There’s no denying that Hereford city centre is looking shabby. Paving stones are broken and stained, the streets are dirty and the buildings look rundown.
You could easily lose count of the number of shops that have broken or rusty guttering, rotting window frames, dirty exteriors in need of painting and so on.
So who’s to blame? Many city centre properties are occupied by businesses that could afford the odd maintenance project here and there—a shop-front paint job won’t cost the earth. But responsibility must surely lie with the landlords.
When the Card Factory–River Island site went up in flames in 2010 it was one of a number of properties across the UK owned jointly by two London firms, both run by two businessmen in Gibraltar. Since then the site has remained more or less untouched and it took Herefordshire Council a number of years to force the owners to act—which they failed to do before the businesses went into liquidation.
Why would two offshore businessmen care that fire-damaged buildings were making Hereford city centre look shabby? For landlords it comes down to profits. They often display a tremendous lack of civic pride, neglecting their property until there’s major problems (a consortium of local business managers, Hereford BID, has now taken it upon itself to try and smarten up the city).
We all have a responsibility to look after our little bit of the city. And in the case of High Town it is a landlord’s job to take care of their patch. Right now they’re failing and our city is looking a mess because of them.