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Economic development and regeneration – Where next?

On 4 February the Communities and Local Government Select Committee launched an inquiry into regeneration.  It follows the publication in January 2011 of the CLG document: Regeneration to enable growth – What government is doing in support of community-led regeneration.

This says that the government is doing the following:
•    reforming and decentralising public services;
•    providing powerful incentives that drive growth;
•    removing barriers that hinder local ambitions; and
•    providing targeted investment and reform to strengthen the infrastructure for growth and regeneration and to support the most vulnerable.

So, what role for economic development and regeneration practitioners in all of that?

Reforming and decentralising is all about empowering local areas to do things their way.  I can see this influencing the delivery of a host of public services, some of them central to regeneration, such as policing and healthcare. In the context of the Work Programme, will there be much of a role for local support or will the emphasis be on getting numbers through the system?  And will the mooted changes to the planning system result in radical re-designations of land use in support of local economic development?

Incentives for growth focus largely on housing, either directly in terms of development or indirectly in terms of some of the proceeds of development (windfall and ongoing).  It’s also here that LEPs get a mention.  They will: ‘be working across real economic geographies to drive economic growth and ensure that decisions are made locally’. Apparently.  At least the Homes and Communities Agency offers some meaningful resources to help boost growth.   This looks like it will include RDA land and property assets, although I believe some regional LEP partnerships have their eyes on these as well.

Removing barriers is planning again, plus a bit of Tax Increment Financing, otherwise known as TIF or TIFin.  Unfortunately, I very much doubt that it will be as much fun as Sid James’ definition of TIFin in Carry on up the Khyber.  And there’s a reference you weren’t expecting.

And finally, targeted investment.  In workspace for small businesses?  Strategic development sites?  Business support?  Inward investment promotion?  Training?  No.  Try High Speed 2, Crossrail, Olympic Park and housing.  On a more positive note (for most IED members), there is the Regional Growth Fund, and investment in adult skills through the Early Intervention Grant and the Fairness Premium.

Altogether though, not much encouragement for those working in economic development and regeneration in either the public or private sectors (outside of transport infrastructure and housing development).  Which is why IED will be arguing for the following:
•    Help for business start ups – based on a need to ensure that those wishing to start or grow a business, as well as those battling for survival, have ready access to the types of good quality business advice that will help them to achieve their goals.
•    Reinforcement of the business support infrastructure – given the importance of investing in economic development as a catalyst for economic growth and to refine approaches to make them even better suited to current and future needs.
•    A focus on Neighbourhood Renewal – to build on the good practice evidenced by the more successful area-based regeneration programmes.
•    Local solutions to worklessness – providing appropriate support and assistance to those concerned as well value for money to the taxpayer.
•    Boosting town and city centres – to develop innovative and relatively low cost strategies to help revitalise our town and city centres.
•    A strategy for sustainable growth – to exploit opportunities afforded by ‘green’ technologies, to develop public procurement systems that work for rather than against businesses rooted in local communities and to ensure that people from all communities can participate in and contribute towards the generation of economic growth.

If you have a view, you’ve got until 18 March to let the Committee know.

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Edward B Thompson
Edward B Thompson
13 years ago

Thanks for this write up on what next for economic development and regeneration in our local areas. It’s obvious that Govt is not ready to stimulate growth and development if it’s going to involve financial commitment. As discussed the way forward is not arms length governance and indirectly removing the structures that generates localism. We must look at both sectors objectively and ask questions what are we trying to accomplish by our action or inaction. Localities are not immobile entities or organisations that are just waiting for big society day to be stimulated but are organisms that live and strives and will die prematurely if not nurtured properly. We cannot say we value decentralisation and big society structures and then stifle the very means for encouraging localism. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the common knowledge that all organisms needs food, movement, touch, sight shelter, warmth, water & breath. All these needs confirm that they are living and will grow and develop. once one or two of these essential needs are not met fully the organism begins to show signs of abnormality and growth and development is adversely effected. The govt measures so far is retarding growth and development in our localities. Living organisms cannot sustain sudden adverse series of change. We must assess the social impact of the sudden changes being introduced in our localities. Edward B Thompson, M.Sc Geography & Planning

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