A Manifesto for Towns: The Towns of the Margin.

Rekindling the Flame of our Deindustrialized Towns: A Manifesto for Revival - exploring the demise of British industry and its debilitating effects on town centres. This blog presents an actionable roadmap to regenerate our urban landscapes, armed with 'State-sponsored tinder tokens' and a commitment to restore community spirit, economic prosperity, and collective progress.

6/19/20234 min read

Industry flame, all snuffed out, town struggle…deindustrialised fate.

The flame of British industry has all but died out and the decline of the town centre is a tragic testament to that loss. Debilitating unemployment figures, deprivation, economic stagnation, the decline of services, the vitality and viability of our once beating industrial towns paralysed by the symptoms of this industrial disease.

For too long, the ashes of deindustrialization have choked us all, and we’ve been inoculated with the culture that our physical environment is a mere foundation for the advancement of productive and service-related undertakings that exploit geographical locations temporarily.

While we've been divided by the tyranny of concrete out-of-town retail parks and subjected to a forced diet of cheap suburban mediocrity. We’ve become increasingly isolated from each other and our communities as our social capital and sense of belonging have eroded. We are bowlers who have taken strike, insisted our old leagues be abandoned, cut off camaraderie's hand and demanded to bowl alone.

The time has come to reject this individualistic, disconnected way of life and rebuild our towns as centres of the community once again. The town centre should not just survive off its old embers but rekindle the flames of collective spirit, stoke the base of the town-centre pit with conditions possible for an economy to prosper and reignite the passion for progress that once burned bright. Together!

To regenerate our towns an endowment package of three ‘State-sponsored tinder tokens’ should be endowed to BID’s and towns;

1) FreeTowns - ‘Burst the Bullshit' - Stemming from the idea of ‘Freeports’, we need a token ‘Act of FreeTowns’ administered from Parliament. Our town centres are draped in red tape and a business rate system hostaging its victims to a chance of growth. Freetowns would establish a town boundary and offer temporary tax exemptions, credit, and streamlined bureaucracy within that area to encourage business development. By reducing the initial cost of doing business and offering incentives we can create better jobs, encourage building regeneration, attract investment, foster innovation and spur development wide.

2) Grants - ‘Show us the Money!’ - This token would fund the afforestation of town centres by encouraging the restoration of property to attract long-term residents and build, commercial, leisure and cultural space much like Italy’s ‘€1 Homes’. We can encourage younger people into a cheaper property market increasing economic activity while also providing a baseline footfall for shops and services to exist in the town centre. A revival of nightlife and tourism could see the renaissance of an all-day economy. By encouraging the growth of a foundational economy through grant schemes we secure the well-being of town residents and the conditions necessary to support growth and reduce inequality in deindustrialised towns.

3) Power - ‘Give us the Power’ - The last token would see devolved power to BID’s. Mandated bi-decade private organisations would be responsible for managing larger infrastructure projects, releasing grant money personally to individuals/organisations and also setting the terms. BIDs can build on their already superb relationship with businesses to wider sectors involved in urban development and other BIDs to coordinate development across different towns - breaking down the barriers between county and council. Delivering for all! The world of government has been so full of a number of ideas, but has the presence of proper leadership and vision been absent? Yes, definitely yes, positively yes, undeniably and unequivocally yes. Their derring-do debit card is dry and it’s time for a new order of governance. But why the BID?

BIDs are the democratic keyholder to deliver a new golden age of community. A long history of creating vibrant commercial districts by order of ballot. Strong, self-funded and nimble in process. We have the opportunity to bid farewell to big, damp and floppy bonfire projects that spur up in the pretence of election riddled with bureaucracy and backhanders. We have the opportunity to turn our surplus of towns' historic infrastructure plagued by compulsory sitting around orders surplus into urban growth machines. We have the opportunity to start small fires on multiple levels in housing equality, business development, tourism, culture, beautification and security. The BID is vital to the future of urban life in our deindustrialised towns nimble in governance, accountable in funds and flexible to the needs of its stakeholders.

Our marginal towns have suffered enough and are ripe for rebirth. Our towns can become places of radical possibility and resilience offering a new perspective for which to reimagine alternatives and create new worlds. To achieve this we need three tinder tokens, freetowns, grants and power. We need freetowns to make it easier and attractive for businesses to grow in the short term, rate cuts and tax incentives will incentivise and start this fire burning. Grants will lay the foundations for a town to prosper allowing community and business to be in symbiosis, this will be our heritage. And power is needed in the hands of BIDs to make sure decisions are democratic and maximising.

Let us have an impulse towards the future where a new community is possible and where the towns of the margin become vibrant, dynamic and essential parts of our urban landscape.

Let’s; Burst the bullshit, show the money and give the power! The word of the town.