Once, inner cities were the industrial centres of the city. The city expanded with its main employers as the nuclei. Today the inner city is a base for leisure with shops, theatres, pubs, and restaurants their speciality. This change has left great areas of deprivation in many inner cities. This report will analyse if there really is a crisis in the inner cities. In Britain today, most inner city areas are aged. When industrialisation took place workers needed to live close to the factories as transport systems were non existent. Cheap terrace housing was built near city centres; most was cramped, unplanned and had only had basic amenities. As these houses fell into disrepair they became slums. After the Second World War, slum clearance programs began and as urban transport improved, many British cities began to change rapidly.
Margaret Thatcher first proclaimed that she intended to do something about the inner city following the election in 1987. Since then the government has developed various strategies to solve inner city problems. The problems that Lady Thatcher was referring to are vast. Each inner city is unique with its own set of problems but some of the problems can be seen repeatedly across the country.
The clearance of slums within inner city areas have led to further problems. Glasgow is located on the western side of Scotland, in the lowlands. It began growing and developing rapidly in the 19th century. Tower blocks were created in the inner city areas to accommodate the large population rise. In the 1970’s these tower blocks were deemed unsuitable due to being badly constructed and the lack of consideration for social needs when built. New council estates were built out of the inner city to relocate all those that lived in the tower blocks so they could be destroyed.
Slum clearance in the inner city left behind large empty sites. The decentralisation of housing coincided with deindustrialisation in the inner city. This caused large scale unemployment. The new accommodation was unsatisfactory for its residents because of the loss of communities and the distance from their original homes. The planners chose to stop destroying the slums and instead to renew them. Glasgow now stands against the challenge of trying to create a more diversified industrial base to overcome the problem of too much dependency on too few industries. Glasgow is just one example of diverse inner city problems.
Out migration from the cities to the suburbs is popular but hard to achieve. Many inner city areas are popularised by housing provided by the local authority. Once living in tenure rented from the local authority entering the housing market is difficult. “Trapped in… inner city areas are old people, single parents, and unskilled workers” (Robson, 1988, pg 5). This causes problems in the inner city because people are trying to escape to live in the suburbs and wide spread deprivation is left behind in the inner urban areas. Loss of a manufacturing base within inner cities has left a highly skilled workforce behind, with high unemployment rates. This leads to further deprivation as crime increases and quality of life falls.
The shape and the form of cities are very much influenced by the lifestyle of the people who live in them. The classic urban models such as Burgess and Hoyt suggest mono-centric well defined patterns which no longer seem to apply as well as they used to. Improved mobility has caused decentralization and the outward expansion of urban morphology. Suburbia has been followed by counter urbanisation with low density suburbs becoming surrounded by more housing developments.
People are committing themselves to more travelling time and expense because the inner cities are seen as unsafe with a low quality of life for its residents. “Over one in four men commute to a workplace over 10kms away, and many make very substantial journeys to work” (http://www.odpm.gov.uk/stellent/groups/odpm_urbanpolicy/ documents/page/odpm_urbpol_608111.hcsp accessed 19th August 2003).
The inner city is characterised by high density terrace housing, with little open space and a majority of tenure is local authority owned. The inner city is also well known as an area of pollution, graffiti, litter and decay. Where once a proud community, in the heart of the city lived, now is a place which intimidates anyone walking through it. Lack of funding in the inner cities has lead to lack of amenities. Car ownership is low in the inner city areas so amenities need to be accessible. To the people that live their, it often seems like there is no escape.
Since the early 1970’s there has been a significant change to this pattern of shop location. These changes have been a result of a large number of factors, including the shopping behaviour of customers, the organisation of the retail industry as a whole, and the planning policies of local councils. The emergence of superstores in the early 1970’s, usually on new, edge of town sites, led to a sharp decline in the numbers of shops selling food in city centres as people travelled further out for bulk food shopping where the premises were more spacious and the parking facilities more user-friendly. The early 1980’s saw the development of non-food retail parks, which grew up alongside the out of town supermarkets, selling furniture, DIY related goods, carpets and gardenware in an attempt to benefit from the customers already visiting the supermarkets on a regular basis, and later the development of entire covered American style shopping malls, such as Merry Hill in Dudley.
This de-centralisation of much of the original retailing in the inner cities has led to a change in the type of retailing which now exists there. Whilst previously shops were separate, each with its own character, the layout is now very different, with covered-over centres, containing several shops together, where shoppers can browse as they like between the shops, comparing prices and styles of clothes and other high order goods without getting cold or wet and without having to worry about parking. The development of such shopping centres has been important in trying to keep retail outlets within the city centres, and prevent them from all moving to out of town retail parks and thus leaving a void in the inner city, and even higher rates of unemployment.
Inner cities in general contain old housing, old factories, and old civic buildings. Their rivers have been allowed to become polluted and they suffer from a lack of any concept or vision. In general, from the outside, the inner city areas look like dereliction sites, with boarded up buildings and abandoned wasteland. The main cause of this has been urban sprawl and decentralisation. The crisis of the inner city is a very real problem that many cities and planners have tried to overcome and it can not been ignored. Saying that it is a misnomer is denying the impact of a developed society where urban models such as Burgess are no longer relevant.