Sean O'Grady: We are supposed to worship brutality

Once my city boasted Roman walls, medieval halls and Georgian terraces
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The Independent Online

English Heritage is right. My home town, Leicester, is in danger, from its own council. Again. In the 1960s it got shot of a lot of the old Victorian stuff, including little gems such as the Bell Hotel, and the little shops and stalls of Charnwood Street. It built a grim shopping centre and an uninhabitable housing estate. Both failed. Now it calls it "regeneration", a nice word for an ugly business.

Once my city boasted an eclectic, harmonious blend of Roman walls, medieval halls, fine Georgian terraces and squares and the standard, handsome red brick Victorian inheritance of any old industrial city. But no one seems to want to save the Magazine, a city gateway dating back to 1410, pitifully neglected. Or the Co-Op's 1890s Wheatsheaf Works in Knighton, once the world's biggest shoe factory, now waiting to fall down, just like the Midland Hotel pub opposite it, and the Princess Charlotte in town. Or the 1930s Leicester City Transport depot near Abbey Park, left to the pigeons. Tattiness is everywhere. It's like the old place has cancer. Yet we are supposed to worship "The Curve", a theatre on a scale so vast it would have been thought immodest by Mao or Ceaucescu. And "Leicester Highcross", an identikit shopping mall with a gargantuan John Lewis, which looks as if it has squashed Woodgate under it, with a big raspberry, like a Monty Python comedy foot.

If I thought regeneration would restore prosperity, I'd be all in favour of unimaginative, brutal buildings. But it won't (just like pedestrianisation, which has robbed the city centre of life – and paying customers). Think of where people actually love to live, work and shop – Brighton, Chester, Ely, Cheltenham, Oxford and Cambridge. They cherish their nice old buildings. Just like Leicester should.