The challenge of ghost-towns

Still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are at a crucial time for the future health of our towns and cities. The big urban centres are experiencing an inevitable plunge in demand for centrally located floor space for offices, retail and leisure. Smaller market towns where the economy has become based around the ‚’pull‚’ of one or two big chain stores are likely to suffer a collapse in footfall. At the same time, local suburban centres with small independent shops and services, within easy walking distance of home workers, are increasingly well-used. During this period, awareness of air-quality problems in urban areas has risen significantly and people are unwilling to continue to tolerate illegal levels of air pollution where they live. Ambitious thinking and timely action is needed to make sure that we do not leave city centres to dwindle in to ghost-towns. In a period of huge pressure both for job creation, and for more house building (at a high carbon cost), some joined-up thinking about the bigger picture is urgently needed. In my city (Manchester), people whose jobs are, like mine, based in city centre offices, are reporting that their companies are moving to smaller premises and that in future they will be asked to go in to work just two days per week. This is excellent news for the nation‚’s carbon reduction targets, and a one-off opportunity to rethink urban living as the most sustainable, healthy and vibrant way of life, as business space is freed up. This is the ethical route to take, at a time when humanity‚’s dominance over the natural world is sending biodiversity into catastrophic decline; ‚’If we do unsustainable things, the damage accumulates to a point when ultimately the whole system collapses.‚’ (Attenborough, 2020).




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