Letter: Battle of the Mall

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The Independent Culture


Battle of the Mall

Sir: The pounds 600m Trafford Centre in Greater Manchester ("The mall that ate Manchester", 2 September) exemplifies all that is wrong about our over-designed and modernised age. It will have everything we want, and nothing we really need.

It is a prime example of what are called "edge cities" in the US - designed places full of plazas, malls, parking lots and corporate opportunity, offering the "total living and shopping experience". But no one actually likes them. They have no history, no civic structure, no sense of community.

Orange County in southern California has three edge cities, and is described by the authorities as "a theme park - and the theme is you can have anything you want." This is a terrible and taunting myth. Everything is so perfect, say the authorities, why should anyone want to change any of it? Indeed, some cities have deed restrictions that prevent people from customising their own homes. There are 2,000 edge cities in the US.

Some 50 per cent of people living in Britain's cities are said to want to move to the countryside. But do they really want ghost towns or dormitory villages? Most are in search of some kind of idyll, places rich in community spirit, where there is a sense of place and history. People want local shops, schools, pubs and churches. Yet each year we lose 1,000 local food shops. Now 45 per cent of all rural parishes no longer have a shop or post office, and 60 per cent have no school.

Let us find ways to protect our rural and urban communities - not ruin them with brave new and spiritless developments.



Centre for Environment and Society

University of Essex