British Urban Policy: An Evaluation of the Urban Development Corporations


Edited by: Rob Imrie & Huw Thomas

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    The publisher's invitation to submit a proposal for a second edition of this book illustrates the continuing interest in one of the most important urban policy initiatives in Britain over the last twenty years, an initiative which has courted controversy and political disputation throughout its life. The Urban Development Corporations (UDCs), introduced into the political bear-pits of Merseyside and east London in the early 1980s with some predictable hostility, have managed to garner headlines in the late 1990s as they exit amid accusations of incompetence and lack of cooperative working.

    The UDCs were introduced as Thatcherite flagships, espousing a disdain for the efficiency and effectiveness of local government and a belief that the only practical approach to addressing urban problems was through creating conditions in which markets could function. In the case of UDCs, the task was seen, initially, as one of boasting property markets which would draw in private investment to revitalise the designated urban development areas (UDAs). The costs involved in attracting and then underpinning, investor confidence in fragile property markets was to be enormous, as Chapter 1, and the case studies in this book, illustrate.

    Moreover, the distribution of short-term benefits of that expenditure was so evidently skewed away from the generally poor populations of UDAs, and their surrounding areas, that the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC), in particular, drew adverse comment from a House of Commons committee (see Brownill, Chapter 2). The LDDC responded to the criticism, as did other UDCs (designated in so-called ‘generations’ from the mid-1980s onwards). While the basic UDC approach -property-led, market-sensitive -has remained in place, there have also been changes over time, and across space, with individual UDCs responding to changes in the property market (and economic conditions more generally) and varying local political circumstances.

    A number of changes can be discerned in the second edition of the book. The first chapter has been updated and amended in the light of changes in UDC policy, and the emergence of new understanding about their roles and impacts in the British cities. Four chapters have been dropped from the first edition, not because of any inadequacies on their part but because we wanted to draw in the stories of other UDCs which had not been covered in the original book. Thus, the second edition contains new chapters on the experiences

    of the UDCs in Teesside and Central Manchester while Allan Cochrane has contributed a new, concluding, piece which seeks to assess the legacies of the UDCs. All of the chapters from the previous edition which have been retained, have been updated and, in most instances, restructured to take into account the changing circumstances of the respective UDCs. The second edition then, provides a series of fresh perspectives on the UDCs, although the underlying structure of the first edition has been more or less retained.

    In producing this revised edition we would like to thank the individual contributors who were enthusiastic and willing and produced their chapters to tight deadlines. We would also like to thank the Nuffield Foundation who provided funding for a workshop held in September 1992 which provided the original inspiration for the first edition of the book. This edition could not have been produced without the support of a number of individuals and we would like to acknowledge the cartographic skills of Justin Jacyno, in the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, and Janice Coles in the Department of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University. Alison Simmons, in Cardiff, had the onerous task of producing the final manuscript to a very tight deadline -a task often made more, rather than less, frustrating by the disks provided by contributors! The book could not have been produced so smoothly without her efforts. Andrew Edwards, her colleague, helped her overcome technical difficulties in retrieving reluctant texts. We are particularly grateful to Jeanette Graham, and the editorial team, for their endeavors and hard work in facilitating the final production of the book.


    University of London


    Cardiff University

    June, 1998

    The Editors

    Rob Imrie is Reader in Human Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has published widely in international journals on subjects spanning urban policy to industrial and economic planning, and disablism and planning. He is co-author of one book (1992, Transforming Buyer-Supplier Relations, Macmillan, London), and author of another (1996, Disability and the City: International Perspectives, Paul Chapman Publishing, London, St. Martin's Press, New York). At present he is directing an ESRC-funded project on property markets and disabled access in Sweden and the UK.

    Huw Thomas is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University. He has published widely in international journals in planning, geography and urban studies. Recently, he co-edited Urban Planning and the British New Right (1998, Routledge, London). His current research interests include the racialisation of planning and urban policy (on which he is undertaking EU funded research) and nationality and planning.

    Notes on Contributors

    Michael Bradford is Professor of Geography and a member of the Centre of Urban Policy Studies at the University of Manchester. His research interests are in urban and social policy analysis and evaluation, educational restructuring, and the geography of children. He recently completed an evaluation of three UDCs and is currently working on an update of the Index of Deprivation, along with research projects on the business of children's play, the abuse of children by strangers, and a 1990s race discrimination suit in the USA.

    Sue Brownill is Principal Lecturer in the School of Planning, Oxford Brookes University. She previously worked for the Docklands Forum, a community planning organisation in London Docklands. In addition to the London Docklands her research interests include the governance of urban policy, public participation in planning and urban policy, and race, gender and regeneration.

    David Byrne is Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Durham. His interest in urban policy and its social consequences originated in his period as Research Director of the North Tyneside CDP in North Shields. Current research interests include collaborative work with colleagues in Poland on the restructuring of Upper Silesia, one of Europe's most important industrial districts, and work on the application of ideas derived from the fields of Chaos and Complexity to the understanding of social change.

    Allan Cochrane is Professor of Public Policy in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Open University. He has written widely in the fields of urban policy and local government. He is the author (with John Allen and Doreen Massey) of Re-thinking the Region, published by the Open University Press in 1998. He is the editor (with John Clarke and Eugene McLaughlin) of Managing Social Policy published by Sage in 1994 and (with James Anderson and Chris Brook) of A Global World? published by Oxford University Press in 1995.

    Bob Colenutt is Head of the Urban Regeneration Division at the London Borough of Haringey. He worked for community action groups on the South Bank and London Docklands between 1972-84 and in the Docklands Team of the GLC between 1984-86. He was Head of the Docklands Consultative Committee Support Unit between 1986-93 and of the Thames Gateway Unit at LB Barking and Dagenham, between 1993-95. He has written widely on community led planning and regeneration.

    Gordon Dabinett is the CRESR Reader in Urban & Regional Policy at the School of Urban & Regional Studies, Sheffield Hallam University, and is the current Chair of the Regional Studies Association. Previously he worked in economic development for Sheffield City Council. His interests focus on aspects of local economic development and technological change, and he has been involved in various urban and regional policy evaluations.

    Iain Deas is a Lecturer in the Department of Planning & Landscape at the University of Manchester. Recent research has included Government-commissioned projects to evaluate a variety of urban regeneration initiatives, including work on UDCs. He is currently working on a project funded under the ESRC's Cities programme to explore the relationship between competitiveness and social cohesion in Liverpool and Manchester.

    Marty Lawrence is a research officer at Newcastle City Council and is undertaking a PhD at Oxford Brookes University on the health impacts of housing policies. His current interests include urban policy, deprivation and health.

    Andrew May is an Associate Lecturer at the University of the West of England, Bristol, Faculty of the Built Environment, Housing and Urban Studies School. He is a member of Bristol City Council. From 1984 to 1997 he was chair of Bristol Planning and Development Committee.

    Richard Meegan is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography in the University of Liverpool. He joined the Department after working at the Greater London Council and the Centre for Environmental Studies, two institutions deemed worthy of closure by Conservative central government administrations, and the independent non-profit research centre CES Ltd, London. His interests are in urban and regional studies and the geography of social and economic restructuring with a more recent emphasis on issues of community-based economic development and social exclusion.

    Nick Oatley is a Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of England, Bristol, Faculty of the Built Environment, Housing and Urban Studies School. He is currently involved in the ESRC research programme on ‘Cities: Competition and Cohesion’ looking at governance practices in regeneration activities and contemporary forms of urbanisation and the emergence of new urban spaces. He recently published an edited book on Cities, Economic Competition and Urban Policy (Paul Chapman, London).

    Jamie Peck is Professor of Geography and Director of the International Centre for Labour Studies at the University of Manchester. His research interests are in urban political economy, labour market restructuring and the politics of economic regulation. He is currently working on a series of projects concerned with welfare reform, welfare-to-work policies and the emergence of workfare strategies in Britain, Canada and the United States.

    Peter Ramsden is head of Enterprise plc's Brussels Office where he has responsibility for European business development for the company. His main areas of focus are local and regional development, innovation, information society and financial engineering. Between 1994 and 1996 he worked as a national expert with DDG XVI of the European Commission. Previously he was a senior lecturer in Urban Policy and member of CRESR at Sheffield Hallam University.

    Fred Robinson is a Research Lecturer, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Durham. His main research interests centre on the social impacts of economic change and processes, politics and practice in urban regeneration, with particular reference to North East England.

    Keith Shaw is a principal lecturer in Government and Politics at the University of Northumbria and is a member of the management board of the University's Sustainable Cities Research Institute. His research includes urban policy evalution, local economic development, regional governance, community involvement and Local Agenda 21 initiatives.

    Adam Tickell is Professor of Geography and ESRC Research Fellow at the University of Southampton. His research interests are in the political and cultural economy of the financial sector, urban restructuring, and socio-economic regulation. He is currently working on changes in the dominate cultural mores and the political economy of concentration in the financial sector in Britain, Canada and the United States.

    Kevin Ward is a Research Associate in the International Centre for Labour Studies and member of the School of Geography at the University of Manchester. His research interests are in urban political economy, the politics of city regeneration and the management of work. He is currently working on a project concerned with the relationship between employment change in large organisations and local labour markets in the North West of England.

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