Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Do cities need to be less conservative?

Aaron Renn asks (knowing, of course, that city government - especially large city government - is more-or-less a conservative-free zone):
Political conservatism is all but extinct in cities, but the conservative impulse is alive and well. That is, a desire to prevent change in the name of preserving something that people find of value is still a powerful motivating force.

Historic preservation is an example of the conservative impulse.

NIMBYism is an example of the conservative impulse.

Anti-gentrification advocacy is an example of the conservative impulse.

In fact, it strikes me that cities are more conservative now than they were in the past. Previous generations were much more willing to engage in massive, radical projects of change than today’s residents and leaders. Not all of those previous projects were good to be sure, but many of them are what created the very cities as they exist today.
I've a feeling - and I see this in my own city of Bradford - that the governments of cities are stuck in an old economy model and with the idea that what's here now needs to be preserved at all costs.

I also feel they're wrong and Will Alsop was right.



Anonymous said...

Almost all our cities grew organically, without any controls, merely operating on a supply & demand approach. Private capital bought some land, then satisfied a demand by using it for some purpose. If the demand changed, then the usage changed dynamically, without any 'nanny' or 'nimby' interference.

It would be a fascinating experiment to take a failing city (I'm sure you can think of one locally) and remove all planning controls for 50 years - keep the Building Regs, but nothing else. Then let supply & demand operate freely and, after 50 years, evaluate the result. Look around you - it could hardly be worse.

Anonymous said...

I know of one large town where plenty of buildings are bulldozed almost before they are finished and the council regularly embark on tearing chunks out of the place for grandiose schemes.
It was largely expanded in a historic development in the 1930s but hardly anything significant from that period remains. A college library from a star architect lasted barely a decade. An architecturally significant town hall barely escaped the wrecking ball.
All of the not very old buildings familiar to the general public from the title sequence of a 21st century TV series were pulled down years ago.

This beacon of modernity? It's Slough, and anyone with any taste who finds themselves there can't wait to get out.

Be careful what you wish for.