THE ‘VISIBLE DECLINE’ CLUSTER
e.g. Accrington, Abersychan, Halifax, Swinton
The 67 towns in this grouping have above average IMD scores both for crime and community safety issues, and for challenges relating to the living environment and the public realm. They have seen over a third of pubs close since 2001, and have higher levels of drug deaths than the average town. All of these factors can feed into low trust of others and a sense of deterioration and loss.
This cluster is striking in terms of how concentrated it is, running across a belt of Lancashire and West Yorkshire towns immediately north of The Peak District. Among the larger of the towns mentioned are Rochdale, Wakefield, Burnley and Halifax.
It would be interesting to drill deeper into the list, to try and understand why this particular group of towns score so highly. Far fewer of the towns in the North East and Wales fall into this grouping, for example – despite also having post-industrial economies and high levels of deprivation.
One notable factor when trying to understand it, however, is the predominance of mill towns within this grouping. We look at this type of settlement in more detail on page 76. But it is certainly the case that places which were once the home to textile or cotton mills seem to have a disproportionately high number of towns in the ‘visible decline’ category.
The effect of the characteristics associated with this trait is to enflame feelings of deterioration, cultural decline and economic abandonment. Solutions in these sorts of towns may some through visible ‘clear-up’ operations, spear- headed by community leaders. One precedent for this is the ‘eyesore gardens’ campaign in Barking & Dagenham during the 2000s, where a renewed focus on public realm issues helped to tackle at source the decline narratives promoting the far right.56 The initiative continues to this day.