Why we need Urban Regeneration

I have been meaning to write about why we need to have Urban Regeneration policies, programmes and interventions for some time, but have never quite got around to it.

I was going to talk about how each place and each person is different and reacts to, and is affected by, the world in different ways.  Things change over time for all of us, and for all places, but people and places are capable of reacting to these changes in different ways and to different extents, and over differing time scales.

Some people claim that the market economy is self-correcting and that left to their own devices these places and people will improve automatically by the actions of the market.

To me, it has always seemed that even if this self-correction does occur, in too many places and for too many people this market self-correction is over such a long period that it blights lives and that this blighting is morally indefensible as well as a waste of national resources for all of us.

So far, my arguments have not been backed up with any specific academic references, although are based of years of experience and research (Including my MSc dissertation),  so I was pleased to obtain the following from Dr Dave Valler of Oxford Brookes University:

Human Geographers spent a huge amount of time and effort particularly in the 1970s and 1980s pointing out that ‘uneven development’ results from the ‘spatially and temporally uneven processes and outcomes that are characteristic of, and functional to, capitalism’ (quote from Gregory et al, in the Dictionary of Human Geography)… the notional commitment to ‘re-balancing’ simply doesn’t engage with the reality that spatial differentiation is inherent, and indeed may be instrumental for business. Gordon Marshall (in ‘A Dictionary of Sociology’) states: ‘Capitalism transforms the world as a whole but does so in different ways, developing the productive and social forces in some areas, but (as part of the same process) restricting or distorting growth in others’. In the face of such powerful forces, and the scale of the current crisis and austerity measures, the current rhetoric of ‘re-balancing’ is largely meaningless.’

I am not claiming that Dr Valler himself agrees with me, but I am grateful to receive a few references which go some way to back up my view that we must have organised Urban Regeneration interventions to help  places and people who are falling so far behind that they cannot self-regenerate in a short-period of time.

Some people claim that Regeneration is dead. If this is true it needs to be resurrected, but it also needs to be done properly in future.

Also places must be designed, and systems put in place, so that places and people have a high chance of self-regenerating without constant external interventions.

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3 Responses to Why we need Urban Regeneration

  1. Alan Brown says:

    An interesting and thought provoking article. As Regeneration is not a quick fix and often takes a generation to come to fruition – this does sit comfortably with Government who increasingly seem to be looking for instant results and sound bites as evidenced by their increasing use of celebrities to lead or endorse regeneration. Regeneration also exposes the fundamental weakness in many local economies and hence in my opinion needs to tied much more closely to sustainable and long term job creation and training – without real disposable income and local prosperity we are only papering over the cracks as we are doing in the current face lift on many declining high streets. I think as regeneration practitioners we are also guilty in looking back rather than forward and have not considered sufficiently the pace of change in society, demographics, world wide economy and what society as a whole will look like in the next 5, 10 – 20 years. Like you I am attempting to make sense of some of these issues and have started to write about them on my regeneration blog http://blog.abaviewpoint.com/ Be interesting to compare notes some time! Regards, Alan Brown

    • stevenboxall says:

      Hello Alan,

      Thanks for commenting on my Blog.

      I have had a look at your Blog site and it seems that we both approach Regeneration from similier view points.

      I know exactly what you mean by sometimes feeling that you are the Victor Meldrew of Regeneration – I am also fed-up by having to crititise too many schemes, projects and policies – I would much prefer to be positive but recently much of my work has been for local communities helping them get better quality ambitions for their areas and this too often entails ‘fighting off’ the local authority Planners, or developers, who lack imagination or interest. I much prefer to be involved with the big picture and working and thinking holistically rather than getting involved with only parts of the whole but thats the way work seems to be going at the moment.

      I agree that there is too much Government short-termism and the desire for quick fixes and that there is a general need for an increase in prosperity. I recall an activist from Northern Ireland saying that with an upward economic trajectorary people will turn a hovel into a palace, but when the trajectory is downwards a palace will eventually become a hovel’. That said, the Government says it has a long-term aim but seems to forget, or doesn’t care, about the series of short-terms that have to be gone through in order to get there. I have always said that there will always be a need for Regeneration interventions, as some places and some people will always fall behind and need help to get back onto the self-sustaining or self-reinventing path, but this is going to be much easier in the context of general and wide=spread economic growth and progress.

      When I was working on the growth of Ashford (in Kent) – an additional 31,000 homes and 28,000 jobs, we were looking ahead to what the population would look like in 5-30 or more years and trying to plan for this. I have recently begun to think about whether it is possible to design neighbourhoods, villages, towns or even cities to help those with dementia and other ‘brain disorders’ to live in the community for longer and in a more fulfilled way – I know that there is work on how to design buildings to help with this and am looking for any work on whole places.

      I like your phrase ‘A first rate version of itself, rather than a second rate version of somewhere else’. I have seen too many regeneration strategies which are not place specific and just try to copy somewhere elses strategy. We can use what others have done for inspiration, but to blindly copy is wrong and doesn’t work.

      I see you are in Newport – we have had a few holidays in South Wales (and North come to that) but I don’t think we have ever been to Newport. Next time we go that way we will have to make a point in going there and having a good explore.

      It will be good to meet up and compare notes and thoughts. I am not expecting to be in South Wales any time soon, but if you find yourself in London with an hour or two to spare let me know and we can meet up – I am in SE London suburbs and it doesn’t take long to get into central London. One (of the many) things which annoys me about many ‘urbanists’ is that they talk about London (and other cities) but ignore the suburbs, or if they do they confuse USA suburbs with UK ones.

      Best Regards

      Steven
      stevenboxall@regenerationx.com
      020 8301 5570

      • Alan Brown says:

        Thanks Steve,

        Yes I do come up to London occasionally so when the next date arises I will drop you a note to see if we can arrange a meeting.

        Thanks also for your positive comments on my ABA Viewpoint blog which I hope to develop further in the autumn.

        As you will have gathered from my blog the demise of my home City of Newport is a current issue for me. However, since launching the blog and placing my thoughts and comments about the City in the public domain – I have now been invited to meet with the City Task force to expand on some of my ideas about the future – which is encouraging as to-date the City Council and URC have adopted a very closed shop approach to new ideas and third party suggestions.

        Be interesting to see how things turn out!

        Best wishes,

        Alan

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