SOUTHAMPTON like the rest of the UK is currently facing an economic crisis due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But the city’s problems have been ongoing for far longer than the current pandemic. The urban grain of our city is being destroyed by developers promising bold, new visions to regenerate our decaying city centre.

However, in reality, we have been left with permanent scars and lacklustre developments that hold no unique character.

Look at East Street with the promise of the new link to St Mary’s, once demolition of the shopping centre took place the developers went off leaving a half-built scheme full of student accommodation and no supermarket for locals as promised.

Instead, we are left with an unsightly vacant site opposite the Central Hall.

The Bow Square development below, that destroyed the fruit and vegetable markets unusual and exciting industrial buildings.

It benefited from unusual rooflines and replaced them with square blocks with coloured plastic being used as a pathetic attempt of place-making.

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The most scandalous of all, however, is the Bargate Quarter, pictured below.

I can’t think of any other city that has got a vacant eyesore site left empty alongside its primary historic landmark.

Let's be honest the scheme has failed, and now we have a devastating scar on the heart of our city centre.

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Yet COVID-19 threatens our city further.

Debenhams will not reopen, and already a screening opinion has been put into the council to demolish the attractive building it once anchored with more faceless characterless apartments and student flats.

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The Nuffield Southampton Theatres closure is a devastating blow to our city and its rich culture, with its iconic campus theatre that is a true icon of 20th century architecture now likely to be demolished by the university.

Southampton must take a stand and look to its sister city Le Havre.

Le Havre, below, was often treated as an ugly failure, but no more.

Now it is a world heritage site.

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Like Southampton, it was destroyed in the war but instead of destroying and removing its post-war architecture, it has retained it and embraced it.

Now the city promotes itself as an architectural hotspot, embracing its “concrete chic” and making use of its unusual architecture.

Its new architecture is radical, with its Le Volcan theatre, Les Bains des Docks aquatic complex and Catene de Containers public artworks.

Post COVID Southampton must embrace our existing buildings and city, and reimagine our public spaces.

Let’s celebrate our listed Wyndham Court, pictured below, but putting its large plaza to good use,

Let's protect our unique post-war structures and repurpose them with creative, artistic uses.

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Let’s give people a reason to visit our city.

Post war architecture is now becoming increasingly sought after and fashionable.

It is a valuable commodity that we should make use of in this era of Instagramable places.

Let’s be more like Le Havre, below. Radical. Creative. Bold. Visionary.

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And let’s turn our city around and celebrate it.

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