Recessionist: Stock Taking

By jamesup Last edited 98 months ago
Recessionist: Stock Taking
The Westfield Centre is apparently not an ill-timed failure...
The Westfield Centre is apparently not an ill-timed failure...
Weary shoppers sip champaign in the yet to be abandoned 'village'
Weary shoppers sip champaign in the yet to be abandoned 'village'
Oxford Street thronged with laden sale shoppers
Oxford Street thronged with laden sale shoppers
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15759_1231-recessionist-81.jpg

News broke before Christmas that the Office of National Statistics have revised their figures for July to September to show a tiny fall in GDP. Come the next announcement Britain looks likely to climb out of recession. Even as you read this the recession might well be over...

This is the worst recession since the war. That's fine, we understand the maths, but it's not exactly armageddon out there. We anticipated rubbish piling up in the street, factories standing silent, children roaming the city in search of food... We just checked, it's fine - Westfield is packed, Oxford street was heaving. The rubbish maybe piling up - that's Southwark for you - but this new era feels remarkably like the old one.

Forgive the insensitivity if you have been directly affected, but on a city wide scale the impact has been less than feared. This series was conceived with visions of a Flickr pool bursting with boarded up shops and repossessed docklands apartments - so far as we can tell some restaurants in the City had some really great lunch offers, someone stuck up Japanese names on formerly American banks and M&S did a 25% off day - then everyone carried on much like before. The housing market crashed, then went up again. The stock market crashed, then went up again. The pound crashed, then went up again... This is a dull bounce, not a great depression.

On the high street we've lost some friends: Zavvi (nee Virgin), Borders and Woollies are gone, but each had their problems long before any Americans started missing their mortgage payments. It's not like Londoners have stopped buying books and movies; we have found better or cheaper ways of getting them. Over Christmas, as we tried to find a replacement bulb for the Christmas lights we briefly mourned Woollies passing - but that's no basis for a national network of 815 stores.

We found two things that have been irrecoverably cancelled because of the recession: the 2010 Motor Show at ExCel and the Chanel Pavilion by Zaha Hadid; that's it. Some shiny cars parked up in E16 and another Hadid? We're getting a pool that looks like Michael Phelps's shoulder blades mid-butterfly - who needs another one?

In construction there's a few projects that look pretty sickly, but few concrete deaths:

Silvertown, complete with aquarium and surf centre, looks nearly dead - which is a great shame, but Silvertown has been a charming wasteland for four decades and so it's continued lack of transformation is hardly a surprise.

The whole Thames Gateway scheme seems pretty much mothballed, port, housing and all (but with no binding deal at Copenhagen the not-to-be future residents of River Road Dagenham won't know their luck).

The Cheese Grater - it's not dead, but it's not being built either. The soaring brilliance of our favourite kitchen equipment themed office tower is still on hold - our fingers are crossed - but next year the empty site is being transformed into a temporary public space by British Land, joining the Park House site on Oxford Street in this unexpected and very welcome trend to put empty sites to temporary public use.

However, these setbacks seem insignificant in the face of what is happening: with the Heron Tower soon topping out, the Shard starting to rise and our rather spiffing Olympic Park looking better every day 2009 has made more contribution to the state of London than most years in our cities history. The forums and journals remain busy with future plans and planning applications; development at Battersea, Elephant, Brent and others may have slowed but this city is still growing.

Whatever trouble remains ahead, London starts the new decade in better health than most would have dared predict a year ago. Farewell recession, Happy New Economic Cycle.

Last Updated 31 December 2009