Give power back to left-behind places | Letter

Thanks to Tony Naylor for his perspicacious analysis of the big challenges facing those trying to regenerate town and city centres in Britain (High streets can be reborn. But developers are in the way, 14 September). He puts his finger on the central issue when he states that: “The remote coalition of global property management, pension and investment funds that owns most shopping precincts and malls is, at best, distantly concerned with the local population.”

In my recent international book Leading the Inclusive City (Policy Press), I argue that the most important divide facing modern democracies is the growing conflict between place-less and place-based power. By place-less power, I mean the exercise of power by decision-makers who are unconcerned by the impact of their decisions on communities living in particular places. Globalisation has meant their power has skyrocketed in the last 30 years. This disconnect between power and place largely explains why many towns have been “left behind”.

Fortunately, many countries value local democracy and we can learn from progressive cities elsewhere. My book provides many examples of cities that are taking on place-less power and delivering just outcomes for residents. The international evidence suggests that UK central government must boost the legal and fiscal autonomy of elected local authorities if urban regeneration efforts are to succeed in our country.
Robin Hambleton
Emeritus professor of city leadership, University of the West of England, Bristol

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