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Taking stock of Wales’ regeneration challenge

With funding in short supply and the need for regeneration in Wales as high as ever, the challenge is to fully understand the current situation and learn from what works, says Dave Adamson

Thermal imaging of a home in Blaenavon. One of CREW’s research projects will look at the skills needed to achieve low carbon transition in Wales.

Many of the factors which impact on communities in Wales lie outside the control of our local authorities and the Welsh Assembly Government. United Kingdom government policy on taxation, the national minimum wage, benefit levels and the general welfare programme all significantly determine the quality of life in Wales.

The government pursuit of rapid deficit reduction by austerity measures in all these policy areas will inevitably have a highly negative effect, especially in those areas that have never fully recovered from a period of similar policies in the 1980s.

Ironically, at the time of the greatest need for renewed impetus on regeneration, the funding and resources available are at their lowest levels. Consequently, the need to focus limited resources for maximum effect becomes the key objective for all those engaged in maintaining a level of regeneration delivery. The greatest danger lies in carrying on as usual without careful analysis of the nature of our problems and the identification of solutions that work and which achieve the maximum impact from what may be increasingly limited expenditure.

Part of the instruction to Centre for Regeneration Excellence Wales (CREW) from the original Task and Finish Group was to conduct ‘rigorous research’ mainly in response to the need to know ‘what works’. This programme of research is underway with a group of projects which will contribute to our knowledge of how best to deal with the impact of recession and the kind of changes discussed above. The following paragraphs outline our current projects.

Mapping housing-led regeneration: Supported by a team of senior personnel from Taff Housing, CREW is mapping the regeneration activities currently being delivered by housing associations and stock transfer vehicles in Wales. The intention is to develop a searchable resource which will highlight experience and good practice in the housing sector and be available to all regeneration practitioners in Wales. Many housing associations have extended experience of working at community level delivering physical and social regeneration. Our new community mutuals and stock transfer organisations are developing highly innovative responses to neighbourhood needs. Capturing and sharing these experiences is essential.

Measuring the impact of regeneration: CREW is developing a framework for measuring the impact of regeneration initiatives at neighbourhood level in order to promote effective monitoring and evaluation of projects and programmes. Employing the Atmosphere, Landscape, Horizon (ALH) framework developed in a study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the original conceptual framework is being developed into a toolkit approach which will identify key impact indicators and identify clear working mechanisms for capturing the experience of people living in areas where regeneration is delivered.

Low carbon skills research: CREW is researching the pattern of skills required for low-carbon transition in Wales. Much of the current focus is on the trades skills required both for newbuild and retrofit. Our review is concentrating on the professional services sector in regeneration and the built environment. Across the professions new demands exist in bringing projects to fruition and this research will identify the skills sets currently required to deliver the low-carbon agenda. The intention is to identify gaps and mechanisms for ensuring that current and future skills requirements are met.

School-to-work transitions: One of the most fundamental barriers to regeneration lies in high levels of economic inactivity in our most deprived communities. The origin of much current economic inactivity in the failed school to work transitions of the 1980s prompts major concerns about the impact of recession on the current generation of school and college leavers. With youth unemployment at its highest ever levels and the rise of the national rate of Neets to over 20% of 16-24 year olds, understanding the barriers to effective school to work transitions is critical. The research is drawing on young people’s experience throughout Wales and will identify the critical issues in that experience.

Collectively, these research projects will do much to inform the regeneration agenda in Wales and assist the Welsh Assembly Government and local authorities to deliver effective regeneration programmes. All projects will report in the next few months and be available for download from the CREW website.

This article first appeared in issue 82 of Welsh Housing Quarterly, go to www.whq.org.uk to find out more.

 

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