The pandemic has underlined how broken the UK’s model for urban development is. It’s time to build something new

Anyone in any large British city has only to look out of the window to see how their environment is being constantly reshaped in the interests of capital. From my second-floor flat in south-east London, I can see Canary Wharf to the east, clusters of luxury flats and the skyscrapers in the City to the north, and a larger array of seemingly empty high-rise luxury flats in Vauxhall to the west. In Leeds, Birmingham, Cardiff or Manchester, you’d see luxury flats joined by high-rise student housing, with their rabbit-hutch flats. The tallest edifices in any city will tell you who and what actually rules. Here in Britain, it’s financial institutions and property speculation.

It is hard to see now amid the depression and anger, but the pandemic did briefly show cities acting on the basis of general human need: rough sleepers being housed, mutual aid groups being set up, evictions being suspended. Yet the possibility of any long-term change is rapidly being lost. In November, I took a minor part in something called the People’s Hearing, vetting the proposals for the Bishopsgate Goodsyard – disused since the 1960s – in Shoreditch, where east London meets the City. Proposals for the site, publicly owned by Network Rail, have been batted back and forth for more than a decade: interested parties include the mayor of London, local authorities in Hackney and Tower Hamlets, a longstanding local campaign to use the site for local businesses and social housing, and Hammerson, the developers that have an option on it.

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Source: Business – The Guardian

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