Towns and Cities: Competing for Survival

Towns and Cities: Competing for Survival

Towns and Cities: Competing for Survival

Towns and Cities: Competing for Survival


The last fifty years have seen dramatic changes in towns and cities. People have moved out of central urban areas, retailing has moved out of towns and jobs have also declined in city centres, particularly with the growth of business and science parks.
With the continuing decline of the manufacturing sector and the re-shaping of employment in the service sector, a new force will increasingly dominate urban development, the meritocratic elite. The meritocratic elite are those able to develop and use information technology to generate productivity and wealth. Where they wish to live will increasingly influence future urban development.
Towns and Cities - Competing for survivalsuggests that as public and private corporations continue to downsize, outsource and re-engineer themselves, an increasing amount of expenditure and employment growth will lie with the leisure sector. Herein lies one of the solutions to the decline of towns and cities.
Town planners and economists have continually displayed a lack of understanding of these developments and have not anticipated the forces which cause urban change. As the global econonmy, combined with changes in transport and information technology increasingly dominates our lives, local and national governments need a new agenda for the 21st century. If they fail to rise to this challenge many of our town and city centres will continue to decline and may not survive.


Over the last half century many towns and cities have continued to lose residents. Employment has diminished in town centres and many retailers have increasingly chosen out-of-town locations. What is the future of towns and cities in a mature economy like Great Britain?

Since I studied economics in the late 1960s I have worked within and watched the property market of Great Britain change. During the 1970s, an era of high inflation, property investment was perceived as a ‘hedge against inflation’. In reality this was a fallacy; in the short term it did not hold true, while in the longer term property was no more a hedge against inflation than investing in stock market equities or purchasing government bonds. Yet property investors and town planners have been caught up in a succession of waves of property market activity which few anticipated or fully understood.

Roger Bootle, in his book The Death of Inflation, suggested that inflation may be a thing of the past. If this is true, and if the cyclical patterns of the British Economy and its property market are to be diminished in the future, property investors will have to readdress, in greater detail, the needs of occupiers. They will no longer be able to pretend that their investment decisions are a hedge against inflation, nor in the longer term will inflationary growth be able to hide their investment mistakes.

In recent years I have made a large number of presentations, often on a weekly basis, to investment and property occupier clients, academics and friends addressing the issue of where the property investment market is heading. What will property investment returns be in the years to come, and how will they compare with other forms of investment?

This continually raises questions in my mind, and in those who listen to my presentations of who will want to occupy investment buildings in the future. What are the forces at work changing the property market? What are our

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