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A great deal of political attention has been focused on how to tackle distressed communities – the conclusion, inevitably, is that the way to fix a society is by investing in its economy. When we ask how to regenerate a left behind town, the answer has long been a shiny new railway station or the revamping of the local town centre.
Yet time and again, this response has not been enough. High streets are still dilapidated, neighbourhoods are still disconnected, most of the same places are still run down – and arguably never more so than after a year of economic disruption from the pandemic. Post-industrial towns like Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, coastal communities like Grimsby, Blackpool, Great Yarmouth and Merthyr Tydfil were all subject to regeneration attempts in the last thirty years. Yet all suffer many of the same problems, or worse, that they did beforehand.