Spotting the opportunities for outer estates

Over the last year or so New Start has featured a series of articles looking at the challenges involved in turning around outer estates. These are neighbourhoods found on the peripheries of cities, sometimes the size of a small town themselves but often without the key ingredients needed to make that place successful. Things like a decent shopping centre, local services and good links to employment.

Having set out the issues they face – and the solutions being found in a number of areas – those of us involved held a roundtable discussion in London a few weeks ago to look at where we go next.

Ultimately it was about finding the opportunities for outer estates in the fast–changing policy landscape we now find ourselves in. Two factors that were raised during the discussion have taken on added resonance in the few weeks that have followed.

One is community development – its crucial role in creating the ‘place resilience’ that’s needed for estates to turn their fortunes around and the fact that too often its importance has been undervalued. Very disappointing then that Community Development Exchange, an organisation that’s championed and supported CD for 30 years, has lost its government funding and now faces a struggle to survive. On top of that, Community Development Foundation will lose half its staff when it becomes a charity at the end of this month.

The other is neighbourhood management. Our gathering agreed that a multi-agency approach is essential to deliver the changes needed, for example you simply can’t tackle an issue like poor health any other way. In neighbourhood management we have a model which shows what can be achieved by bring agencies together and changing their culture and ways of working. But many of the pathfinders that pioneered NM are coming to an end with continued funding unlikely.

Those are the two big negatives. On the positive side, government rhetoric on localism suggests it’s serious about devolving power and budgets. There are no guidelines, as one participant pointed out, ‘it’s like doing a jigsaw without having a picture’. But that means communities – and those supporting them – can shape their own agenda.

Our coverage of outer estates has highlighted that when local people are in charge sustainable improvements happen. And when they control local assets it happens even quicker. Alt Valley Community Trust (AVCT) in Croxteth, Liverpool is a case in point. While the rest of the city braces itself for multi-million pound cutbacks, with little control over what happens where, AVCT is in control of its destiny. It owns the local library, the leisure centre and much more.

Some communities are ready to take on any powers on offer – but plenty are not. They need support to create a ‘community agency’ that can take the lead.

The group came up with a series of goals to take the outer estates agenda forward: to set up a national project looking what’s happening on estates, what works and what doesn’t; create a ‘How to’ toolkit; find a way to help outer estates network with each other; and to continue to champion an ‘asset approach’ where we stop seeing areas as problems and instead view them as assets.

This is just a snapshot of the many ideas that emerged from our discussion. I’m sure fellow participants will plug the gaps with their own comments. But it’s an opportunity for you to get involved in the debate and help this fledgling movement progress.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top