Strategies in Regeneration for Economic Development and Urban Renewal
Regeneration can be described as a kind of urban renewal for dealing with the issues connected with economic, physical, social and environmental areas in an urban setting through policies and programmes. The ODPM 2004 defines it thus: “regeneration is a holistic process of reversing economic, social and physical decay where it is has reached a stage when market forces alone will not suffice”. (ODPM, 2004, p. 41). Hence it is obvious that regeneration is just not confined to the mere structural and physical problems. Since the 1970s there has been appreciable increase of emphasis in the UK regeneration policy to tackle these issues in a comprehensive manner (Dodds, 2011). This report aims to bring more knowledge and understanding of the regeneration programmes in the UK and to design a framework of the best practice strategies that can be used for the future sustainable regeneration programme.
Certain areas have complex and interlinked problems such as widespread poverty, lack of opportunities for work or business, poor services, high levels of crime, poor education levels, and a general decline in community activities. Additionally, the people who can afford better housing and living conditions move away: “those who get on, get out” (Social Exclusion Unit, 2001) and are replaced by people who are more deprived and disaffected (Bailey & Livingston, 2007). Hence, the neighbourhoods become squalid and become rundown. These areas need regeneration schemes and funding to not only rebuild structurally but also infuse a sense of enthusiasm and hope in the community living there by providing opportunities for enhancing their education, employment, health and recreation and bringing in greater community cohesion.
Previous Regeneration Strategies and programmes
Strategic changes for regeneration comprises of two aspects that are both inimical in the building of a sustained community: one is the structural refurbishment of the physical residences and other infrastructural facilities and two is the improvement of the social capital by providing education, skills training and jobs. The other important aspect would be in curbing crime, stabilise the population (Lawless, et al., 2008).
Since 1970s, there have been a slew of strategies and programmes aimed at the regeneration of urban communities such as the New Deal for Communities, Housing Market Renewal Programme, Coalfield Communities Regeneration, Single Regeneration Budget and Working Neighbourhoods and so on. Some of these programmes are run by the government either state or local, and some have the participation of non-governmental agencies, corporations and private individuals.
Regeneration by Clearance is needed when the local or regional council have alternative plans for the use of the land occupied by the people in that area. In such cases, the original occupants have to be given alternative accommodation or compensation in order to demolish the existing buildings and put up new housing, service infrastructure and community areas. For instance, the Birmingham City Council offers compensation of 10% above the market value as ‘Home Loss’ and aids in moving and relocation (Birmingham City Council, n.d.). Regeneration by whole scale redevelopment is also similar, in that the whole area is restructured according to the city plan and may or may not include housing. For instance, old or unused structures are replaced with useful and economically remunerative structures such as office blocks, transport and communication facilities or shopping and recreation centres for community use like in the North Glasgow area that is proposing to replace the dereliction caused by the decline in heavy industry by 2000 social rented and private sector residences in the Ruchill/Keppoch New Neighbourhood areas, employment opportunities, drainage, roads and transport to adjacent areas, local shopping facilities, green spaces like the Possilpark, schools, cultural and sports facilities (Glasgow City COuncil, 2014).
Other strategies for regeneration include mixed tenure and mixed use schemes. These programmes are based on the idea that there should be a greater mix in the types of housing as well as in the residents in an area, in order to promote inclusion, sustainability, cohesion and maintain a better balance. The residences here may be of different sizes, prices, styles and the people there may be from different social and economic and ethnic backgrounds. The houses could be rented or owned by individuals or families or groups. The accommodations may also be individual or shared by many.
In the UK, mixed tenure was mainly used as a privatisation policy aimed at the council estates in the 1980s but now serves as another name for social mix (Tunstall, 2003). However, it is evident that trying to focus on such a broad based system would mean that some of these aims like providing social housing and encouraging social mix may not be equitably achieved and that would mean that the programme is only partially successful (Tunstall & Fenton, 2006). Sustainable community strategies also include ‘place shaping’ by the Local Strategic Partnerships, that is agreed between the local authorities as well as major partners from the private and the voluntary sectors in order to improve public services, crime prevention, public health and so on (Perry & Blackbay, 2007).
Tenure depends on social characteristics such as income, education and employment opportunities. Mixed tenure regeneration is a method to avoid or change the spatial concentrations of residences that result from low income families and its attendant problems such as deprivation, crime and dilapidation. However, the long-term management and sustain of the complex objectives of mixed tenure is not so easy. It needs a practically achievable goals, excellent and thorough design aspects and diligence in the management. In spite of this, social mix is a best practice in housing and city planning and has to be part of every urban regeneration plan. Research has shown that there are a lot of benefits to be gained by social mix communities: a variety of incomes means that there are more availability of different commercial services and employment opportunities at the different levels, intermingling and formation of social groups with people from varied backgrounds, and different market conditions (Tunstall & Fenton, 2006).
New Deal for Communities was a programme started in 1998 to deal with the problems confronting 39 disadvantaged and deprived areas in England as a pilot for use as a learning resource for future expansion (Social Exclusion Unit, 2001). The implementation and the funding of the programme were undertaken by the NDC partnerships to tackle five key problems in these neighbourhoods: high crime rate, poor education achievement levels, poor health conditions, as well as the problems with the housing and environment (Rodriguez, 2009) as well as unemployment (Dodds, 2011) each unit receiving on an average £50 million for expenditure. About 6,900 projects or interventions were undertaken overall at a cost of £1.7 billion for the NDC partnerships and £730 million from public, private, and voluntary resources (Dodds, 2011). With this programme, for instance, NDC was able to increase job opportunities by providing training in job skills, encouraging investment and upgrading the labour market conditions. However, there is some criticism that some of the people who were given training had moved away to other places for employment, thus partially thwarting the improvement of these deprived areas (Dodds, 2011).
Between the years 1994 and 2004, 6 rounds of Single Regeneration Budget schemes were awarded to 1028 projects that were part of the package to render the government activity more alert to the needs and priorities of localities. The uniqueness of SRB was that it was a flexible supplement funding scheme for the main programmes, with a partnership model that comprised of all those with a stake in the regeneration project. SRB provided 22% of the total expenditure of the projects with the 78% being funded by local authorities, Training and Enterprise Councils, the voluntary and private sectors and European funding streams. SRB spent £5.7 billion out of the total regeneration expenditure of £26 billion. SRB was later subsumed into the Regional Development Agencies Single Programme (Dodds, 2011).
Lessons learnt from past strategies
When SRB is compared to more recent programmes such as Sustainable communities, we see that the lessons learnt from SRB, such as the community partnerships have been taken to a higher level by giving more power to the communities and making them an integral part of the schemes such as Community Chests, Community Empowerment Fund, Neighbourhood Renewal and Local Strategic Partnerships. The strategic approach has also changed from SRB that needed evidence from the partners of the intention and a well prepared plan in order to avail the funding. Now, the approach is more integrated where the deprivation and regeneration have a stronger association as seen in the work of the Social Exclusion Unit, Regional Development Agencies, Local Strategic Partnerships and Local Area Agreements. Flexibility in funding has been maintained and hands’ off management has become the more with partnerships between private, public and voluntary sectors (Communities and Local Governments, 2007).
Programmes such as the SRB involve the services of the resident community with the idea that they are there in the place and thus possess the knowledge and wisdom to know the local problems and what needs to be done to alleviate them. However, it is observed often that the engagement of the local people in the planning and development process of regeneration is very challenging and difficult. The very reason that they are chosen is because they have the basic insights and perceptions of the local situation, and consequently, that they do not possess the expertise and professionalism that is required for regeneration schemes to be successfully planned and implemented (O'Hare, 2010). Moreover, it is also noticed that there is considerable reluctance from the side of the residents to take active part in the regeneration process. The main drawbacks are: the lack of time and the necessary effort that is needed for board meetings and procedures outside of their work and family time; lack of interest in the proceedings; lack of confidence in carrying out such important work; difficulty in understanding the language and procedures of the bureaucrats; finding the proceedings daunting and condescending; and most important, lack of skills and knowledge that are required to make well-informed and useful contributions to the decision making. Sometimes, such participation may even be considered as intrusive and obstructive (Robinson, et al., 2005). Bringing the community together, making the residents feel important and necessary for the process, providing the necessary training for a more involved participation, and giving their opinions due weightage are necessary for successful partnerships.
While the problems such as congestion and development continue to encumber the central city areas, with the attendant demands for higher levels of infrastructure facilities, essential services and energy requirements, some outlying areas face abandonment and dereliction, but possessing the required resources such as the land, physical structures, and other essentials. Economic regeneration of such abandoned areas on a large scale while providing adequate fast and reliable transport to the city centres would serve to alleviate the problems of both the areas. For instance, the growth areas in London are to the South East. The empty neighbourhoods in Midlands and the North could provide the necessary relief to the congested South area. Nine areas were identified by the Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder for the reinvigoration of the housing market in the midland and north regions (Foden, et al., 2010). However, such large scale clearance is not welcomed by all people. They argue that it is necessary to preserve the heritage and historical assets such as canals, industrial buildings, parklands and old terraced estates (Power, 2004). These areas and structured could be included in the regeneration to provide service, educational and recreational value to the new communities. Nevertheless, the planning and implementation of inclusion such historically important areas have to be given a lot of thought and attention.
The Area Based Initiatives (ABI) active since the 1990s are focussed on the social exclusion and economic deprivation as its key mantras, targeting the unliveable and most deprived urban areas that are prone to crimes such as vandalism, safety, pollution, anti-social behaviour and decrepit and inadequate housing. ABIs focus on place-based interventions such as improvements in housing and physical surroundings, and social mix in order to deal with social problems. However, it is still not clear how this can help to alleviate problems such as poverty, poor education and lack of job opportunities (van Gent, et al., 2009).
ABI based programmes such as New Commitment to Neighbourhood Renewal policy of the government have no doubt brought a lot of cheer to the members of the local strategic groups who support the community role in making sustainable neighbourhood renewal of the most deprived areas and government’s strategies to tackle the problems and barriers for improvement in such areas. However, the complexities and mainstream services that are part of these initiatives are causing apprehensions in their minds because they feel that short term grants would make it more difficult to utilise the learning gained from them and there could be cuts in the budget or toning down of the initiatives. They feel that there is uncertainty about the roles and responsibilities of the strategic partnerships pertaining to the service priorities and implementation, inconsistency in the government’s approach to renewal, insufficient incentives, inadequate communication strategy, and unsatisfactory monitoring arrangements (Audit Commission, 2002).
There are positives and negatives in the different strategies of the past decades. What is necessary now is to form a frame work by select the best practices from these initiatives. The approach to urban regeneration in the modern era is through stakeholder partnerships, social mix and reinvesting in the less developed areas. With the present recession, initiatives such as the SRB saw that the major funding has to be borne by the government as the private, corporate and voluntary sectors slowly tone down their contributions. However, since building sustaining neighbourhoods is essential to regeneration efforts, the government, regional and local authorities have to treat this as a priority because physical, economic and social agendas are all involved in the regeneration schemes.
On one hand, the government must ensure more consistency in implementation and communication between its various concerned departments, plan on how the business involvement can be re-introduced into the areas that are under consideration and how the present implementation and service agencies can be coordinated in a reliable and consistent manner, treat each strategic partner with a tailor-made approach according to their needs and capacity to meet the strategy corresponding to the difficulties they encounter, and linking the local service providers to the neighbourhood regeneration programme (Communities and Local Governments, 2007; Audit Commission, 2002). On the other hand, the involvement of the community and the voluntary sector has to be upgraded and given more power to challenge the government to deliver their promises fully and in a timely manner. Community also has to prioritise its own activities in this regard through community action as well as individual initiatives. Establishing strong and effective community participation is the prerogative of the community also. (Robinson, et al., 2005).
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