Staying empty…

BHS went into administration on 25th April 2016 with the loss of 11,000 jobs. Out of a total of 164 former BHS stores, just 52 have new tenants or deals on the table – see here for the full story: Two-thirds of BHS stores lie empty as anniversary of collapse nears

Across the area we cover, the former BHS stores in Basildon and Southend remain empty. In Basildon, plans for 165 flats to be built above the ground floor of the store have collapsed: Basildon BHS site plans for 165 flats fall through On Southend High Street, the former BHS store remains stubbornly empty with no sign of anything happening to it any time in the foreseeable future. Which means we’re stuck with the banal slogans, courtesy of Southend Business Improvement District, painted on the frontage of the store which are supposed to lift our spirits and inspire us! Try telling that to the BHS workers who lost their jobs or the increasing number of homeless people who can’t get a roof over their heads…

Both Basildon and Southend have an increasing number of homeless people. Both towns also have empty shops and offices which given current economic conditions plus changes in the way people work and shop, will be staying empty for some time to come. For both towns, we’ve suggested solutions to the problems of homelessness and empty buildings: This pretty mural can’t hide what’s been done… and: Screwed up priorities…

Now we’re not for one moment expecting the authorities to take a blind bit of notice of our suggestions for re-purposing premises that are likely to stay empty for some considerable time while taking constructive steps to deal with the problem of homelessness. The fetishisation of property development and land values plus the blinkered attitudes and ineptitude of local councillors and council officials are major barriers to workable common sense solutions to these problems being implemented.

So, it looks as though the former BHS stores in Basildon and Southend will be staying empty for some considerable time while local authorities struggle to wake up to the realities of how a sluggish economy, changing shopping habits and changes to the way people work are significantly changing our town centres. Basically, town centres re no longer about retail. Maybe it will take some creative squatting with social centres, meeting places, pop up art galleries and the like being set up in long empty business premises to get the message home…


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