There is a noticeable shift in the social-economic profile of the people who live immediately outside the city centre. This has been partially brought about by the increased acceptability of living in the very centre.
Pokey flats above town centre shops (where they existed) have given way to spacious ‘lofts' and similar high specification, highly desirable apartments, frequently converted from office blocks. What these city centre homes lack are basic but by no means essential amenities: private gardens, views of open countryside, car parking. This omission is more than compensated for by the convenience of the proximity to the theatre, the railway station and a wide array of restaurants. The outcome is that city centre homes are now commanding a premium, pushing essential workers (cinema ushers, station porters, restaurant waiters) one step further out.
The effect can clearly be seen in Ipswich; houses 500 metres from the shopping core have become ‘rented accommodation' with short term tenants whose basic need is simply a bed for the night but have a tendency to forget to put the bin out, don't prune the roses and display previously used furniture in the front garden.
This is the first step towards these houses becoming less desirable for ordinary families who in turn move to the suburbs, typically on to the new developments. Unless there is local authority intervention the houses become modern day slums, unfit for human habitation. When this happened between the wars it led to ‘slum clearance', hence the doughnut. A core of expensive property in the centre is surrounded by cleared land, bomb sites as they were called in the 50s and 60s; today it is previously developed or Brownfield land.
The phenomena hit the northern cities in the mid 1960s. Liverpool in particular became a doughnut, a functioning centre with shops and leisure facilities surrounded by acres of cleared housing and the rebuilding programme coughing and stumbling. To a certain extent it was noticeable in Ipswich, the terraced housing north of Crown Street condemned as unfit for human habitation, the Potteries swept away under a slum clearance programme (and in this case a new college built on the site) and the housing on the Mount (St Matthew's) giving way to the Civic Centre.
So what is to be done? How can we stop Norwich Road, St Helen's Street and Burrell Road becoming run down, unloved and deprived?