Late one evening last week.
When I was taking my son back to his flat in Rock Ferry, I drove down Borough road and thought ‘oh that would be a great photo’. There on the opposite side of the street were a row of commercial premises with flats above. ‘So what’ I can hear you think. Well the reason I found them so interesting was because of the decay, dilapidation and forlornness of the buildings.
Where once there had been bustling shops with a myriad of different families living over them there now stood these forlorn looking buildings just waiting to be knocked down. While I was taking my photos a guy came out of the end building and started chatting to my husband. He actually lived in the flat over the, what we thought was empty, end retail space. Spray painting cars as a hobby, he was the last person in the block of old shops. He told us that the shops had slowly closed over time, been bought and sold without anyone new moving in and eventually been bought by the council and left to rot. Apparently the council wants to knock all of the block down and turn it into green space. Not that we don’t need new homes of course, we all know we should be building on brown site land to save the countryside though, don’t we?
So this guy is left on his own at the end of a block of shops that are vandalised on a regular basis, with kids breaking the windows of his flat so often he no longer repairs them. To get him out the council will make a compulsory purchase order but he has two of the properties knocked into one and they will only pay him for one. His retirement fund, wrapped up in the buildings, is halved and he will have to find somewhere else to live.
If those buildings had been maintained and shop owners found, that end of Borough road would possibly have still been a flourishing part of the community. Increasing the potential for new tenants and helping to create a more affluent area.
When you bring money into an area the knock on effects are many. Confidence, happiness, empowerment, social acceptance, being a few and once you begin to become aware of these things and see the good changes being made people continue to improve where they live and in a way it encourages people to find work so they can continue to improve their standard of living. I think it is one of those circle effects, good becomes better, becomes best.
Detroit in America did a similar kind of thing, knocking down rows and rows of shops and houses creating empty space after the failure of their main industry. During the 50’s Detroit grew to accommodate almost 2 million residents, today in 2016, there are fewer than 700.000 residents left amidst miles of vacant land. They are attempting to better where they live by creating a greener, cleaner city. The Greening of Detroit will enhance their quality of life, they want to repossess the land and create beautiful and productive green spaces, involving all of the residents in the process through community engagement, education and jobs. http://www.greeningofdetroit.com/
They want to show that you can increase the value of properties without building new homes, their research shows that the greener the neighbourhood the higher the property values.
I’m not sure if that would work on our small island but we need to do something to pull our run down neighbourhoods up and by letting a bustling shopping are become rundown and empty you are not really infusing the community with the confidence and passion to do so.
Original post below.
Closures on our High Street
In every community there is almost always a high street. From small corner shops to supermarkets, family owned shops to co-operatives. When times are good our high street flourishes the community and neighbourhood are strong and cohesive and times are good.
When you start to add things in like redundancy, unemployment, benefit cuts and sanctions then people don’t have money to spend. Every penny is spoken for so splashing out on that nice duvet cover, rug, bottle of wine or meal out stops.
Shop rent and rates go up, produce goes up because transportation costs are high and slowly the shops struggle to make enough profit to cover costs. Shops change hands, close down and the high street becomes a desolate waste land.
The effect on the community can be harsh, people spend less and less on their homes, with poor educational chances crime rates go up, ill health from poor nutrition and lack of access to basic health services affect the neighbourhood an inequality between individual’s and families becomes apparent and social segregation occurs. Those who have a job live on the nice side of the street where as those on benefit live on the wrong side of the street. It has to have an impact on peoples state of mind.
This can make for good community spirit as everyone is in the same situation or similar but often people feel displaced and on their own.
The only way out is by getting a job and moving to the nice side of the street where everything looks rosy but is it. There are bills to pay and just as many worries for an employed person. By leaving the neighbourhood and abandoning the community everything is dragged down until there is nothing left and only the most impoverished remain, it is a cycle that remains for generations.
For the person willing to take on the bank to start their own business there is a mighty up hill struggle to finding that one bank willing to lend the money. Business start up is non existent, banks are loath to loan money yet British firms have £750 billion sitting around doing nothing. By not loaning the money they suppress new business and keep our high streets empty of creatives and individual enterprise and filled with charity shops. The person wanting a job to start their own business has a fight to find the financial backing to start up, they know where they want to be, the shop is empty, their idea solid but is there anyone willing to back them.
You find a backer and then your credit reference rears its ugly head, you have poor credit history because of your redundancy having gone from £20.000 a year to £79 a week does have an effect on whether you pay your bills on time. There are a lot of people who have an idea or talent and want to get back into work who cant. Poor credit is the ultimate curse, loan sharks and pay day loans are not the way to go their price is too high, failure a sure thing and a lead to more debt and disappointment. The lucky few who buck the trend and find an investor and in turn become an employer themselves put back into our economy and add a little light in our high street
We need this influx of new business to flush out the charity shops that appear as if over night and give our communities the resources they need to bring back the hustle and bustle of a busy high street.