Urban Regeneration in the UK


Phil Jones & James Evans

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    About the Authors

    Dr Phil Jones is currently Senior Lecturer in Cultural Geography at the University of Birmingham where he has been studying and teaching since 2000. His interest in urban regeneration stems from PhD work in historical geography, examining how past urban forms affect the contemporary city, looking in particular at post-war social housing. More recently Phil has worked on projects investigating walking and cycling, artistic methods and issues around the creative economy. He has also been Principal Investigator on four grants funded by UK Research Councils totalling over £1.6m.

    James Evans is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Governance in the School of Environment and Development at the University of Manchester. As a native of rural Oxfordshire but long-time inhabitant of first Birmingham and then Manchester, he has an abiding interest in the ways in which cities and their surrounding regions can become more sustainable. He currently leads three projects exploring these issues in relation to resilience, eco-city learning and living laboratories.


    ABIArea Based Initiative – refers to policy schemes tied to specific areas, as opposed to block grants given to local authorities for general purposes.
    ASCAcademy for Sustainable Communities – a body originally administered by CLG with a remit to foster a culture of skills within the regeneration sector, although not itself engaging in training. Merged into the Homes and Communities Agency in 2010.
    AWMAdvantage West Midlands – RDA for the West Midlands. Scrapped, 2011.
    BCCBirmingham City Council – local authority for Birmingham.
    BIDBusiness Improvement District – a locally based initiative where businesses and property owners pay a voluntary additional tax to improve the environment of their local area.
    BISDepartment for Business, Innovation and Skills – national government department, successor to the short-lived Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, which replaced the Department for Trade and Industry.
    BREBuilding Research Establishment – a government agency conducting and coordinating research on construction technologies.
    BREEAMBuilding Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method-a measure of the performance of developments against certain indicators of environmental sustainability. EcoHomes is a domestic version of BREEAM.
    CABECommission for Architecture and the Built Environment – statutory body set up by DCMS and ODPM to promote high-quality architecture and planning. Merged into the Design Council, 2011.
    CBDCentral Business District.
    CIQCultural Industries Quarter – district of Sheffield's inner city designated as a hothouse for the cultural industries.
    CLGDepartment for Communities and Local Government – successor to the ODPM, main government department for urban policy in England since 2006.
    CPOCompulsory Purchase Order – mechanism through which local authorities and other government bodies can acquire property against the wishes of the landowner.
    CPPCommunity Planning Partnership – Scottish agencies, successor to the SIPs, aiming to improve indicators of social inclusion in the top 15% most deprived neighbourhoods in Scotland.
    CPRECampaign to Protect Rural England – charity and lobby group seeking to protect the interests of rural England. Formerly the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England.
    DBERRDepartment for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform – short-lived successor to the DTI, 2007–09. Replaced by BIS.
    DCMSDepartment for Culture, Media and Sport – central government department, which replaced the Department of National Heritage in 1997.
    DETRDepartment of the Environment, Transport and the Regions – precursor to ODPM, 1997–2001.
    DoEDepartment of the Environment – central government department 1970–97, subsequently merged into the DETR and then into DEFRA, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
    DTIDepartment for Trade and Industry – the body which was responsible for administering the RDAs. Rebranded as BERR in 2007 and subsequently renamed BIS in 2009. The RDAs were phased out, 2010–11.
    ECoCEuropean Capital of Culture – formerly European City of Culture, this EU funded scheme seeks to promote the cultural heritage of individual European cities. The award is made annually on a rotating basis to different member states.
    EDCEconomic Development Company – non-statutory bodies established to coordinate strategies for economic growth within local authority districts. Many were set up as successors to Urban Regeneration Companies.
    EEDAEast of England Development Agency – RDA for the east of England. Scrapped, 2011.
    EPEnglish Partnerships – executive agency reporting to CLG. Significant landowner with a remit to help foster regeneration schemes across the UK in collaboration with local authorities, RDAs and other bodies (e.g. Pathfinders). Merged into the Homes and Communities Agency, 2008.
    ERCFEstates Renewal Challenge Fund – allowed local authorities to transfer individual estates into the ownership of housing associations. A smaller-scale version of LSVT, the scheme ran between 1995 and 2000.
    ERDFEuropean Regional Development Fund – funds made available by the EU to help even out regional inequalities within member states.
    ESFEuropean Social Fund – EU's structural programme responsible for increasing skills and employment opportunities.
    ESRCEconomic and Social Research Council – the main body for funding social science research in the UK higher education sector.
    EUEuropean Union – a supra-national body of European states which cooperate over certain aspects of social, economic and environmental policy.
    GHAGlasgow Housing Association – the housing association which took control of Glasgow City Council's housing portfolio following stock transfer in 2002.
    GLAGreater London Authority – a post-1997 replacement for the defunct GLC, with elections for the London Mayor taking place in 2000.
    GLCGreater London Council – a powerful local authority which operated across Greater London and was abolished by the Conservative government in 1986.
    HIPHousing Improvement Programme – during the 1970s and 1980s this was the mechanism through which local authorities were allocated permission by central government to spend money maintaining their stock of council houses.
    ICTInformation Communications Technology – umbrella term for computing and telecommunications.
    LAALocal Area Agreement – agreements between central government, the local authority and LSP as to what the priorities are for action to improve local areas against floor targets for education, health and public safety. Scrapped, 2010.
    LDALondon Development Agency – the RDA for London. This body was brought into the control of the GLA in 2010.
    LDFLocal Development Framework – flexible planning document produced at the area scale by local authorities. The intention is that they should function in a similar fashion to a development masterplan.
    LEPLocal Enterprise Partnership – much less well funded than the RDAs they replaced, these bodies were established in 2011 as partnerships between local authorities, businesses and third sector organisations, intended to boost economic growth within the English Regions.
    LDDCLondon Docklands Development Corporation – the Urban Development Corporation with responsibility for regenerating the area around what is now Canary Wharf, which operated between 1981–98.
    LSCLearning and Skills Council – responsible for planning and funding education and training in England for those not in the university sector. Scrapped, 2010.
    LSPLocal Strategic Partnership – responsible for delivering the Neighbourhood Renewal national strategy. LSPs map directly on to local authority boundaries but lost a significant proportion of their remit with the scrapping of the LAAs in 2010 and some have been abolished by the host local authority.
    LSVTLarge Scale Voluntary Transfer – introduced under the Conservative government this has been the main mechanism for transferring the ownership of local authority housing stock to the housing association sector.
    NAONational Audit Office – a parliamentary body responsible for auditing the work of government departments, executive agencies and other public bodies.
    NDCNew Deal for Communities – established local organisations to tackle indicators of social deprivation in specifically targeted areas, with no remit for physical reconstruction. Funding ran through to 2011 but was not renewed.
    NDPBNon-Departmental Public Bodies – an alternative name for quangos, these are executive agencies reporting directly to government departments but with no democratic accountability.
    NPPFNational Planning Policy Framework – simplified guidance for planning in England introduced in 2012 to replace the system of Planning Policy Statements.
    NRFNeighbourhood Renewal Fund – set ‘floor targets’ for improving indicators of social deprivation in the 88 most deprived local authority areas. Administered at local level by the LSPs, the scheme ran between2001 and 2008.
    NRUNeighbourhood Renewal Unit – established in 2001 to oversee the government's Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy, administering theNDC, NRF and the LSPs. The unit was dissolved in 2008.
    ODAOlympic Development Authority – statutory body responsible for delivering the physical infrastructure for the 2012 Olympic Games.
    ODPMOffice of the Deputy Prime Minister – responsible for urban policy for England 2001–06, replaced by the CLG.
    OPLCOlympic Park Legacy Company – body responsible for delivering the post-2012 Games legacy. Originally established as an arm of national government, after 2010 it was turned into a Mayoral agency reporting to the London Assembly.
    PFIPrivate Finance Initiative – a mechanism whereby the private sector builds and maintains a capital resource such as a school or a hospital and leases it back to the state for a fixed period, often 25 years, after which it reverts to state ownership.
    PPGPlanning Policy Guidance – guidance notes issued to local authorities on a variety of planning related topics. Most of these were phased out 2004–06, and the remainder scrapped with the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework in 2012.
    PPPPublic Private Partnerships – partnership arrangements between the state and private enterprise to deliver a particular project.
    PPSPlanning Policy Statements – successor to the Planning Policy Guidance notes, phased in from 2004. These were replaced by the much less detailed National Planning Policy Framework in 2012.
    PSAPublic Service Agreement – introduced in 1998 these set targets for performance and value for money in public services.
    QuangoQuasi-Autonomous Non/National Government Organisation – a term popular in the 1970s and 1980s to describe executive agencies funded by central government but operating at one removed from direct democratic accountability. In the regeneration sector the term was classically applied to the UDCs.
    RDARegional Development Agencies – established 1998–99 with a remit to foster regional economic development. These bodies were a major source of funding at regional level, distributing resources from CLG and DTI/BIS. They were scrapped in 2010–11, replaced by the Local Enterprise Partnerships.
    RPRegistered Provider – alternative name for RSL or housing association, used since 2008.
    RPARegional Planning Authorities – unelected bodies in England which had overall responsibility for producing the regional spatial strategies (RSS) and overseeing the operation of the RDAs. Scrapped, 2010.
    RSARegional Selective Assistance – discretionary grants available to encourage firms to locate or expand in designated Assisted Areas.
    RSLRegistered Social Landlord – a body responsible for building and operating social housing whilst operating in the private sector with or without central government grants from the Homes and Communities Agency. Often used as an alternative phrase for housing associations. Since 2008 the preferred term has been Registered Provider (RP) of Social Housing.
    RSSRegional Spatial Strategy – overall plans for how land was to be developed within a region over a 15-to 20-year period. These superseded Regional Planning Guidance in 2004 and were scrapped by the Coalition Government in 2010.
    SAPStandard Assessment Procedure – a measure of a building's energy efficiency.
    SCPSustainable Communities Plan – launched in 2003, this set out the Labour Government's long-term programme for delivering sustainable communities throughout England.
    SEEDASouth East England Development Agency – RDA for south east England. Scrapped, 2010–11.
    SIPSocial Inclusion Partnership – Scottish agencies with a remit similar to the LSPs, which attempted to coordinate the actions of other agencies operating in an area towards promoting social inclusion. These werephased out 2003–04.
    SFIESelective Finance for Investment in England – a DTI scheme which funded new investment projects leading to long-term improvements in productivity, skills and employment.
    SINCSite of Importance for Nature Conservation – a national network of non-statutorily protected wildlife sites, generally administered by local authorities in partnership with nature conservation organisations.
    SMESmall and medium-sized enterprises.
    SOASingle Outcome Agreement – agreements between local authorities in Scotland, Community Planning Partnerships and the Scottish government determining local responses to social and other needs.
    SPDSingle Programming Document – a strategy document that maps priorities at the regional level with the objectives of the ERDF.
    SPGSupplementary Planning Guidance – produced by local authorities to cover a range of issues around a particular site, these are legally binding material considerations in subsequent decisions on planning permission.
    SRBSingle Regeneration Budget – major national funding programme for urban regeneration, 1994–2001. Replaced by the Single Programme administered by RDAs which was abolished along with the RDAs in2010–11.
    SuDSSustainable (Urban) Drainage Systems – umbrella term for a collection of technologies which attempt to slow, reduce and purify discharges of rainwater runoff.
    TCPATown and Country Planning Association – founded by Ebeneezer Howard in 1899 as the Garden Cities Association, an NGO whose goal is to improve the social and environmental performance of the planning system in the UK.
    TECTraining and Enterprise Council – executive agencies which operated at regional level in the 1980s and 1990s with responsibility for fostering enterprise culture and economic development.
    TIFTax Increment Funding – allows local authorities to borrow against predicted increases in business rates and tax income from proposed developments to fund key infrastructure and associated capital costs.
    UDCUrban Development Corporation – bodies set up by central government mostly during the 1980s to bypass local authorities and undertake specific localised projects levering in private capital, e.g. London Docklands Development Corporation.
    URCUrban Regeneration Company – pioneered in the late 1990s, these briefly became a central part of English regeneration policy following the 2000 Urban White Paper. They were established to act as coordinating bodies (with no significant resources of their own) to bring together local parties to produce development plans for an area/city. Many were subsequently reconfigured as Economic Development Companies.
    UTFUrban Task Force – body headed up by architect Richard Rogers which had a significant influence on early New Labour thinking on cities. Produced Towards an Urban Renaissance in 1999.
    WCEDWorld Commission on Environment and Development – also known as the Brundtland Commission, its 1987 report produced one of the first definitions of sustainable development.
    WEFOWelsh European Funding Office – agency of the Welsh Assembly Government responsible for managing applications for funds from the European Union.
  • Conclusions

    Challenges Revisited

    At the start of this book we discussed the key issues that urban regeneration seeks to address. By way of drawing together the themes that have emerged across the subsequent chapters, it is worth reconsidering our starting point. Initially, regeneration was seen as a way to reverse the decline of industrial cities associated with the loss of manufacturing industry over the second part of the twentieth century. Industrial decline had led to severe dereliction and de-population in certain areas, creating a series of social and economic problems, particularly within inner cities. A key question driving urban regeneration was how to make cities attractive places in which to live and work. More recently, the issue of providing adequate housing supply for the population has returned to the fore, as soaring house prices and increased levels of household formation have exacerbated shortages around the country. Rather than ‘concreting over the countryside’ with sprawling new developments, existing cities are seen as the ideal places in which to solve housing shortages by bringing derelict land back into use. This has been reflected in a rapid population growth within some cities since the late 1990s.

    Given the massive scale of these challenges, it is easy to see why the urban regeneration agenda has assumed such importance in the contemporary political landscape. From Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Heseltine visiting Liverpool in the wake of the Toxteth riots in 1981, to the ongoing Olympic Games oriented regeneration of East London, the driving force behind regeneration has been primarily political in nature. There is, however, a multitude of steps between issuing political imperatives and actually getting to the stage of laying one brick on top of another. A wide variety of people and agencies need to come together to make regeneration happen in practice. Regeneration requires input from diverse sectors such as planning, development, health, environment, transport and education, with coordination and resources needed from both public and private organisations. Regeneration involves developers, government, communities, architects and planners working closely together. Partnerships and collaboration are required across different sectors in order to avoid the mistakes of the past and create quality, sustainable environments where people will want to live and work. Throw the financial crisis and climate change into the mix and it becomes clear that regeneration has become more difficult to achieve just as the need for it has never been greater, as the growing complexity of delivering sustainable developments is accompanied by a dwindling appetite for risk in the private sector.

    Key Themes

    The preceding chapters have worked through various dimensions of urban regeneration, considering the ways in which regeneration has been undertaken and how policy and practices have evolved since the early 1980s. This section identifies the key challenges that have emerged, and considers how they are defining urban regeneration in the UK today.

    Partnership Working

    Perhaps the most dramatic difference between urban regeneration and previous interventions in UK cities has been the emphasis put on partnership between different branches of government, the private sector and communities. Partnership is now central to urban policy – it is no longer the case that a local authority can simply decide to rebuild a run-down part of the city and then make it happen. Because the political culture of the UK has shifted to a more neoliberal position, state funding for projects is seen primarily as a means to draw private sector investment to areas which otherwise would be seen as too risky or difficult. This said, a key critique of urban regeneration in the 1980s was that this practice of drawing in private sector partners simply acted as a state subsidy to wealthy developers. As the scope of regeneration has developed to bring together social, economic and environmental components, this critique has ebbed somewhat, with a whole variety of outputs being sought from private and public sector investments. While the broader benefits and shortcomings of the shift from government to governance can be debated, it is now a largely accepted fact that top-down approaches to urban regeneration are neither desirable nor practicable (Shaw and Robinson, 2010).

    Given the broadened remit of regeneration, there is a certain logic to bringing in a variety of actors with different expertise from the public, private and charitable sectors. Scholars have developed the idea of governance to help understand how different actors come together. Partnership as a mode of governance is interesting as although non-state actors have been brought into the process, critics such as Jonathan Davies (2002) have argued that the aims of the state are still dominant. The state comprises a complex series of overlapping agencies operating at a variety of geographic scales which pursue different and sometimes contradictory aims. As a result it is perhaps rather simplistic to reduce regeneration to delivering the aims of the state, particularly as the involvement of multiple partners can change the intended direction of a project. Furthermore, as the example of the Thames Gateway shows, the larger the project the more difficult it seems to be to coordinate the many different partners involved. Ironically then, it is on precisely the kinds of projects which require most input from other agents because of their complexity and the number of people being affected that the current governance structures seem least able to cope. The ability of partnership working to coordinate developments that are socially and environmentally viable on relatively short time-scales is a critical challenge in the field of regeneration.

    Tackling Industrial Decline

    Perhaps the single biggest factor driving regeneration in the UK has been the shift to a post-industrial economy. Large areas of towns and cities fell into dereliction as industrial functions moved elsewhere as part of the restructuring of the global economy. This also left a legacy of high unemployment and economic stagnation in many urban areas of the UK. Regeneration has sought to reverse the flow of higher income groups out of the city and attract new businesses and forms of economic activity. Services, tourism and leisure have become ever more important, meaning that cities can no longer function as places where people simply work before retreating to suburban enclaves each evening.

    The transformation of former industrial sites and under-utilised portions of city centres is synonymous with the regeneration process. Brownfield redevelopment has allowed urban economies to expand without further sprawl into the countryside. Areas of former dockland have become high-value office spaces, and Victorian factory buildings have been converted into loft apartments. The economic disaster of industrial decline has, through regeneration, been transformed into a story of economic growth in particular sectors and particular parts of the country. Since the late 1990s, some cities have grown rapidly in population, but others continue to stagnate. One should not lose sight of the fact that not everyone has benefited equally from new economic growth, and the resulting picture of spatial unevenness has only been exacerbated by the post-2008 recession. As a political tool to direct development to where it is needed, urban regeneration runs counter to neoliberal preferences to let market forces dictate where investment occurs. In light of the gradual drift to the right that has characterised British politics this undoubtedly places it in a somewhat vulnerable position.

    Pursuing the Knowledge Economy

    Over the past quarter century the UK has seen a process of re-imaging undertaken to make cities places where people actually want to be. Leeds, for example, has been transformed from being seen as a grimy, northern industrial city, to being hip, fashionable and dynamic – a place where people are excited to live. Regeneration has driven this transformation, producing new public spaces, new facilities, new apartments and new jobs in new sectors of the economy.

    The knowledge economy has been at the heart of this change, with brains rather than brawn providing the engine for growth. Not all regions and demographic groups have done well out of this economic restructuring, with low-paid service jobs replacing high-skill manufacturing work in many areas. There has, however, been a great deal of enthusiasm among policy-makers to attract to their cities Richard Florida's (2002) ‘creative classes’ – those working in the IT, media and communications sectors – through attempts to make urban environments more attractive. There is also a belief that the development of creative industries can be fostered through the establishment of clusters, where people working in these sectors can easily meet and network with each other. A number of towns and cities have used regeneration schemes to deliver creative quarters of one kind or another, anchoring nascent clusters with high-end cultural facilities, such as the FACT centre in Liverpool's Ropewalks district, or the BALTIC on the Tyne in Newcastle and Gateshead.

    The headlong pursuit of the knowledge economy does, however, raise a broader question about distinctiveness; if all towns and cities are pursuing similar strategies to try to attract creative businesses, what makes an individual town stand out in a competitive market? In a tougher economic climate, bland regeneration schemes are no longer guaranteed to succeed, although the extent to which this prompts cities to adopt more organic and distinctive approaches to regeneration remains to be seen.

    Recovering from the Financial Crisis

    Approximately 20% of the UK economy is related to real estate development, and the heyday of regeneration between 1998 and 2008 represented an exceptional period of redevelopment activity, fuelled by government policies to encourage high-density city-centre living and the availability of cheap credit that allowed these homes to be bought. The credit crunch of 2008 crippled the mortgage markets and effectively halted private regeneration schemes. There is a clear geography to the credit crunch, with the areas outside of the south east feeling the pinch most. The great cities of the North represent the poster children for regeneration, and while city centres in these places are bearing up, regeneration schemes in smaller towns and areas outside of city centres are struggling. The loss of the RDAs as facilitators and funders of regeneration in the regions should also not be understated, especially when the current legacy of government-funded PFI schemes winds up.

    It is hard to see how the previous levels of regeneration will be reached again, because the conditions that stimulated the previous boom are gone. But, as history shows, capitalist economies are characterised by cycles of growth and recession and while it is always hard to see where the next economic upturn will come from, it will undoubtedly come from somewhere, albeit driven by a different set of factors. Indeed, in the much beloved metaphor of economic commentators, the green shoots of economic recovery are already showing themselves in stronger consumer spending in the major global economies. In the UK, shares in major house-builders are going up, and government attempts to streamline the planning system may further stimulate development. Evidence from private sector consultancies suggests that the market for smaller regeneration projects is beginning to come back. At the same time, the emphasis on city-centre apartments has been tempered, as policy-makers realise the folly of producing socially homogeneous developments. There is a distinct possibility that this will shift the focus of development away from costlier brownfield sites, and indeed from the regeneration of declining urban areas per se. That said, a range of massive regeneration projects is going ahead, like the continuing regeneration of East London associated with the Olympics. Interestingly, though, this mega-scheme has been driven by the government, and represents a major long-term strategy to direct London's growth eastwards. Given the long road to economic recovery that lies ahead and the need for increasingly strategic regeneration, such large-scale government-driven schemes may become more common.

    Addressing Sustainability and Climate Change

    The growing need for strategic regeneration brings us neatly to the topic of sustainable development and the challenges posed by climate change. Since sustainable development entered mainstream debates in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it has become a ubiquitous presence across government policy. Sustainability and regeneration are in some ways happy bedfellows; both are concerned with achieving social, economic and environmental goals and the tenets of sustainability resonate with the defining characteristics of regeneration, such as reusing brownfield sites to reduce urban sprawl, stimulating economic activity in declining regions and tackling social issues through access to affordable, quality housing.

    Assessing the sustainability of regeneration schemes more often than not boils down to the question of how trade-offs are made between economic, social and environmental priorities. As discussed in Chapter 5, brownfield sites exemplify the difficulties of balancing competing agendas, often representing ecologically diverse habitats as well as potential sites for affordable homes. Getting the balance right can be difficult and, particularly in England, it is arguable that decision-making structures have swung too far toward the delivery of economic goals. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there tends to be a stronger connection between regeneration and social policy in the responsible government departments, whereas in England social issues have tended to be shunted into a separate discourse of community ‘renewal’. The National Planning Policy Framework, which aims to streamline the planning system, retains sustainable development as its core goal but undoubtedly places a greater emphasis on the development part of the equation than on the sustainability part – a tendency further reinforced by the emergence of Local Enterprise Partnerships.

    While these trends suggest that regeneration will retain a primarily economic remit, sustainability is perhaps at its most useful as a concept when it pushes developers to consider the costs and benefits of different building options over the entire lifetime of a development. These kinds of approaches to urban development have been given specific impetus by the emergence of climate change as a major issue facing cities. Cities are critical in addressing climate change, because most greenhouse gas emissions are produced in urban areas. The materials from which buildings are made, their design, and the planning of regeneration schemes can all contribute to lowering the carbon emissions produced by urban areas. Cities are also looking to adapt to the potential impacts of climate change, of which flooding will be the most important in the UK.

    Low carbon regeneration schemes are set to become more common as cities play an increasingly leading role in addressing climate change, bypassing recalcitrant national governments and taking action even in the absence of legally binding international agreements on emissions. The climate change agenda dovetails neatly with the competitive tendencies of cities, as low carbon regeneration is seen as the way to attract the kinds of green, clean industries that will blaze a trail towards the postcarbon economy. Low carbon economic growth thus provides an emergent framework for the current round of urban regeneration schemes. As for the eco-town debacle discussed in Chapter 7, though, the degree to which low carbon schemes achieve a form of urban development that is qualitatively different from that which preceded it remains to be seen; indeed, given that the main actors and processes have remained in place it would be disingenuous to suggest that this is more than a shift in emphasis at present.

    Delivering Communities

    One of the most profound shifts in the functioning of UK towns and cities in the last quarter century has been the return of population to central urban areas. In the 1980s city centres were not places where people lived, while today exclusive flats and apartments in urban cores are fashionable, prime real estate, with many more being built each year. Repopulation has been accompanied by a growth in leisure facilities, with the result that the days when UK city centres shut down at 6pm are a distant memory.

    The model of inner city regeneration has been immensely profitable for developers and ticks a great many boxes in terms of reducing car dependence and providing accommodation for the growing number of smaller households.

    There has been a renewed emphasis on high-quality design as part of the attempt to attract people back into cities. From flagship architectural statements in the city centre, to the sensitive restorations of historic buildings elsewhere, to simple improvements in the form and legibility of the public realm, cities are being made more attractive places to live. This not only applies to city centres, but also thoughtfully designed settlements elsewhere, making use of smart growth principles of walkability and high-density design alongside innovations such as design coding. It should be noted, however, that while there has been a great deal of innovative and high-quality design, particularly in the last ten years, there has also been an explosion of bland, characterless buildings, constructed to price by the major house-building firms. This kind of design does little to improve the city living experience. The city centre is not the whole city, however, and it is possible to identify cases where an overly metrocentric model has been inappropriately applied to outer urban areas.

    The word gentrification is never used by those working in the regeneration sector, but almost all regeneration activity is predicated on attracting new people and new businesses into run-down areas. This undoubtedly makes it easier to bring private developers on board, who can market to a more wealthy demographic and, indeed, can allow public bodies to negotiate with developers in order to produce a proportion of affordable homes, subsidised services and other social benefits. Bringing in new people and businesses very frequently involves the displacement of existing residents – often some of the poorer and more vulnerable members of society. In some ways this approach to urban regeneration echoes a long-standing tendency of urban policy to pathologise poor and disadvantaged communities as victims in need of external assistance, who must either be civilised by a middle-class influx, or be forced to ‘engage’ with their largely degraded living environments in ways that wealthy residents simply are not (Cochrane, 2007).

    The connection between regeneration and gentrification is an intractable issue and this book does not suggest that there are any easy answers. One of the reasons why this book has not discussed issues of community in detail is because existing communities, in practice, tend to be by far the weakest actors in programmes to physically transform urban areas, for all of the policy rhetoric about inclusion and social cohesion. While the partnership approach has sought to go beyond the largely physical interventions of traditional town planning, focusing on wider community needs relating to education, employment and culture, the issue of gentrification and the continuing dominance of economic interests casts doubts over the extent to which this has really been achieved (Shaw and Robinson, 2010).

    We do not live in an ideal world and the question of gentrification brings us back to the need for trade-offs. Those existing residents who are able to remain in a dramatically regenerated area should benefit from increased value of their homes, an improved environment, better local services and a healthier local economy. Other residents will be priced or forced out of that area. There have been cases where artist communities have been deliberately used to make a low-rent area fashionable before being displaced by wealthier groups attracted to the very thing that their arrival then forces out. In its worst excesses, regeneration produces very bland, monocultural developments, comprising young professionals without children housed in soulless, generic buildings. This may be the opposite of the policy rhetoric, but in the UK over the last decade, this kind of development has happened all too frequently.

    Urban Regeneration Is Dead … Long Live Urban Regeneration!

    Like all forms of politics, regeneration is the ‘art of the possible’. The overriding message that comes across from each of the chapters is one of compromise and trade-offs between different concerns. Successful urban regeneration schemes occur when collaboration has been effective and fair, while difficulties are related to failures to achieve equitable balances. One of the systemic challenges to regeneration involves ameliorating the excesses of neoliberalism, which has, in cases, resulted in a rather uneven distribution of economic benefits, and the sidelining of social and environmental concerns. Both Glasgow in Chapter 4, and Salford Quays in Chapter 5 question the extent to which those people in the greatest socio-economic poverty have benefited from urban regeneration. Here, once again, an assessment of urban regeneration runs up against a wider set of structural issues concerning the way in which the UK functions, from the tendency of capitalism to generate uneven economic growth to the withdrawal of the welfare state that has exacerbated vulnerability and alienation in some of the UK's least well-off communities. The capacity of area based initiatives (of which urban regeneration is almost inevitably comprised) to overcome these wider economic and political forces is obviously limited (Chatterton and Bradley, 2000). If, as Cheshire (2007: 9) states, ‘the problem is poverty, not where poor people live’, then ABIs run the risk of simply displacing problems elsewhere in the city rather than solving them.

    These tendencies stem from the prioritisation of economic development in regeneration policy. For example, the Sustainable Communities Plan had few solid targets for social and environmental sustainability, and was probably the most controversial element of the CLG's work, focusing on the massive expansion of housebuilding in the south east combined with demolition (and gentrification) in the Pathfinder areas. The Treasury-driven Barker reviews placed more emphasis on market forces determining how land should be developed and this has subsequently fed through into planning policy, finding expression in the subsequent Coalition government's attempt to introduce a dramatically streamlined National Planning Policy Framework that assumes in favour of proposed developments.

    These observations are not intended to indict regeneration in the UK as some kind of failure. It is important to remember that the initial goals of regeneration were economic, and by most indicators economic prosperity in the urban areas of the UK has increased substantially. Cities still face challenges, however. As the State of the English Cities Report (ODPM, 2006) claims, levels of socio-economic deprivation remain higher and more widespread in cities, reflected not least in higher levels of unemployment. The recession that hit the UK from 2008 onwards has not helped this picture, and when climate change and decimated public budgets are thrown into the pot it becomes apparent that the future holds many challenges for urban regeneration. By way of tying up the arguments of this chapter, it is worth finally reflecting on these challenges and the potential trends emerging within the sector to address them.

    Not all cities can compete within the global economy to attract the most desirable industries, and individuality will become increasingly critical to the success of cities. It was perhaps excusable that planners in the 1980s and 1990s accepted relatively generic architecture and a preponderance of flats and apartments in order to kick-start regeneration and meet housing targets. Regeneration projects are often (erroneously) described as creating truly unique places and one way this can be achieved is through retaining a sense of history and local culture. Within the broader evolution of regeneration in the UK today, however, cities need to be more creative in terms of how they develop, in order to differentiate themselves from other places and achieve change in challenging economic conditions. For example, rather than demolishing vast areas in order to present developers with ‘attractive’ (i.e. large) land packages, cities can opt to retain characteristic features, demanding more creative and higher quality development proposals. Such an approach would also stand more chance of producing socially inclusive developments, as existing communities could be included in the regeneration process. How far this is possible, within the context of the current economic recession and the era of austerity introduced by the Coalition government, remains to be seen.

    The question of how much urban regeneration will change is in no small part bound up with the question of how distinctive the regeneration agenda as we knew it was to the political project of New Labour (Bache and Catney, 2008). Urban regeneration is caught up in a broader political tussle concerning whether devolution and empowerment are actually occurring, or whether power is being centralised. On the one hand, the Coalition government has continued New Labour's policy of devolution in regeneration policy, abolishing the RDAs but empowering LEPs as part of an emphasis on local action, self-help and community ownership. On the other hand, the government has been widely criticised for not living up to this rhetoric of local empowerment and even reinforcing the powers of Whitehall in some cases. Large-scale budget cuts and the potential undermining of community powers to resist developments under the new planning framework do little to counter this view.

    This tension is not unrelated to the challenges of social and environmental change. Central government is undoubtedly entering an era in which it will need an executive capacity to respond to large-scale challenges, such as housing shortages and sea-level change. Large-scale developments like the Thames Gateway require huge infrastructure building programmes to provide sustainable transport and waste systems. The need to balance increasingly strategic decision-making powers with the empowerment of local communities who may resist them represents a major political challenge that goes well beyond the regeneration agenda. Debates over the best way to govern in the twenty-first century, and issues surrounding social and environmental citizenship will frame the way regeneration unfolds in the future.

    Finally, in the face of the challenges outlined above, understanding how ideas about city-building move from one place to another is critical (McCann and Ward, 2011). This book has focused on the UK, but every week there are reports in the press of various innovative developments from around the world, whether it is Masdar, the new eco-city being built in Abu Dhabi, or the totally car-free Vauben development in a suburb of Freiburg, Germany. While regeneration in the UK has generally followed trends from the US in the past, the sector is truly global and many of the challenges facing the UK are the same as those faced elsewhere. In order to meet them, and survive in a tougher economic environment, regeneration will have to innovate and learn from others. New ways to finance projects, longer-term partnerships, and more sophisticated sets of priorities will all be required if regeneration is to continue to provide the means by which we make our cities fit for the future.


    Big Society: a key part of the Conservative party's manifesto in the 2010 election which has subsequently informed the thinking of the Coalition government. Although a somewhat vague term, it has become a catch-all for policies which seek to decrease dependence on state services and increase communities taking control of their own lives. Politically it is allied with the neoliberal attack on the state.

    Blairite: the adjectival form of Blair, who led the Labour government between 1997 and 2007. The word Blairite refers to the supporters and policies of Blair's government. The hallmarks of Blairite policy include the increased use of markets to deliver public services, but reined in through partnership with the public sector, and pro-European and devolutionary policies.

    Bond: a bond is a financial instrument that represents a debt security, whereby the bond holder lends money at a rate of interest that is repaid at the end of the term, or when the bond ‘matures’.

    Bonfire of the quangos: a term used by the media to describe a review held in 2010 by the Coalition government into the executive agencies within the UK government. The headline was that 192 bodies were to be scrapped, although in many cases this simply meant the transfer of functions back into government departments. The phrase refers to the bonfire of the vanities – an event associated with renaissance Catholicism where objects thought to encourage sin were burned.

    Brownfield: refers to previously used land. The word brownfield was coined in opposition to the term greenfield, which designates a development site in previously undeveloped areas. It includes the categories ‘derelict land’, which is previously used, and ‘contaminated land’, which is previously used and polluted in some way. Brownfield is synonymous with the US term brownland.

    Buy-to-let: a practice where investors purchase homes and rent them out to a third party. The rent is used to cover the mortgage payments and the hope is that the property will increase in value during the period of ownership. This model was hit particularly hard by the credit crunch leading many investors exposed to high levels of debt and falling rents on devalued properties.

    Capital: in a financial sense, capital is any asset that can be used or invested. It is usually taken to mean privately owned wealth. Capital has also been used in the sense of human capital or social capital, to indicate the strength of social networks, in terms of shared interests and civic engagement.

    Coalition government: although this phrase could indicate any government formed through an alliance of two or more parties, in the context of this book it commonly refers to the government formed by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties following UK elections in 2010. The election of 2010 brought an end to the New Labour period of government.

    Creative class: coined by Richard Florida, the concept of a creative class is used to signify a shift from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy. The idea is that cities should compete to attract knowledge workers who will in turn attract large employers who require the kinds of skills possessed by members of the creative class – largely comprising graduates working in the professions. One critique of the concept is that it encourages local authorities to spend scarce resources to serve the interests of the wealthy, rather than on poorer citizens.

    Credit crunch: refers to the global economic collapse of 2008 which triggered a lengthy, worldwide recession. This brought an end to a period of fevered commodity price rises and a spiralling property market. A severe reduction in mortgage availability and sharp decline in house prices followed, causing many redevelopment and construction schemes to be put on hold or cancelled.

    Curtilage: the area of land around a building belonging to the property

    Deindustrialisation: since the late 1970s, Western economies generally and the UK in particular have seen a rebalancing of the economy away from manufacturing and towards services. The decline of the industrial economy has had two particular impacts relevant to regeneration. First, there has been a reduction in the availability of well-paid, skilled and semi-skilled employment which has partly been responsible for an increasing wealth-gap between the richest and poorest communities. Second, large, former industrial brownfield sites within cities have become priorities for regeneration activity and transformation into new uses.

    Design codes: a system of setting out prescriptive guidance about the design of buildings and streetscapes. The intention is that by producing these guidelines the process of regeneration should be sped up as developers who stick within the design codes for an area should easily get planning permission for their projects.

    Discourse: a discourse is a set of specific meanings or representations that are attached to certain things. So, for example, one discourse of inner cities represents them as dangerous and crime-ridden. Because different groups often represent things in different ways, there may be different discourses about the same thing. A contesting discourse of inner cities that is becoming more dominant is that they are vibrant and diverse places to live.

    Equity: the principle of fairness between groups of people, often designated as a key principle of sustainable development. Equity can also mean the share of a person's ownership in an asset when used in a financial context.

    EU: abbreviation of the European Union, a political body set up by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, and including 27 member states. The European Commission represents one of its political bodies, and forms policy on regional development, agriculture and the environment, amongst other things.

    Gentrification: the process by which buildings or residential areas are improved over time, which leads to increasing house prices and an influx of wealthier residents who force out the poorer population of an area.

    Globalisation: refers to the integration of economic activity across the planet. It is often associated with multinational companies, which operate on many different continents and have GDPs that exceed that of smaller countries. Globalisation is associated with the assumption that countries are at the behest of companies that will seek the best places to do business, with little consideration of the consequences of relocating large workforces. Globalisation is also used to refer to the spread of cultural patterns and products, like MTV or Coca Cola.

    Glocalisation: a term derived by combining localisation and globalisation, which highlights the idea of behaviour which is simultaneously acting to an increasing degree at both a specific local level and at the global scale (‘act locally, think globally’). In the specific context of governance it can be used to refer to the hollowing out of the nation state, with powers increasingly passing upward to supranational organisations and downward to local communities.

    Holistic: literally means addressing the whole. It is usually used to mean an integrated approach that considers all aspects of a problem.

    Infrastructure: in the context of urban regeneration, infrastructure designates the ‘hard’ engineered features of the urban environment, including roads, water pipes, electricity, waste systems, railways, pavements, lighting, and so forth.

    Keynesian economics: named after John Maynard Keynes, an economist who fundamentally reshaped UK policy in the 1930s and 1940s. The Keynesian approach advocates the use of increased public spending to counter the self-destructive tendencies of an unrestrained free-market approach. Keynesianism is in direct opposition to neoliberal economics which argues that state intervention distorts markets that would otherwise find a ‘natural’ balance.

    Legacy: the long-term regeneration impact of an event hosted in a particular area or city.

    Leverage: used to describe the ratio of capital to debt. This word has become more familiar in the aftermath of the credit crunch as individuals and companies have become exposed to risk as the value of their assets (e.g. houses) has gone down while the cost of borrowing has increased. Highly leveraged projects (i.e. a high ratio of debt to capital) are vulnerable to collapse/bankruptcy in the event of an economic downturn.

    Levering-in: a term often used to describe the process of spending public money in an area in order to encourage private investment. Typically this may include the public sector paying to clean up a contaminated area or build a new access road in order to create an attractive site for profitable development by the private sector.

    Localism: not to be confused with Blairite ‘new localism’, Localism as a concept has been key to the operation of the Coalition government and the philosophy of the Big Society. The idea is that much greater levels of control over state services should be in the hands of people at a local level. The result has been major reforms to local government, including the Localism Act, 2012.

    Managerialism: see New Localism.

    Masterplan: a general term to refer to some kind of unified document which lays out the vision for the redevelopment of an area. These documents can have various levels of specificity and can cover areas of different sizes.

    Metrocentric: a term used to describe a focus on urban issues and areas.

    Mixed (use) development: a general term to designate developments that include more than one kind of use. Usually mixed-use developments include retail (shops), residential (homes), business premises (offices) and leisure uses (cafés, bars and so forth). The term is also sometimes used to designate a mixture of residents and users; this can include mixed tenure (i.e. some rental, some owner-occupied), mixed-income groups and mixed ethnicities.

    Neoliberal: an approach that believes that markets provide the best solution to social problems. So, for example, the introduction of carbon trading as a way to curtail greenhouse gas emissions is a neoliberal policy response. The approach builds upon classic economic ideas developed by Adam Smith, and was championed by the New Right in the US during the 1980s.

    Neo-vernacular architecture: an approach to architecture that makes self-conscious reference to past styles of building, attempting to capture the qualities of older styles and building techniques. One of the most complete examples in the UK is seen in the Poundbury development on the edge of Dorchester. As a style it is commonly associated with new urbanism.

    New Labour: term applied to Tony Blair's Labour government that took power in the 1997 general election. They were considered ‘New’ as they moved away from traditional left-wing policies (such as their long-standing affiliation with the Trade Unions) towards the centre ground, or so-called ‘Third Way’. The idea that they were ‘New’ also articulated the fact that this was the first Labour government for almost 20 years, and that they were led by a young dynamic leader.

    New Localism: not to be confused with ‘Localism’ policies implemented by the Coalition government, New Localism was used to describe the tendency of Blairite policies to devolve the implementation of policy goals down to the local level. A key feature of this trend is the devolution of management to the local level in order to achieve policy goals more efficiently, although the political power to decide what those goals should be is generally not devolved. The New Localism is thus closely linked to the emergence of Managerialism at the local level.

    New urbanism: a movement in architecture and planning seeking to make more people-friendly settlements. Although most commonly associated with neo-vernacular architectural styles, the movement has broader aims which have entered the mainstream of planning policy, including reducing car-dependence, increasing the compactness and walkability of settlements as well as creating mixed communities of different incomes and different stages in the lifecourse.

    Procurement: the acquisition of goods or services for an organisation or individual at the best possible price. The EU public procurement directive requires public bodies to put all their procurements out to competitive tender, in order to reduce corruption and ensure that the cheapest services and goods are obtained.

    Public realm: commonly used term meaning public spaces and activities. Sometimes applied to areas of policy that directly concern the public.

    Quango: an acronym for QUasi-Autonomous Non (sometimes ‘National’) Government Organisation. Quangos proliferated under New Labour, as various powers and responsibilities of the state were devolved to organisations that are neither public nor private. Quangos have been criticised because they are not democratically elected, and are often not accountable to the public for their actions. The field of urban regeneration was populated by a large number of quangos, although many were closed following the election of a Coalition government in 2010.

    Remediation: the process of cleaning up polluted brownfield land.

    Resilience: developing out of the work of ecologist C.S. ‘Buzz’ Holling, the notion of resilience refers to the capacity of different systems to absorb external shocks and adapt in response to them. In the study of towns and cities this concept has been applied to a diverse range of topics from resilience to climate change – making areas less vulnerable to flooding for example – to the social and financial resilience of communities in the face of global economic changes.

    Smart growth: a widely used concept in North American planning, smart growth is focused on creating high-density developments providing homes, schools, services and jobs in a walkable settlement. It is seen in direct opposition to urban sprawl.

    Thatcherite: the adjectival form of Thatcher, a Conservative party politician who was Prime Minister between 1979 and 1990. She was the first female prime minister in the UK and the longest serving of the twentieth century. Her government was associated with introducing right-wing neoliberal policies from the US, and reducing the role of the state in providing for basic social needs like health and housing.

    Third sector: refers to non-profit and charitable bodies that belong neither to the public nor private sector.

    Urban sprawl: a pejorative term, denoting the unregulated outward growth of towns and cities, with low-density developments fostering car-dependence.


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