A future direction for regeneration?

At CLES, we’ve been exploring the future for economic development and regeneration. This week we gave evidence at the CLG Select Committee Enquiry on regeneration, along with a range of other organisations including the National Housing Federation, Pathfinders, Urban Pollinators, IPPR North and JRF. The focus for the enquiry was the government’s recent strategy document on regeneration. Whilst CLES welcomes the strategy, we set out five key criticisms, arguing that the vision for regeneration needs a new narrative which recognises the plurality of public service delivery and the changing needs of communities.

Here are our five key criticisms of Regeneration to enable growth: What government is doing in support of community-led regeneration:

1. It offers no clear strategic direction for regeneration and economic development

Many communities are currently facing deep challenges as the commercial sector slowly recovers from recession and the impact of public sector cuts play out. Local authorities will increasingly need to play a vital role in place stewardship, helping to shape future growth and shield communities from further decline. The government’s strategy contains no discussion about how growth will take place, however, nor about how growth will connect with other priorities such as social inclusion and environmental limits. It contains no narrative about how those communities left behind during the growth years will be protected and helped to move forward with a backdrop of public sector cuts and poor private sector growth;

2. There are poor connections between strategy and delivery.

At CLES, we believe that effective regeneration occurs where there are strong networks between the three parts of the economy, when the commercial, public and social sectors talk closely to each other and work together. Without such connections, strategy often gets disconnected from delivery and from the real needs and assets of a place. Where there are strong connections, CLES thinks that there is a greater likelihood of the area being resilient in the face of change. Current government strategy says nothing about these connections or how government might strengthen them in the future;

3. There are bits missing.

The strategy does not say enough about how economic development and regeneration link to the planning agenda. For many years, CLES has argued that there needs to be better synergy between economic development policy and spatial planning. Whilst the document talks much about how it thinks planning policy needs to change, it has no new ideas about how planning and economic development should work hand in hand in future. There is also very little discussion about the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships and the links between their work and future regeneration, nor is there any link with wider discussion about mechanisms such as business rates;

4. It says nothing about the assets of place

All places, no matter what their circumstances, have assets, whether they be physical, social or environmental. In future, regeneration needs to be much cleverer about how to use these assets effectively to shape the future of places. Regeneration needs to start with the partnerships, relationships, connections and assets of a place and help to strengthen and build them;

5. Too much focus on physical regeneration

One of the key lessons from the last decade of regeneration in the UK has been that it was overly focused on capital-led physical regeneration. This over concern with the physical has been shown to be vulnerable to fluctuations in the property market. Future regeneration must try to marry up the priorities of both physical and social regeneration, investing not only in place but in the people who live there.

We hope that the government will take our concerns on board and work with us in developing a new narrative for regeneration.


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Veronique Reader
Veronique Reader
13 years ago


Good to see your comments as I totally agree. Having worked on the transformation of adult social care in Southampton, I am very concerned that some parts of the population will be left out in theory and in practice. The Big Society and self-care cannot be the only answer. The result is that a lot of people like me who have the knowledge, experience and the goodwill to make things happen are being made redundant. Whilst others, with more favourable conditions are still employed. What is then left for the Citizens in need of service? I would like to know that.

daniel gilbert
daniel gilbert
12 years ago

Yep. Great stuff, succintly put, nice and direct.

No idea if the Government will listen. We shall see. I wouldn’t bet half a pint of beer that it will do, though.

Cheers, Daniel

Sarah Longlands
Sarah Longlands
12 years ago

Hi Veronique – glad my comments resonnate with your. I think there is a real issue with the loss of experience, skills and capacity across the public sector at the current time and don’t buy the argument that the private sector will close the gap. I share your concern about public services, particularly in our most vulnerable communities. Ultimately, the more complex an individual or family’s needs, the more dififcult it becomes to provide the service. The social and private sector will probably conclude its not financially viable for them, but who then picks up the pieces?

12 years ago

I really think we need to stop beating around the proverbial bush-the coalition has effectively abolished regneration. If you thinks that’s a good thing, fine, if not stop pretending nothings happened, and ‘welcoming the strategy’ or lamenting ‘poor communications between strategy and delivery’ and start a proper fighback. For evil to flourish—- etc

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