Town centre degeneration

Two news stories, that the prime site occupied by Mecca bingo is likely to be vacant for an extended period and that Swindon now has Britain’s biggest charity shop, both suggest that the fortunes of Swindon town centre are currently on the way down, not up. Except for in the very centre of the town, there are many other vacant shops too.

Any regeneration plan will go through a period where it makes the local economy worse not better, but that is usually at the height of the reconstruction work. This slide is before redevelopment has really started. Just as a patient needs to be of reasonable strength (even if in poor health) before a surgeon will operate, so a town centre needs to have a certain level of vitality if it is to withstand a major redevelopment.

The planners need to be mindful of the condition of their patient, rather than being too enthralled with grand plans.