Urban Regeneration

With reference to examples, evaluate the success or otherwise of urban regeneration schemes in combating the causes and consequences of urban decline (40 marks)

Urban decline is the deterioration of the inner city often caused by lack of investment and maintenance. These areas are typified by economic decline, personal poverty, social problems and environmental decay.

In the UK, deindustrialisation of urban areas has led to unemployment, providing residents with lower incomes. The lack of disposable income causes a lack of expenditure in local shops and facilities with simultaneous reductions on housing investment (e.g. repairs). There is disinvestment as local businesses start to close or move to new locations, causing further unemployment. The local government starts to collect less money in tax whilst also having to pay more unemployment benefit. This causes the economic and physical environment to suffer, and so the more affluent begin to out-migrate, causing depopulation and a resultant change in the socio-economic status of the area. This out-migration also leaves behind abandoned businesses and houses which become derelict and vandalised with increased prevalence of graffiti, drug use and crime. Remaining residents take less care of their houses and the local government has less money to spend on roads, schools and hospitals. Education levels decrease and so does the residents’ health, leading to more sickness and days missed from work. It is due to this spiral of decline that urban areas must be regenerated.

There are three main processes of re-urbanisation: property-led regeneration such as that which occurred at the London Docklands, partnership schemes such as Hulme City Challenge and the Park Hill flats regeneration, and also gentrification, for example Notting Hill.

Urban Development Corporations (UDCs) were set up in the 1980s and 1990s to take responsibility for the physical, economic and social regeneration of selected inner city areas with large amounts of derelict and vacant land. They are an example of property-led regeneration. They were given planning approval powers over and above those of the local authority, and were encouraged to spend public money on the purchase of land, the building of infrastructure and on marketing to attract private investment. The intention was that private investment would be four to five times greater than the public money initially invested.

The boards of UDCs, mostly made up of people from the local business community, had the power to acquire, reclaim and service land prior to private sector involvement and to provide financial incentives to attract private investors.

There were some criticisms of UDCs as people argued that the UDCs were too dependent on property speculation and they lost huge sums of money through the compulsory purchase of land that later fell in value. Furthermore, because they had greater powers than local authorities, democratic accountability was removed. Locals complained that they had no involvement in the developments taking place. Indeed, there were some examples, particularly in the London Docklands, where local people felt physically and socially excluded by prestigious new housing and high-technology office developments.

The London Docklands is an area of urban regeneration. It suffered from industrial decline in the 1960s due to the shipping of goods around the world changing to larger vessels and a container-based system. Ships were now too big for the London Docks and competition from new and expanded ports such as Dover meant the London Docks went on to suffer huge dereliction and by 1981 they had closed completely. Associated industries of food processing, engineering, ship-building and ship repairing also suffered (gas works also closed in 1985 after we switched to North Sea gas).

This caused high levels of unemployment (between 1978 and 1983 12,000 jobs were lost) and social deprivation within the area. In particular, there were vacant houses with owner occupation at just 4% in 1980. The majority of houses were council owned. Within the Isle of Dogs, transport and communication with the rest of London and beyond were poor. The A13 East India Dock Road was the only road in and out and was highly congested. There was only one bus route and no tube/rail connections.

The London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) is a UDC set up in 1981 responsible for the regeneration of 8.5 square miles of East London, including the Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham and Southwark. The main aims were to bring land and buildings into effective use, encourage the development of existing and new industry and commerce, to create an attractive environment, ensure that housing and social facilities were available to encourage people to live and work in the area.

The social regeneration of the area included the building of 22,000 new homes with mostly private ownership and approximately 19% for rent, causing owner occupation to increase and addressing a major consequence of decline in the area. The conversion and gentrification of old vacant warehouses to new homes, recovering desirable locations and also decreasing the risk of vandalism. This brownfield development beautifies the urban landscape and helps preserve greenfield sites.

A new shopping centre was included in the transformation of old dockland buildings into shopping outlets at Tobacco Dock, bringing retail into the area. Contributions towards the creation of 5 new health centres and the redevelopment of 6 more further improved the facilities available within the area. This, combined with the funding towards building 11 new primary schools, 2 secondary schools, 3 post-16 collages and 9 vocational training centres has helped to make the London Docklands a desirable place to live, drastically improving the quality of life for those that live there.

The attraction of financial and high-tech firms such as HSBC to Canary Wharf (once a cargo warehouse which was redeveloped in 1988) has led to a reduction in unemployment – one of the largest issues that the Docklands faced – with levels falling from 14% to 7%, with a doubling in employment and number of businesses. The extension of the Jubilee line has allowed many businesses to locate to the area, now being home to companies such as Citigroup, NatWest and the Daily Telegraph. Those living outside of the area also have an easier commute due to a transport revolution. The Docklands Light Railway was opened in 1987 and now carried over 35,000 passengers a week, tackling the congestion problems on the A13 and thus reducing noise and air pollution. Additionally, the building of the City Airport at the former Royal Docks (carrying 500,000+ passengers a year) allows easy travel to business capitals in Europe, which may be useful for business executives.

Environmental regeneration has taken place through the creation of pedestrian and cycle routes in the area with access to the river and dock edge through waterside walkways. This, combined with the planting of 200,000 trees, the creation of pedestrian bridges and 150ha of new open spaces, as well as a water-based ecology park and London’s first bird sanctuary at East India Dock, provides an aesthetically pleasing environment, directly combating physical causes and consequences of decline. The area has now received many awards for architecture, conservation and landscaping, providing a sense of prestige and helping to transform the reputation of the Docklands.

The regeneration of the London Docklands gave a wide range of economic, environmental and social benefits, as outlined above. This addressed the decline in the area, transforming it into a business centre which has attracted migration into the area, as well as providing 24,000 housing units, along with 75,000 new jobs. There were, however, criticisms that despite the improvements, many of these didn’t benefit the original ‘East Enders,’ with many of the locals unable to afford the high costs of new housing. Furthermore, although there was an increase in the number of jobs, many of these required skills that the old Dockers did not have. It has also been said that there was a reduction in community spirit that the old Docklands had – with the ‘yuppie’ newcomers not mixing with the East Enders.

Partnership schemes are an alternative method of regeneration. Local councils work with businesses and local communities to design a regeneration plan for an area. These schemes aim to improve the economy and environment in an area, as well as making social improvements, for example by the building of community centres. In the UK, partnership schemes such as City Challenge aimed to regenerate urban areas. 31 City Challenge partnership schemes were set up in deprived urban areas from 1992 – 1998. City Challenge is a project that was designed by the local authorities in order to gain funding and to address some of the weaknesses of the earlier regeneration schemes, such as the removal of democratic accountability with the use of UDCs, and the lack of local participation.

Areas competed with each other for funding, improving the quality of proposals and encouraging more imaginative ideas. The partaking organisations were better organised and much more involved. However, in some cases, neighbouring authorities competed against each other when they could have worked together to try and win the funding. Furthermore, the policy that all successful bidders should receive exactly the same sum of money, irrespective of need, was also criticised. Also, there was no specific criteria to follow so many authorities were unsure of how best to go about creating a successful proposal.

Hulme was redeveloped as part of a slum clearance programme in the 1960’s and a number of high rise flats were built (the Hulme crescents). 98% of the 5500 properties were owned by the council. Over half of the dwellings were part of a deck access system, with many of the poor design features (e.g. no indoor toilet) of prefabricated construction. The housing was damp and the elevators often broke down, rats were also a common problem. The area had a low level of families with children, and a disproportionate number of single person households. There was also some evidence that the local authority had used the area to ‘dump’ some of its more unfortunate residents.

In 1992, under the Hulme City Challenge Partnership, Manchester City Council worked with private companies (Guinness Trust and Bellway Homes) to design a £37.5 million regeneration package to redevelop the area. Plans were drawn up to build 3000 new homes, with new shopping areas, roads and community facilities. A more traditional pattern of housing development was designed, with streets, squares, two storey houses and low rise flats which were to replace the mass of concrete making up the crescents. By 1995, 50ha of land had been reclaimed, the majority of the former deck access flats had been demolished, 600 new homes for rents had been built, and more than 400 homes had been improved and refurbished.

The main shopping area had been totally rejuvenated, including the addition of an ASDA supermarket. A new community centre (the Zion Centre), including crèche facilities and other social provision was also constructed. This may act as a pull factor and attract families into the area and help to balance the number of single person households. Shared open green spaces and well-lit streets made people feel more secure and increased the sense of community, as well as providing an aesthetically pleasing environment. In addition, crime in the area was greatly reduced and there is more of a social mix of people living in the area.

As a result of this scheme, Hulme became a more desirable place to live, so its population increased (by 3.3% from 1992 – 2002). The revitalisation of industries and services in Hulme and neighbouring Moss Side meant that they went on to receive £400 million in public and private investment, which will boost the local economy and aid the maintenance of the newly improved environment, as well as going towards further development of the area. In addition, unemployment fell from 32% in 1992 to 6% in 2010, raising the socio-economic status of the residents and enabling them to pursue a better quality of life.

Despite these successes, the area is still poor, 47.5% of the population live in social housing, not helped by an influx of professionals into the area leading to a rise in house prices, making them unaffordable to residents on lower incomes. Also, unemployment is still high relative to Manchester as a whole, suggesting that Hulme is still an area to support in furthering its development, despite the progress that has already been made.

Park Hill, Sheffield is another example of a partnership redevelopment scheme. Park Hill is a huge 1960s estate of flats designed to replace the late 19th and early 20th century slums that had housed factory workers. Originally the flats were modern, with running water and inside toilets, but 40 years later, were run-down and dilapidated. As the industry in Sheffield went into decline and unemployment, environmental blight, social problems and poverty afflicted the area, renewal of the flats was made difficult.

The local authority, housing association and private developers (Urban Splash) worked together in the regeneration of Park Hill, as part of a widespread renewal of inner city Sheffield and the Don Valley. The area has been regenerated through a combination of public and private investment. In a £146 million transformation which began in 2007. The estates contained 1000 flats as well as shops, pubs and other community facilities. The overhaul of this historic estate needed to meet the needs of the broader housing market, which the Housing Corporation helped achieve by committing £9.85 million to underpin the affordable housing for rent and shared equity units.

This shared ownership option is in conjunction with housing group Great Places and has been put in place in order to give people on lower incomes a better opportunity to move onto the housing ladder, costing £30,000 for a 35% share and £45,000 for a 50% share. There will be 874 apartments, of which one third will be affordable, together with new retail and leisure facilities. English Partnerships agreed to invest £14.8 million to help towards the cost of redeveloping the remainder of the estate, plus forward funding has allowed the refurbishment to progress faster. There was also £100 million capital injection from the developer, Urban Splash, who submitted detailed plans to modernise the entire estate and create a more balanced community.

The partnership scheme has helped to improve an area of slum clearance that had fallen into a state of dilapidation since the 1950s, providing an area of housing for residents. The area now has a combination of 874 residential units and 140,000 square feet of commercial space e.g. there are retail and leisure facilities, as well as a GPs surgery and the Grace Owen nursery. Urban Splash have created a modern open plan area which is attractive and will give tenants greater pride in where they live to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. Access to the flats is now controlled by concierge and street decks are private, making it a much safer environment with reduced rates of crime. There is also a greater social mix of people within the flats which can help to generate community cohesion.

Furthermore, the sale of 600 flats brings in money for the council, with £1 million raised in the first two weeks of them becoming available. They are affordable for young professionals, starting at £90,000 as well as the previously mentioned shared equity schemes available to assist first time buyers and those on lower incomes (salaries between £16,000 and £18,000). The lower 3 floors on the northern block were made available for commercial space to stimulate the local economy, which will provide employment and income. A total of £150 million was invested into Sheffield’s inner city, which will enable residents to lift themselves out of the spiral of decline and progress economically.

The development is now much less of an eyesore. The aspect of the apartments responds to the sun, with living rooms all south and west facing and bedrooms north and east facing to maximise heat and light. It was also shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling prize in 2013. Although, the bright colours used on the exterior are not to everyone’s taste so some still regard the building as an eyesore.

However, since 2/3 of the estate’s properties are for private sale, there is a shortage of council houses across the city and despite plans for community cohesion, in reality, segregation exists within the flats with those who are in social housing perceived as “common” with resentment between socio-economic groups.

Furthermore, flats starting at £90,000 may be cheap for a young professional but they are too high for a poorly paid or unemployed worker who used to live there. Plus the £150 million investment is costly and more public money had to be invested during the recession, which also pushed pack the finishing date of the project. It was initially meant to have finished in 2012, however new estimates predict it will refurbished by mid-2017 leading to disruption for those who used to live there.

Gentrification is another method of regeneration, it is the process of housing improvement associated with the movement of higher income groups (usually in professional or managerial occupations such as doctors, lawyers and teachers) into the area. It involves the rehabilitation of older, often run-down houses and streets (usually close to the city centre) with improvements to items such as doors, windows, gardens as well as improvements to street furniture. Houses are typically Victorian or Edwardian terraces which become upgraded. It is carried out on a private level by individuals or groups of individuals (not by supported bodies).

Notting Hill is a bustling urban area, but in the mid-eighteenth century it was a country hamlet known for its gravel pits and roadside inns frequented by travellers. Later industrialisation brought workers from the countryside, with landlords buying tiny terraced houses to rent to them. In Victorian times it was a rough working-class area and by the 1950s it was an area of slums and inner city deprivation. In 1958 it was the scene of race riots following continuous harassments of the newly arrived afro-Caribbean community by the ‘teddy boys’ of the British Union of fascists.

Houses were improved through loft conversions, basement conversions, reinforcing ceilings and floors, installing central heating and boilers, new electrics systems, new windows, insulating walls and adding new bedrooms, as well as garden upkeep, adding driveways and garages and redecorating. Houses in Portland Road that were worth £11,750 in 1968 are now worth more than £2 million. Houses can cost more here than in up-market Mayfair. Notting Hill’s secluded communal gardens, sandwiched between the rows of houses and scarcely visible from the street, make it London’s most desirable area for families. Portobello Road, hosts a famous street market in Notting Hill. It has antiques and bric-a-brac to the south, fruit and vegetables in the middle, and a second hand clothing and bedding in the north.

Gentrification boosts the local economy, as wealthier people move in, providing more money for community and business investment. As the population expands, more jobs are created within the area, and there is an increase in the number of services available, improving quality of life. There is also an increase in tax revenue as property prices increase and more people and businesses move into the area. More tax revenue allows more investment in community infrastructure, including roads, parks and schools. There is also increased spending on law enforcement, and this coupled with the increase in property ownership and decrease in empty properties which are magnets for crime, leads to reduced crime rates. Gentrification restores old, historic buildings, which may otherwise fall into disrepair because of lack of funding.

However, many people believe that gentrification changes a place so much that it begins to lose its original character. The individuals who originally lived in these areas may be displaced as they can no longer be able to afford to live there as their rent or property tax rises above a level they can afford. Additionally, businesses employing local residents in low-skill jobs, such as factories and warehouses, often take gentrification as an opportunity to sell their facilities for conversion to other uses, depriving local individuals of jobs. The new jobs created by gentrification are often only accessible to educated individuals with higher skill-sets.

Overall, these regeneration schemes have been mostly successful in achieving their aims, with some minor exceptions. These projects were largely based upon improvement of housing which leads to social and environmental regeneration. In the re-urbanisation of the London Docklands, one aim of the LDDC was to encourage the development of existing and new industry and commerce. They achieved this by attracting financial and high-tech firms (such as HSBC) to Canary Wharf, this by extending the Jubilee line, allowing them to locate to the area.

The major issue involved in regeneration is that it may lead to disparities in wealth, with lower socio-economic groups often being displaced as they can no longer afford to live in the newly restored areas. The success of a scheme may therefore be determined by the support organising bodies give to these lower classes to prevent this social imbalance which may lead to tension in the area.

Ultimately, the final result of a scheme is dependent on the area undergoing regeneration, the organisation carrying it out, the amount of detail put into the planning of it and how much money is invested. Successful schemes will also encourage local participation so that the needs of the community can be addressed, exemplified in Hulme where quality of life was poor due to poor living conditions and a lack of community cohesion, with many feeling isolated. The response was to build 3000 new homes as well as a community centre, leaving open spaces to encourage families back into the area. While all schemes will have benefits and drawbacks, so long as the redevelopment is sustainable, further decline will be avoided.

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