In the first of a series on urban regeneration, The FT examines the long-term prospects of the government's plans for the UK's towns and cities.
Change may come slowly. In a survey compiled in the mid-1990s, companies put a city-centre location bottom on a list of 17 factors influencing their choice of premises.
Michael Parkinson, director of the European Institute for Urban Affairs at Liverpool's John Moores University, says there was a wave of 'civic entrepreneurialism' in European cities in the mid-1980s. This included successful public-private partnerships in cities such as Hamburg.
He sees mixed prospects for British cities - the best bits getting better while the worse get worst. He stresses the need for leadership and is an enthusiastic convert to elected city mayors.
For cities, he added: 'I expect the next 20 years to be better than the last 20. The pendulum is swinging towards seeing them as assets rather than liabilities.'