Regeneration: Understand what you are trying to do and why

Is your town centre having problems? Don’t waste your money on re-paving your high street when the current paving or surface treatment isn’t really your problem.

The money would be better spent on providing activity, such as events or ‘things’ such as markets. These sorts of things, not new materials, bring in footfall. You would even be better off paying for a market or an event to come to you than having a smart pavement which is still empty.

I saw this un-necessary repaving in a town I visited recently. I won’t say where as I am still trying to get some work out of them.

In the same way, Bankside in London between Tate Modern and the Clink Prison has had untold £1000s spent on new paving when it doesn’t need it. This area already has loads of visitors drawn by Tate Britain and The Globe etc, but I bet not one of them has said ‘This payment is old and needs a tart up’. This area has already been regenerated so I am at a loss to understand what problem is being solved.

Don’t get me wrong, the public realm has an important role to play in regeneration. It is important that places look good and give a good impression, but that on its own isn’t enough. Indeed some places can get away with looking a bit tatty if there are other reasons to draw the crowds in.

My point is: when devising a regeneration strategy and interventions you must understand what problem you are trying to solve before you design a solution, and ask whether the intervention will help to solve the underlying problem.

Regeneration needs thought but too often it is being done by using a tick box mentality, or by unthinkingly copying what has been seen elsewhere. This proper thought and understanding is even more important when times are hard and funds are hard to find.

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