Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Corbynism

The city of Preston in Lancashire dates back to Roman times. It is listed in the Domesday book as Prestune. It’s where inventor Richard Arkwright kickstarted the cotton trade. Yet ask local people to tell you its history and they jump straight to 2011. That was Preston’s year zero, when the grand schemes for the city fell apart. For more than a decade the council had bet everything on a massive shopping mall. The Tithebarn would sprawl over the city centre, cost £700m and be built by two of the biggest developers on the planet. It was going to have a Marks & Sparks, a multiplex and a huge John Lewis store. It was the lottery ticket, said the council leader. The lifeline, the turnaround, the magic bullet.

Then came the banking crash, and cranes across the country stopped dead. Businesses grew cooler on the Tithebarn until, in November 2011, John Lewis pulled out. The council found its sums no longer added up, and killed the entire scheme. Where once there was a masterplan, Preston now had a vacuum.

The answer, it appears, is to have small scale experiments in this and that according to local circumstances.

This is an endorsement of Corbyn’s insistence that the economy should be centrally planned in what manner?

15 comments on “Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Corbynism

  1. That’s the thing with “Masterplans” . Tyson’s quote applies : “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face”.

  2. I see that M&S has announced itks closing some stores and this is likely to be the start of something bigger given how much of the Christmas trade was on the Internet. So, even if they’d gone ahead with this development at some point in the near future councils are going to have to start thinking about what to do with these developments and the land their on as the bigger shops leave and they become decrepit. It’s the same problem as they currently have with the High Street.

    They can insist on no change of use and see them go the way of the town centres and be nothing more the betting, coffee and charity shops or they can allow change of usage. More living space for a start.

    That got me thinking. Round here we have Poundbury and we may get another development near Hardy’s Cottage along similar lines. These developments are based on designs that happened before the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act, so there’s something to be said for the free market. Moreover people love going to old places that were built before anyone ever thought about planning.

    Obviously it won’t happen, but how about we let let the market decide what to do with these out of town shopping areas and dying town centres?

  3. Tim, Tim, Tim . . . this is not an indictment of central planning, just the wrong people attempting to do it.

  4. Hold the line! Spurn small scale attempts to direct local public sector spending to local private sector suppliers.We all know where that ends. Communism !
    Now is the time to pledge ourselves anew to the tried and tested method of pumping money into house price crashes that wreck the banks and require them to be refinanced by productive industry .Call this loony Thatcherism if you will! But we have done it before and we can do it again.
    Its our way and we will not be told what to do by eastern European subversives in Preston, wherever that is!

  5. Unfortunately, the working of the market is not just between me and the stores. Part of it is, some are more attractive in competing for my custom than others, and M&S in particular has no clue what to sell or how to price it. That is not the whole of the market though. The other bit is the council. Make it unpleasant to drive there and impossible to park. Make it impossible to open a new store. You will lose your high street to betting shops, fast food and charity dumps. I can go elsewhere or spend my money on other stuff, entertainment, holidays, whatever.

  6. Piss off Reedy. That paragraph of shite had everything except a coherent meaning.

    Take the lesson. Councilcunts should leave business to businesses who pay a price for failure. The Preston bungle will likely have not seen off a single council clown. They will all be in place waiting for the next socialist cock-up and failure to arrive.

  7. See also the re-development in Newport, gutted the town centre and by the time anything new was built most people were happy going elswhere, especially as one of the other towns had free parking

  8. “If there is anything we are trying to protect ourselves against, it’s shareholders,” says Martyn Rawlinson, the councillor in charge of finance. “Those people who live hundreds, thousands of miles away and just extract value from our community.” An anti-globalisation initiative of sorts? Fair enough. Keep money local, rather than “shunting Preston pounds down to London”. Be a bugger if London and the South East followed suit and refused to share the proceeds of their economy with the rest of the country.

  9. “Spurn small scale attempts to direct local public sector spending to local private sector suppliers.We all know where that ends. Communism !”

    I’ll tell you where it ends, it ends with local councillors and local private sector suppliers in cosy deals done in back rooms for the benefit of the chosen few, and if your face don’t fit (or you don’t go to the local lodge, or grease the right palms) you’re not getting any of the local spending moolah. It ends in local government corruption of the T Dan Smith variety.

  10. @BniC
    I understand the Welsh for ‘shithole’ is no longer ‘twll din” but rather ‘Newport’.

  11. Two types of redevelopment:

    Bad. Gov’t/Council announces it will spend £xxx Million/Billion on new shopping mall which retailers will, they hope, occupy

    Good. John Lewis, M&S, Tesco and Balfour Beatty joint venture offer to buy the land subject to planning permission to build new shopping mall

  12. Bloke in North Dorset said:
    “we may get another development near Hardy’s Cottage along similar lines”

    Is that the Kingston Maurward College one? I thought they’d dropped it, after vociferous objections from a few Nimbys and the local rich luvvie (Julian Fellowes) getting them national press coverage. Which was a pity; it could be a nice little development, and round the back of the steel barns of the agricultural college was hardly raping virgin countryside. Would be good if it’s back on with some appropriate design.

    The most amusing thing I saw about the protestors was that they claimed Hardy would be against the development. Hardy was an architect, his family had a construction firm, they designed & built houses in green-field sites all over that part of Dorset (and the one he designed for himself is particularly hideous). If they were around today, they’d be angling for contracts working on the development, not protesting against it.

  13. None of this story makes much sense to me, and I think Aditya is gullibly lapping it all up. Short Preston. In a few years it’ll be a scandal.

    “In other cases, Community Gateway asks bidders to detail how they will employ locally, provide training, and partner with other local businesses.”

    So, council services will be more expensive. If I’m doing a software project, I don’t hire local people much. I need rare skills. I’m not going to pour money into training someone to be a software build manager. I’m going to hire someone I know in Reading or Worcester.

    “In 2015, Lancashire county council put a contract to provide school meals out to tender. That was impossibly large for local firms, so officers broke it into bite-size chunks. There was a tender to provide yoghurt, others for sandwich fillings, eggs, cheese, milk, and so on. One contract was split into nine different lots. It meant officials actually shaping a market to fit their society – and it worked. Local suppliers using Lancashire farmers won every contract and provided an estimated £2m boost to the county.”

    But local suppliers (or at least fairly near) nearly always win these contracts, especially in poorer areas. You’re not going to have catering for Lancashire supplied from Devon. And what did all those extra contracts cost the council to run?

    “In 2013 the six local public bodies spent £38m in Preston and £292m in all of Lancashire. By 2017 those totals stood at £111m in Preston and £486m throughout the county. That is a huge turnaround, especially as their budgets shrank from £750m to £616m. ”

    But nearly all of that money, if it went outside the area would have come straight back. The council might have been using a recruitment consultant in Birmingham, but the IT guy would have been local. Councils do local stuff. They aren’t building aircraft carriers or HS2. They need school windows fixing, flowers for the registry office, cleaners for the local swimming baths.

    “The county’s pension fund is now building student accommodation in the city and doing up a hotel.”

    Why is a county doing up a hotel? You can point to various problems with markets, but hotel companies responding to high demand for hotels isn’t one of them.

    “Over the next few months Brown will get two new worker co-ops off the ground – one in IT, the other in food. He talks about establishing a local bank for Lancashire. But right now his pride is the multimillion-pound revamp of the covered market, built by family firm Conlon using local contractors, which opens in February.”

    an IT co-operative? Yeah, that’s going to crash and burn, big time. Getting involved in retail? Look, there’s companies that know this stuff like Westfield and Grovesnor. You don’t Mr Saw Tony Benn On TV.

  14. Pretty much most physical projects will be built using local contractors. A big company may bring in a site manager from elsewhere but for a project lasting several months they won’t be moving all their staff from hundreds of miles away. Particular specialists and managers maybe, the bulk of the work will always be local.
    Give a contract to a firm in Devon and the staff on the ground will be local – seen it happen that way. Have been involved as staff that way too.

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