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Collapse of town centre regeneration schemes

Keith Parkins | 14.07.2008 14:41 | Repression | Social Struggles | Liverpool

The first casualty of the property crash and credit crunch has been the collapse of town centre regeneration schemes.

A favoured regeneration model of town halls across the country has been to build new shopping centres, added to the retail mix is usually yuppie flats, leisure and sometimes office space.

The collapse of the property market, credit crunch and banking crisis has exposed this business model as seriously flawed.

Even within its own narrow agenda it was seriously flawed.

Last year, eight major retailers were forced, or go into liquidation, to restructure and dispose of 27% of their property portfolio. This year more major retailers are being forced to do the same to remain in business, with the offloading of the property portfolio now expected to exceed a third of the total holdings.

Retail spending has levelled out, and with people being forced to concentrate their spending on food and fuel it is expected to take a sharp downturn.

On-line retailing, as the websites become more sophisticated and user friendly, already at 5% of the retail expenditure, is expected to rise and take a bigger share of a dwindling cake.

The number of retail developments either put on hold or shelved has now reached double figures, close to half of that planned and the figure is expected to rise as the recession deepens.

The cost of build, with raw material prices rising is growing rapidly, is making many sub-contractors reluctant to tender for contracts.

The model is thus not viable and never was.

It was a misnomer to call it 'regeneration' in the first place. It was never anything more than exploitation, the opportunity for greedy developers to make a fast buck.

Aldershot has already seen the collapse of the Westgate project. Even the fig leaf of regeneration did not apply in this case. It was an edge-of-town retail cum yuppies flats cum leisure adjacent to an edge-of-town Tesco superstore and would have dealt the final death blow to Aldershot town centre.

It was not only town centres. As Mike Lane shows in his excellent documentary The Regeneration Game (now available on DVD), whole swathes of housing was demolished in Liverpool to create a development opportunity for greedy developers.

In all these schemes, town hall officials got into bed with developers.

If this was 'regeneration' why no involvement of local communities?

A typical development is £100 million and upwards. This capital outlay has to be recouped in retail rents. Only High Street retailers can afford these rents. They recoup the money from their customers.

This leads to a net outflow of money from the local economy.

Where is the benefit in that?

One such redevelopment was Farnborough town centre. Until the developers moved in, there was no need for redevelopment. Yes, it was grotty 1960s era construction, but at least there were shops, people on the streets.

Now there is nothing.

St Modwen (via a Kuwaiti-financed front-company KPI) bought the town centre in 1998. They have spent the last ten years trashing the town centre. Now there is little left, but boarded-up shops. Retailers were driven out. Last summer half the town centre was demolished leaving a huge demolition site now sitting vacant. This is earmarked for a large superstore facing out of the town centre. Social housing is to be demolished to provide a car park for the superstore, the last few remaining tenants are in the process of being kicked out of their homes. There may be a few High Street retailers, but the best the developer can show is hoardings around the site with fake shops fake names. Now they are trying to bankroll the development with the sale of non-existent yuppie flats, at prices which will have at least halved by 2010.

At Hatfield the same story, tacky 1960s era architecture, boarded-up shops.

At Upton Park, Walthamstow, Bognor Regis, attempts to push the same discredited regeneration model.

In all cases, very strong local opposition, as local people do not wish to see their town trashed by a greedy developer, that promotes regeneration, but engages in wanton destruction.

The collapse of these schemes, scams is probably a better word, gives the opportunity to pursue and implement genuine regeneration schemes. Do not though expect cooperation from local government as they like large schemes with shed loads of money sloshing around, helps oil the wheels of local democracy.


Reference and background

Paul Burnell, Retail slowdown hits construction, BBC news on-line, 8 July 2008

Fight The Height Walthamstow, St Modwen set to invade East London - 18 storey tower block planned, Indymedia UK, 30 April 2008

Keith Parkins, Redevelopment of Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 9 April 2008

Keith Parkins, Farnborough town centre in its final death throes, Indymedia UK, 21 April 2008

Keith Parkins, Starbucks v cowboy developers, Indymedia UK, 25 April 2008

Keith Parkins, Farnborough town centre - unsecured demolition site, Indymedia UK, 28 April 2008

Keith Parkins, More shops to close in Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 23 June 2008

Keith Parkins, Firgrove Court demolition to begin soon, Indymedia UK, 23 June 2008

Keith Parkins, Aldershot Westgate Scandal, Indymedia UK, 26 June 2008

Keith Parkins, Aldershot ghost town, Indymedia UK, 30 June 2008

Keith Parkins, Farnborough town centre crisis worsens, Indymedia UK, 3 July 2008

Keith Parkins, Yuppie flats for sale, Indymedia UK, 8 July 2008

Keith Parkins
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