The Victorians knew that our cities needed “green lungs” to allow them to breathe, and enclosed some of the grand parks in Britain’s urban areas that are so precious today. As Colin Drury, our northern correspondent, reports, many of our old cities are now undergoing a green regeneration to match that 19th-century ambition. This is evidence of a welcome change in the assumptions of urban planning.
The decline of many city centres and high streets has been a visible change for many decades now, often associated with ugly concrete shopping centres that depress the soul. Now Stockton-on-Tees is planning to demolish the bleak Castlegate shopping centre and replace it with a park three times the size of Trafalgar Square.
This seems to run counter to basic economics: that central business districts need high-value retail and office space to bring in the people and the bustle to make a place thrive. But there is more to life than pounds per square foot, and the customers and workers who are drawn to city centres need beauty too, and the value of green spaces is hard to price.
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