgate was good news for Aldershot. This was news to local retailers who call the development Wastegate due to the dire consequences it has had on the town centre, a large retail development on the edge of the town centre, one large supermarket and several chain fast food outlets, all of which drain money out of the local economy.

It was not necessary to have Portas cash, in fact it was almost irrelevant, what was important was to apply the principles, something Aldershot and neighbouring Farnborough (another dead and dying town centre) have failed to do.

Town centres are about more than shops, retail and shopping. Which is one reason why shopping centres are such ghastly soulless places. In too many places, we have too much retail space, which is why much now sits boarded-up. We have had an over-expansion of retail space, aided and abetted by greed and corrupt planning planners in the pocket of developers. Retail space was expanded way beyond that which was sustainable, and we are now seeing the inevitable collapse and retraction.

Much work has been done by Transition Towns and New Economics Foundation, on creating sustainable communities, and yet that work is being ignored.

Small, independent retailers are the heart and soul of town centres, they provide diversity, character, recycle money within the local economy, and yet they have no say, are being driven out of town centres by greedy developers and corrupt planners in the pockets of developers.

Sincil Street in Lincoln is a very popular street in the centre of Lincoln. It is all what remains of the historic town centre. Small shops, independent retailers. During the day, more people than the High Street. And yet the City Council seems hell bent on destroying it to replace with a soulless shopping centre.

North Laine in Brighton is a pleasant are to visit. Why? Because of the diversity of its shops, restaurants, bookshops.


%d bloggers like this: