Sunday, 22 August 2010

Tidying up: A cheaper form of regeneration

Much is made of Leicester's 'trophy' regeneration successes such as Highcross and St Georges. Great those these are (and I visit both a lot), the sheer contrast with some of the more shabby parts of the city it stark.

As a city, we turn up to the interview in jeans and a t-shirt. The thinking seems to be that if we wear a nice tie that the rest of the outfit will be ignored.

Now that the big money has evaporated, isn't it time for a proper clean-up? I don't mean just a temporary scattering of banners and petunias. Putting up banners on a shabby street doesn't smarten it up - it just draws even more attention to the shabbiness.

I'm talking about a long-term sustained city-wide effort to reduce the levels of grime, graffiti, dereliction, litter, street clutter, etc - the things that everyone rightly moans about and which harm civic pride. I don't just mean city council controlled spaces either. A sharper stick needs to be used to prod private land owners to tidy up derelict areas, maintain heritage buildings, prevent fly tipping and remove rubbish. There are legal instruments such as Urgent Works Notices, Amenity Notices and even ASBOs at the council's disposal if they have the nerve to use them. There are also more gentle approaches such as community litter-picks and community reporting of issues.

Reading the city council's One Clean Leicester scheme I remain hopeful that we might see more than just a few cosmetic improvements. To quote this page: "A new website will launch later this year so you can post photographs and details of environmental blights in your area. It'll also include live progress reports as our teams respond and tackle problems". When will this materialise? Wouldn't it be more economical and effective to use the existing independent Fix My Street site instead?

Yes this would all cost money, but it would still be the cheapest bit of regeneration we could ever do. Crucially, it would also involve and benefit Leicester residents as well as potential investors & developers. Waiting for white knight developers to revitalise everywhere is not realistic in the current climate and developers don't always have our best interests at heart anyway.

Update 30/06/2011: One Clean Leicester was launched earlier in the year with smartphone apps to allow citizens to report problems

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