"Robinson believes that visiting a town centre is like taking a person’s pulse – it tells you about the health of a place. Take Margate, which he visited in March with the urban panel: “I went for a walk up High Street, it’s a complete disaster zone – M&S and all the other large shops had gone, more than fifty per cent of the shops are empty.”
It’s true that Turner Contemporary, an art gallery and cultural centre designed by David Chipperfield Architects and inspired by JMW Turner’s long association with Margate, is being built to boost the town’s appeal – and that its community outreach arm has re-opened the M&S building . But Robinson has his doubts that such flagship developments can save a place. The gallery will not primarily be home to Turner paintings and major cultural regeneration projects can often play out more like Sheffield’s National Centre for Popular Music than Bilbao’s much admired Guggenheim."
Interestingly, the Turner Project Space at the M&S Building closed not long after the CABE visit and then of course there are the TDC plans to let the Upper High Street go to residential. i.e. to destroy the shopping centre of the High Street from Boots upwards up the hill. It will be interesting to see if these plans from TDC have been submitted to CABE in their response to the report drafted after the March visit which is still pending.
Recently, I was at a friend's wedding and was chatting to people who live in Brixton in South London. They were telling me of the work done in Brixton Market to allow artists to take on empty units via a charity set up. Apparantly this way, rates were able to not be charged. Or at least it was rent free and the rates were paid. I'll dig out more information and feedback. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Robinson. I look forward to hearing more from CABE.