23 February 2012

The death of city centres in Britain

The death of town centres in Britain is gathering pace.

Across Britain, at least outside the centre of London, town centres are dying as commercial locations. The number of empty shops is around 6% in the richer south, but 40% in some of the ex-industrial cities of the north.

The causes are several. The financial crisis has reduced the spending power of all social classes, but particularly that of the poorest. In addition, there has been the growth of out-of-town shopping centres and an increase of shopping on-line. For city centres a vicious circle results: fewer city centre shops, fewer potential customers and vice versa.

As a result, in many parts of the centre of cities are becoming new slums consisting of boarded-up shops over and around which are found decrepit flats and rooms rented to the unemployed. The out-of-town shopping centres – often only easily accessible by private transport – provide only commercial wares. There are no public spaces here and permission to enter is in the hands of the shop owners.

The abuse and loss of public space is a loss for democracy, liberty and equality.


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