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Lizzie Crowley

Any rebirth for regeneration?

Authors: Lizzie Crowley Lizzie Crowley

03 November 2011

As the government comes under fire today for cuts in regeneration funding, it seems like a pertinent time to ask the question: ‘is there a future for area based regeneration’? Launching the report from an inquiry looking in detail at the Government’s approach to regeneration, Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee, said that the Government has "produced no adequate strategy for regeneration" and that the measures that have been introduced have focused overwhelmingly on growth and will do nothing to help people trapped in deprived parts of the country. The report calls for a national regeneration strategy based on an understanding of what has worked, or failed, before.

The inquiry is right to say that we need to better understand the success and failures of past regeneration initiatives. For example, the New Deal for Communities Programme (NDC), New Labour’s flagship regeneration programme, was one of the best resourced, long lasting and intensive area based regeneration schemes that England has ever seen. Yet despite improving the places there was little impact in relation to reductions in worklessness or improvement in the education levels of the people who lived in these communities – and this was during a time of economic prosperity and increased government spending.

But any regeneration strategy would also need to focus on the cold economic realities that are facing declining parts of the country. It is unlikely that some cities, particularly in the North of England, will see a return to growth. The regeneration agenda of the past decade focused too much on land and property, and too little on people and economic competitiveness. Building new houses is not the right solution for places that are shedding jobs. It could be argued that in some cases past regeneration schemes in these places has been as useful as giving a facelift to a patient who needs a heart transplant. Confronting these uncomfortable economic realities requires a different suite of economic development priorities and projects than what has gone before; this is about increasing levels of skills and making it as easy as possible for people to move to areas of the country which are growing, alongside managing the decline of the places they leave behind.