Urban Regeneration And Making Our Towns a Better Place
This blog will explore practices and guidelines that frame partnerships working within urban regeneration programmes. It will look at the role of private and public investments to improve social, economic and environmental aspects of deprived communities. Suggestions will also be made for future working partnerships and strategies to ensure sustainability
The delivery of new localism.
The New Localism Act introduced in November 2011 aimed to entrust decision making powers from central government to people working at grass roots advocating on behalf of communities and those working for the public services. The New Localism act covers a variety of issues that correspond to the public services with major focuses on competence and community rights, neighbourhood planning and housing. These issues where categorised as:
- New freedoms and flexibilities for local government
- New rights and powers for communities and individuals
- Reform to make the planning system more democratic and more effective
- Reform to ensure decisions about housing are taken locally
The power given to councils provides a legal framework for them to make relevant changes to improve opportunities within deprived areas. This leads to incentives for councils to innovate and work together with community representatives to reduce overall costs of developing properties, service delivery and managing assets. (Local Govenment, 2013) This seen as a positive instruction for councils and Eric Pickles The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has also stated that:
“By getting out of the way and letting councils and communities run their own affairs we can restore civic pride, democratic accountability and economic growth – and build a stronger, fairer Britain. It’s the end of the era of big government: laying the foundations for the Big Society.” (Gov.co.uk, 2010)
The New Localism Act allows freedom for councils and local people to decide how their councils should be governed. It is also allows them
“To move away from an executive form of governance (i.e. a leader or a mayor) to a committee system. The Act also removes previous constraints around the timing of when councils can change their governance models, so they can take these decisions when it best suits the needs of the council and the people they represent”. (communities and local govenment, 2011)
The main advantages of this Act is that it encourages a new generation of leaders with power to help build the profile of English cities and boroughs, helping to strengthen the democracy and boast the UK’s economy. This gives local authorities in England the confidence to get on with the job of responding to what local people want and need in order to improve the quality of life.
What is suitable approach for encouraging sustainable mixed communities to develop in the context of these regeneration projects?
A strategy to encourage a sustainable mixed community would be to encourage neighbourhood understanding of each other. This could be achieved by forging relationships between middle waged workers and working class or unemployed people. This would enable neighbours within mixed communities to network and share common interest for the benefit of the local area. (Mixed communities: Success and sustainability, 2006)
Another suggestion would be to ensure properties in low income areas, are available for purchase by young working couples who intend on starting a family. This type of home buyer would desire an inner London property with access to a good range of schools. (Mixed communities: Success and sustainability, 2006) It is also said that a way of encouraging environmental sustainability is to:
“… components of all new housing developments encompasses many issues from vehicular and pedestrian movement, to car parking, to the provision of green spaces and landscaping to energy efficiency and green building” (Rowntree, 2006).
Sustainable mixed areas should always have a mixture of tenure properties, allowing home owners and renters to co-exist in the same area. To maintain and build a mixed sustainable community it is important to actively include those living within it. This ensures that everyone feel valued considers safety in the environment and increases awareness of cultural differences.
This helps to build cohesive and strong local culture and habits. A mixed community needs to be led efficiently by an effective layering of infrastructure. Local amenities, residential properties and open space should be strategically designed to ensure everyone is sufficiently catered for. Transport services and options should be well connected to allow easy movement to and from jobs and enhanced job opportunities. For example good access into central London. The mixed community should be adequately served and be based upon fair morals for both private and public services.
Opportunities for “right to buy” for low income to encourage and social mobility and schemes for Key workers on middle incomes should be attracted to the areas. (Dixon & Colantonio, 2009).
Regeneration projects are risky and expensive, so what funding models could be made to work for the council.
With the economy still recovering from a recession there is much debate about property development and urban regeneration with existing models such as private public partnerships (PPP). In a government report titled ‘Unlocking Growth in Cities’, Nick Clegg the deputy prime minister has stated that
“…We want cities to come to us with ambitious proposals on what they will do to support private sector growth and what powers and freedoms they need to make this happen…” (HMgovernment, 2011)
He goes on to mention that the full potential to be gained in economic growth is through the decentralisation and power of local government and key stakeholder businesses, and the need to empower communities to drive economic change.
According to the ‘All Party Urban Development Group 2009’ report, (APUDG), existing partnerships have significantly improved deprived areas in need of employment, better health and housing and skill based learning opportunities. Private sector involvement in regeneration has also significantly reduced public sector spending and allow the financial ‘risk and returns’ to be balanced and more acceptable. Partnerships also provide strategic planning, a pool of professional services and financial backing to ensure projects are fit for purpose, delivered to a high standard and are on schedule.
Funding models such as the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) was formed in 2011 as a voluntary body and took over the role of the Regional Development Agencies. The aim of the LEP’s is to work with local communities and businesses to establish geographical needs to build and sustain viable communities. The advantages are that long term strategies can be established and invested in to ensure decades of growth and prosperity to raise the financial state of the community and reduce public spending. Public Private Partnership’s (PPP’s) are also eligible to bid for funding from the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) and European Cohesion funding bodies such as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas JESSICA who has a remit to fund community initiatives.
Recommendations made through case studies by ‘ Urban Regeneration through Partnerships stated that, new partnerships needed to be nurtured with local employment agencies, health care services and the local police. Empowerment of the community has been noted as an area lacking which inevitably leave communities feeling powerless to intervene, either through lack of skills, knowledge and education or through lack of consultation.
Further Case studies have suggested that key components to ensure successful partnerships have been useful firstly need long term commitment and a clear vision along with plans for long term developments of up to 20 -30 years. Communities and local businesses should be targeted and consulted with for the duration of the programme.
Home owners and landlords can benefit from buying property in areas targeted for urban regeneration. A good estate agent should be able to highlight towns earmarked by local governments.